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What's New in the Writing World

Up in the delightful park, in fog and green grass and swaying trees, my wonderful daughter got married. She's on her honeymoon now. After the ceremony the many people there mingled and when I met a person I had never met before they asked the inevitable question, "and what do you do?"

When I said that I am a writer and an internet editor they gave me a weird smile as if saying, "ah, you are either a nut, an irresponsible character, or have ill-gained wealth stashed away somewhere."

If they only knew the truth of the matter.

I did run into one very savvy person who was in the publishing business. And I asked him what he saw as the trends writers, editors, and publishers should look out for. "I would say," he told me, "self-publishing because it is getting easier to do, blogging and all of this "citizen-journalist" stuff, and the globalization of the writing marketplace."

I wanted to spend more time with him but I was pulled away by the official photographer who straightened out my tie and boutonniere and asked me to put my wine glass down.

Then the technical writer told me that he had lost his job to outsourcing and didn't know what to do.

Let's look at some of the issues involved here:

>>>>>>>>>>>> S e l f - P u b l i s h i n g <<<<<<<<<<<<<<

According to a 2004 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a total of 175,000 books were published by mainstream publishers in 2003. In the same year 80,000 books were self-published. And the most startling fact of all is that in 1995, right before digital publishing took hold, a total of only 5,000 books had been self-published.

"Some 35 subsidy presses and print-on-demand companies such as XLibris and iUniverse offer a range of services from straight printing to copy editing, packaging and marketing for fees ranging from $450 to $20,000," the Journal- Constitution reports.

As an example of how important niches have become, 57% of Amazon.com's book revenues are from books not available on traditional bookshelves

Some of the stories of self-publishing are poignant, some are rather hysterical. There are writers who have self- published but who recommend against it. There are book editors who praise it. There are writers who swear by it and writers who curse the day they started to self-publish.

Publishing can get very complicated. In print there are a lot of fingers in the pie. There are pricing considerations, discount schedules for bookstores to figure out, ISBN, bar codes, and the rest of it. It's work and provides a good deal of full-time employment to people. To publish yourself takes a lot of responsibility and chutzpah, as they used say. You have to be exquisitely organized and have a systematic approach to the day a book is conceived to the day it is let out into the world. But the fact that self-publishing has increased by nearly a factor of 16 in the last ten years speaks volumes about how more efficient it has gotten.

Why more books? When I read my Foreign Affairs magazine there are pages of book reviews. Most of the books would be worthwhile reading for anyone interested in geopolitics. But not only can you not read them all, you'd be hard pressed to read a small portion of them. And the answer is that every market serves many niches. The readers of Foreign Affairs include professors and government officials who have special areas of expertise.

Many books serve many niches in many markets. Self-publishing is the risk of putting out money and time against the possibility of reaching the niche of choice. And if you can do it, the experience will be rewarding.

There can't be "too many" books. Therefore anyone who truly believes and has some resource should do the deed.

However, why write a book when you can develop a website and apply your writing talents, resources, and passion digitally? If you can write a three-hundred page book, you you can make a very good website that finds a public more easily than in book publishing.

And writers will be more likely to go this route when they finally wake up to the fact that the internet, itself, is the new publishing system.

Self-publishing is many things. It is books, ebooks, booklets, chapbooks, as well as digital writing.

What is Sunoasis X but words and links put through the infrastructure of a new publishing system? Sunoasis.com has over 1,000 "pages" to it and will grow through time in a variety of directions.

There are skeptics in this area. One is Jim Fisher who wrote a book about an agent/self-publishing fraud and claims that self-publishing is not an alternative but a "parallel universe." He makes the point that most writers who get rejected by big publishers do not make the corrections necessary to get published.

I'm not sure his assessment is correct. We have to appreciate the shift that has occurred. In the past the writer could not find the audience himself. He relied on publishers and editors to do that. But now it becomes more and more likely that the writer can find an audience for his or her work using things like Google Ad Words.

There will be a tremendous amount of innovation going on in this area. The new publishing system will be about people finding exactly what they want. And that will include writers finding audiences.

If on any given day 10,000 people are looking for "short stories about New York," you can design an Ad Word campaign or any other PPC and get some of those people.

As a writer, don't be perplexed. Go use the wonderful opportunity that exists to connect with people who want your resources and stories, will even pay you or solicit advertising on your behalf and keep you in rent money. This is the future. And writers should get used to it as quickly as they can.


How to sell a self-published book to the New York publisher? Get regional sales.

Hire a freelance editor and a graphic artist for cover work.

If you have the funds, hire a publicist.

>>>>>>>>>>>>> G l o b a l i z a t i o n <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Chief Executive magazine wrote a sardonic article on outsourcing and how articles written in American newspapers about outsourcing are being done by Mumbai-based journalists.

"Nobody knows more about outsourcing than Indian journalists, because they've had to write so many stories about other jobs that were outsourced," says Vijay Shankar, "...it was only natural for Indian journalists to take all the outsourcing stories away from American journalists, not only because we will work for one-sixth the rate Americans demand but because American journalists are tired of writing about it."

What are some of the things being outsourced now? Ad copy on the back of organic cereal boxes, computer manuals, disclaimers on the reverse side of theater tickets and the uplifting messages inside Christmas cards. This is according to Mr. Shankar. And I mentioned the IBM technical writer I met at the wedding, looking for work because of outsourcing.

Mr. Shankar is a rather amusing, spirited guy and says the following, "anyone with a high school diploma can write about recent developments at the Commerce Department or the fallout from the latest report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

When the editor of Business 2.0 shifted some of his freelance work to India it was an experiment. He had been criticized for running stories on the benefits of outsourcing in the computer industry and decided to try it for his industry; our industry.

He was not satisfied with the result because there was a time difference and the staff in the SF area and the freelancers were rarely in sync. There were communications problems.

But, you'd have to be short-sighted not to see that this is an issue unfolding in the decades to come.

There is the growing sense by the global writing pool that any market is fair game. We can vouch for that here, getting all kinds of submissions from writers around the world.

According to Paul Craig Roberts, in the Baltimore Observer, the fall of communism has unleashed huge numbers of new workers in the global labor force, eager to raise their standard of living. Added to that is the foresight on the part of governments in the third world to support the development of broadband. The developing countries are trying to slip-stream the first world using the advanced technology as the way.

The trend has been toward hiring freelance writers rather than hiring staff. And these so-called third world countries are like competitive freelancers willing to do the work and absorb some of the costs that would be incurred by the business. So, it's very likely that this trend will get more critical for the writing and editing tribes.

(Registration required) A new story has emerged with Voice of America
who wants to transfer operations to Hong Kong against the protests of labor unions and law makers.

And I will re-iterate the amount of inquiry Sunoasis.com has gotten from writers in India, Pakistan, and like places about how they can get into English/American writing markets. At first I thought it was ridiculous because so much writing is local. The writer has to smell and feel and talk herself through a story and you can't do that in a cubicle in New Delhi.

A good deal of writing is research, compiling, and interviewing that can be done from a distance. Copy editing is very vulnerable to this trend.

>>>>>>> T h e  "C i t i z e n - J o u r n a l i s t" <<<<<<

As someone remarked it sounds like a term made up in some "peoples republic." From a cynical point of view it introduces the prospect of editors using very cheap content providers and undermining whatever pay scale journalists and freelance writers may have in the marketplace.

It simply means having the ability to publish your own content. It blurs in with self-publishing in this way, although I would say self-publishing is more a business venture.

Blogging is considered part of this and as we've remarked, a precious few have made some money for their efforts. Blogging could come under the category of self-publishing too.

Blogging is one form of writing fast becoming mainstream. Corporations, government agencies, newspapers, PR firms, and law firms are all using blogs. Why do people like them? It's very simple: People like new things. They love novelty and keeping up with the pace of innovation. However, over time, the novelty wears off. Blogs then must do something very unique to win the day.

It all depends on the habits of readers. We seem to live in a time that wants to efface everything that went before it. The young connect with the innovation and let the old world vanish into the night of time.

When I started Sunoasis.com I knew that the combination of links and commentary was powerful. Very powerful. And it remains to this day. A clever person can build a magnificent information and opinion machine. Obviously, there's some parasitism going on that will be corrected through time. But the added value I think is going to be seen as a cultural value and maintained.

The Society of Professional Journalists makes a key distinction between "a form," and "a discipline." But, the form could contain the discipline depending on the habits of the reading public. It all comes down to that. The people are going to get what they want.

If they read blogs and give them heft then it is fait acompli.

Turning the good people from passive to active citizens and involving them in stories of local, state, or national importance has to be seen as a positive goal. It is touted as one of the driving motives behind citizen-journalism.

Blogs remind us that there are groups of people who spend one hell of a time on the internet.

There is a kind of idealism that it promotes and that's excellent.

I think the paper in Santiago, Chile is ahead of the game. It enlists "citizen journalists," but with these rules: The newspaper has the right to publish or not, will send a journalist to check the facts, and will not give money for the piece of writing.

I've never known one journalist who loved the authority or system they worked under. So, obviously, the Net gives them an opportunity to live out some fantasies and more power to them. We've had some of the same.

______________________________R E S O U R C E  N O T E S


Publishers Marketing Association
Bowker Publishing



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David Eide
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David Eide
copyright 2000-2016