Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Publishing Worm Has Turned

I go into BEA – Book Expo America – knowing this. The publishing world is not what it has been throughout my three decades there. And it looks like it never will be again. The publishing worm has turned.

I was careful not to leap to this conclusion. I spent most of my adult professional life working in traditional publishing first as a book editor and then as a literary agent. I needed to be fair to that rich and rewarding history.

So did my research. First I read months of posts at Jane Friedman: Writing Reading and Publishing in the Digital Age. Jane speaks with a wise voice informed by long hands-on experience of publishing. You can check her out yourself at

I did the same with another eminently credible voice – Bob Mayer at Write on the River. Bob speaks in a different tone from Jane as he covers the same ground. You can check him out at

Those two highly contemporary sages are pretty much of one mind when it comes to the subject of publishing past and present and future. Still I had more exploring to do. I needed to hear what writers have to say.

I don’t mean to suggest that Bob Mayer isn’t a writer but he has several other irons in his fire too. I wanted the author-only point of view. The Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City gave me the perfect opportunity for listening to that point of view firsthand.

Those writer stories began being told in the van on the way from the airport to the hotel and continued throughout the entire five days that followed. On panels – in the hallway – in the bar – at events – everywhere – authors talked and I listened.

They said the same things I’d read from Jane Friedman and Bob Mayer. Traditional publishing is no longer providing the most satisfying experience out there for a lot of writers. Happy alternatives abound – from traditional to digital to hybrids of both and permutations in between.

Even more telling than this message was the joy with which it was delivered – author joy to be exact. Writers have choices now and with choice comes power. The age-old power pyramid of publishing has tipped and is on its way to going topsy turvy altogether.

If I had a town square and a bell tower close at hand I’d be ringing out my own joy big time. Instead tomorrow morning I’ll be at BEA Booth 966 where a host of successful Indie Authors – some with combo traditional/independent careers – are taking their rightful place at last.

The Javits Center may not be a town square but you can bet I’ll be there with bells on anyway.


seattleshannon said...

Hi Alice,

Thanks for the great post, my head is constantly spinning with all the changes in the Pub world.

I just wanted to let you know the link for Bob Mayer is actually


seattleshannon said...

Hi Alice! Thanks for the great post and links. I just wanted to let you know Bob's link is actually


Alice Orr said...

Thanks Shannon. I have made that change. Sorry for the glitch. I wouldn't want anyone to miss Bob Mayer's amazing advice and commentary.