I decided to set up a Wattpad account. I know the more traditional route is to submit to publishers and agents and online magazines and that sort of thing, which I’ve done, but traction is difficult and my social media following is meager.
From what my sister-in-law tells me about the industry, being a writer as well (and more established one), you could be Tolstoy or Fitzgerald or Stephen King and if you don’t have at least four to five digits worth of followers on Twitter, fuck you.
I guess all those past years of work speaking for itself is irrelevant and the old model is dead and buried. Fair enough. New age, new tech, new ways of doing things.
Wattpad is my way of building a following, or so I hope. I’ll post short stories, poems, teasers, maybe even the entirety of Requiem For A Doormat if I’m not getting traction in the traditional market.
If that builds me a following, then great. I can use that and hopefully, translate it to sales and money.
Of course, and here’s the question I think maybe modern publishers haven’t quite grasped yet: if my social media following is big enough to support me, and I’m doing all the work to promote my art, why do I need a publisher? Why not self-publish and earn vastly better royalties? The sales wouldn’t need to be as high as traditional to be sustainable.
Weirdly, publishers seem to expect that you’ll do all the promotional work for them. Indeed, they seem to expect it. But what is the deal then?
If you’re doing all the work anyway, why go through a gatekeeper, who may help with distribution but doesn’t help with marketing or increasing sales, and keeps the lion’s share of the revenue?
Why not self-publish, buy the same distribution, and since you’re doing the marketing yourself anyway, keep the majority of the revenue for yourself?
The same is true of music, in my opinion. I think Amanda Palmer proves that and it will only take a few larger bands to break away to start a flood and end the music industry’s domination. On a plus note, that will likely also wreak havoc on the pre-processed music of conformity that’s plagued our airwaves since music executives figured out they could exploit this thing back in the Fifties. Freedom from executives should equal freedom to take chances. More artistic integrity. Less auto-tuned models singing the same slightly modified slogans over generic beats.
Editors can help, for sure. But a professional editor doesn’t necessarily need a publishing house – just a reputation. It would only take a big name or two to go self-published and you’ll see a whole industry shift.
If publishers and the music industry is to survive, I suspect it will need to as a service model – we publish your book and do promotion, etc. for you. I suspect their royalty structure will need to change as well.
Of course, they’ll try and hold on as long as they can, same as the music and movie industries. But when the shift happens, I suspect it will happen very quickly, similar to the way Napster, iTunes and streaming services shifted the whole medium of music. It will happen as quickly as the e-book revolution.
I hope those involved have their resume (or their retirement plans) ready.