Lately I’ve been dipping into a new book on the market titled The Adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age by Sophie Masson (Keesing Press, 2014). Masson has interviewed many authors and some publishers and literary agents asking them about issues that make it difficult in these changing times to stay published and asking what’s happening in the publishing industry. It’s fascinating and illuminating reading and ought to be on the reading list of any author wanting to make it in the publishing industry.
In the ‘Staying Published’ interviews, Masson interviewed Australian and international authors with long (commercial publisher) careers, as well as a few Australian authors, all of whom give their reasons why they have continued to publish for many years. Interestingly, most of the authors (including a few anonymous authors) write for the children’s and YA market. In the third part of her book, Masson summarises practical, successful strategies for a long career as a published author.
Today I thought I’d repeat some comments made by publishers in the book. An (anonymous) multinational publisher says, ‘the market is very tough at the moment... we rely more and more on key retailers (such as Big W) to sell in volume. This in turn puts an emphasis on tried and tested authors – i.e. brand names – who are seen as more predictable and less of a risk to a retailer.’ Asked how he saw the publishing industry in the future, he said, ‘I think the move towards the DDS (Big W, Kmart, Target) as book retailers will continue. But hopefully independents will find a way to survive as they are key to spotting and building new authors.’
Digital only publisher Joel Naoum from Momentum gives the following advice to writers having trouble maintaining publisher interest: ‘Get better at self promotion and try to make your book available in as many territories as possible. Many writers don’t like promoting themselves, but most traditional publishers (especially in Australia) are squeezed thin just trying to stay afloat.’
Answering the above question, small specialist publisher (of Pitt Street Poetry), John Knight says, ‘Change publishers. Just as people with mortgages are notoriously reluctant to change banks, some writers are reluctant to change publishers, even when they are not being treated particularly well. But it seems to us that it is perfectly reasonable to shop around, for both mortgages and publishers, to stimulate demand and create a little competition for your work. If the work is of real value and there are readers out there for it, then market forces mandate that there will be a publisher for it somewhere.’ Incidentally, John’s wife is Linsay Knight, former children’s publisher at Random House.
Author of 120+ books, mostly for children, and writing for over thirty years, Dianne (Di) Bates is interviewed in The Adaptable Author which is available through the Australian Society of Authors.