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Future of Ottawa: Is there a future for local writers?

By Apartment613 on April 20, 2015


This is part one in our week-long series The Future of Ottawa (arts and culture edition).  In this guest column, local author Tudor Robins argues that this is a wonderful period to be an author, and that the current struggles of some bookstores and publishing houses does not mean you can’t be a successful writer.  Twitter users: use hashtag #futott if you want to discuss this series on Twitter.

This is the best time in the world to be an author.

I would say the world of publishing has exploded, but that’s not quite right.  The world of publishing is currently exploding, and that explosion is expanding, reaching new areas, and opening up new opportunities.

If you’re an author you can be the boss.  Which is awesome.

This is how that’s worked for me: It took me five years to publish my first book.  That’s because I pursued, and signed with, a traditional publisher.  Bookstore sales of that novel stalled out after six months and it’s unlikely to ever sell in significant numbers again.

After waiting – and waiting – for a second publishing contract, I decided to self-publish my second book.  Six months after making that decision, it was published.  Eight months after publishing that book, I published my third book.  I’m on track to publish my fourth and fifth books in 2015.

The arc of my book sales is now completely opposite to that of my first novel.  My second novel started slowly and grew, and grew, and is still growing.  My third novel started not-that-slowly and grew rapidly.   There’s no reason to believe the fourth won’t follow the same track, and bring the others along with it.

So, what’s different?  So many things.  The things that make this the best time ever to be an author. Here are just some of them:

Tudor Robins

Tudor Robins

1. Decision-making.

Today I make my own decisions.  What genre am I going to write?  My choice.  Which of my many book ideas do I want to pursue?  My choice. When will I push “publish?” What formats will I publish in?  What price will I sell for?  Where will I sell?  How will I promote?  All these are my choices.

I have said it before and I will say it again – nobody else will ever care as much about your book as you do, so you are absolutely the best person to be making these kinds of decisions.

2. Reach.

The world is your oyster; or at least your bookstore.  As an author it used to be difficult to be your own boss.  The first barrier to access was that books could only be printed on great, big, expensive presses, in large print runs.  The second barrier was the middleman – retailers – you had to persuade to stock your book and, even then, the shelf space you got was likely less-than-prime. Then there was the cost of shipping these expensive books you’d purchased to these retailers to sit spine-out on a back shelf and probably not be noticed.

Today print-on-demand technology means you can print one beautiful book for yourself.  It also means, when other people buy your book, one beautiful book can be printed for each order placed. Taking it a step further, there’s no longer any need to print books. EBooks overcome all the disadvantages mentioned above.  You only need to make the file once, and there are no production, storage, or shipping costs.  You can sell your eBook yourself, and keep all the money, or you can sell through another retailer and keep much more of the money than an author ever used to receive.

3. Options.

These are endless, and growing every day.  Do you want to create an audiobook?  Do you want a book trailer?  Do you want to create an interactive eBook?  In today’s writing world you get to figure out which of these things interest you, suit your brand, and work.  If they help sell books and / or they’re fun – great – do them again.  If not, chalk it up to experience and move on.

I, as much as the next person, like to see well-run, creative bookstores succeed.  I’d also like to see some great innovative publishers out there bringing real value to authors.  What I don’t want is for my fortune to be tied to theirs.  If a bookstore, or a publisher, can enhance your writing career, that’s great, but you don’t have to rely on them.

Today, no matter where you live, you can decide your own destiny.  And if you’re creative, and not afraid to work hard, your chances of success are better than they ever were before.

Tudor Robins has published three novels and released a free short story electronically.  Her current novel Wednesday Riders is currently out as an eBook.