It’s a Great Time to Be An Author

by | Feb 4, 2010 | The Writing Life | 142 comments

Read the publishing news these days and there’s so much doom and gloom and anxiety about e-books and print books and booksellers and publishers in trouble and authors getting squeezed and the midlist dropped and it’s enough to make you want to hide under the bed lest a stray Kindle impale you in the forehead. You’d think an infectious disease is sweeping the land, an e-virus that is going to pollute the land with readily available books and increased author entrepreneurship. Run for your liiiiiiiives!

But hey. You can either be scared of the future or excited. I’m pretty excited.

Look, the last few hundred years have been great and everything. Some of my favorite books were written then. We had bound books, novels, bookstores, the smell of the binding, and librarians shushing everything above a whisper. Publishers filtered everything for us, then agents filtered most things for the publishers, and all that resulted in a choice of a few thousand titles in a bookstore. Which sounds like a lot, until you happen to be looking for the Definitive History of the Drunken Monkeys of the Caribbean (in which case, thank goodness for YouTube).

And guess what: that era isn’t going away, at least in the near term. All of those things will still exist, and thank goodness. Those things are really great.

But as I outlined in a past post, in order for a book to become a bestseller in the current era, so many different publishing people have to agree about it before it reaches readers in big numbers. And if anybody in that chain is wrong, poof, that bestseller may not happen.

In the e-book era, everyone will have a shot. And I refuse to believe that’s a bad thing.

Yes, there’s going to be a lot of dreck out there that we’ll have to find a way to sort through. Yes, publishers will be challenged by lower price points and will have to change and adapt to the digital era. Yes, my job will probably change some too, even if I don’t believe agents will go away, especially as they fight so that authors get their fair share of e-book revenue. And yes, this new era will require more of authors than just writing a book in a cabin in the woods and shipping it out for someone else to do the rest. It will require an entrepreneurial spirit and a whole lot of virtual elbow grease.

But what better time to be an author?! All any writer wants is the chance to reach an audience and see what happens from there. Just a chance. And it’s looking like everyone’s going to get that chance.

To be sure, the vast majority of books will only be read by a few people. Riches and celebrity are not in everyone’s future, I don’t care how many drunken monkey books there are. Established authors and the traditional publishing industry will still have enormous advantages. Eyeballs will be key, and those eyeballs will have a whole lot of shiny objects attempting to distract them.

But soon everyone will have their shot. Books will catch on out of nowhere through word of mouth, probably even books that publishers may not have taken a chance on in the past. Readers will decide what they want to read rather than having those choices constrained in advance. Authors will have more control over their own future than ever before.

And I think that’s pretty great.


  1. Emily White

    Well, you've gotten me very excited! It is a great time to be an author! Thanks!

  2. nkrell

    Thanks for the positive post! It's a refreshing change.

    A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.”
    Sydney J. Harri

  3. Summer

    Agreed! I, for one, love my Kindle and the Star Trek way it makes me feel. 🙂

  4. Thermocline

    Is it a great time to write query letters? 'Cause I'm having a whole lotta no fun revising mine right now.

  5. Nathan Bransford


    It's not a sunshine era for query letters at the moment, I'm afraid. It's tough to get through right now.

  6. Art Edwards

    Thank you, Nathan. You're the first (I've read) on your side of the industry saying, "Hey, guess what? There are no sides to the industry. There's one industry that supplies written work to readers."

    For writers, the more avenues to success, the better.

  7. Susana Mai

    That makes me feel a lot better!

    Besides, I like the idea that this is an era where maybe writers can't seclude themselves in a cabin all day long, but they do have control of their 'destiny'–they can use virtual marketing to their advantage. And that's pretty neat.

  8. Matt

    Nathan, I agree 100%. It won't be long before a class of "unpublished" writers will emerge from the clutter, home-built fan base in tow, making a living from e-book sales and proving the established model isn't the only way to carve a niche.

    Of course it always comes back to the quality of storytelling.

  9. Nathan Bransford


    Exactly. And I have to say, I'm really looking forward to an era where I don't have to just man the queries, but can find writers who have achieved a certain level of success on their own but need someone to translate that success into a better deal, more $$, and more opportunities. That's where agents come in.

  10. Stephanie

    THANK YOU for this!!!!! I am so sick of hearing that ebooks are evil!! And that this form of technology is worse than a flu epidemic!! I think it's all very exciting….and I'm proud to be a digitally published author (well..not yet…my book won't be available till summer!). Change is inevitable…either you adapt or move out of the way.And I think agents will be just as essential in the future of digital publishing as they are now.

  11. Heather

    Nathan, I think your reply to Matt is interesting, and important for agents and the industry to hear. People are afraid of change, and for awhile now authors have been hearing that self-publishing is bad. But once ebooks are in more people's hands, authors will hold the power themselves. If they can get the word out about their books, viral marketing of great books can take off, then agents and publishers can attach themselves to writers who already have a fan base. It's not total doom-and-gloom, but people hate change. If you're prepared for it, it's not so bad, though.

  12. Becky Levine

    Yay for some optimistic realism. I LIVE in one of those cabins in the woods, and, thanks to the Internet, I can STILL help build word of mouth. Things are changing, but–you know–not all change is bad! Thanks for the post.

  13. Moira Young

    Thank you for writing this, Nathan. After Monday and Tuesday's posts, I found that I had to stop and take a deep breath. (Not your fault! It just made me think about the whole thing. Ad nauseum.)

    I pretty much came to the same conclusion, but with an added thought: If I go the e-book route (after at least trying the traditional route), how do I, as an unpublished hopeful, manage to put out quality writing and *not* dreck?

    The only conclusion I could come to was that I would invest in professional editing services. And make heavy use of good beta readers (and strong bribes to keep said the betas' services). The act of formulating a game plan was enough to calm me down. Now I'm back to actually writing, and feeling very relieved about it.

  14. Kait Nolan

    It definitely IS nice to hear a positive note. So question: In this brave new world we're entering where things like Kindle will give us the option to put things out as authors without the middlemen so to speak, would you as an agent think it relevant to hear sales numbers (if they indicated a following) for self epubbed titles in a pitch? Or would it still be considered taboo to mention since it's not traditional publishing?

  15. Anonymous

    Thank you for this post.

    It is one of my great thrills these days to share my WIP chapters with my writing group and watching their response.

    My little readership who also helps to slice and dice and reshape the story into better shape.

    The idea of publishing or sending my (when they are polished) stories out further into the world is like saying I exist, I existed,and placing my stories in the stream.

    One day, maybe. But for today, thanks for giving us hope.

  16. Christi Goddard

    Sweet mother of wheat germ, thank you. I've been trying to express this at forums, but am often heckled as supporting self-publishing (the rebel faction that has broken away from the Republic), and I say 'why not?' No, I'm not going to self-publish any time soon, but there are plenty of people with a story to tell, and just because only 3% of the consumer market would be interested in such a thing… well, I might be that 3%. As a consumer, it opens my options and gives me a chance to read some ideas that might be really out there, and that excites me.

  17. Alice Anderson

    I appreciate the positive outlook. It is an exciting time to be an author, and yet, scary too. There's only so much "reality" I can take (aka, bad news) before I want to stick my head in the sand. But that makes it rather hard to type… Keep the encouragement coming!

  18. Laura Pauling

    Write a good book. Yes, your friends will read it. Maybe. Or they'll read the beginning and the end and never tell you they skipped the middle. What they won't tell you is that they are not really passing it on.

    But write a really outstanding book, digital or not, self published or not, and it will slowly and but surely garner attention. 99% of the books I read come from word of mouth from friends, blogs, my librarian, my kids…etc.

  19. sunna

    Bless you for posting this: all the negativity was starting to get to me. 🙂

  20. Janice MacLeod

    I agree with you. This is a great time to be an author. Remember film cameras? Oh my I can't go back. It's digital all the way. It will be the same with books. Bring. It. On.

  21. D. G. Hudson

    That future doesn't sound so bad to me, with everyone getting a shot at the golden ring. Humans are very adaptable when needed.

    I'm not sure I like the idea of mass choice selection. The reading temperature of the public-at-large doesn't always equate with good literature or good writing.

    This is something to think about in depth, as I continue revising the WIP.

  22. Seamus

    I kinda like the idea, like you. But I'm new at this and I'm standing here with my manuscript in hand trying to jump on this train, not knowing where to jump. Not being accustomed to the old way means I'm even more free to take the new way. Does that mean I should jump into and weedle my way up to publishability? Is my query letter mill obsolete?

  23. LynML

    D. G.: But it also makes available books that appeal to niche audiences. Yes, they won't sell a bunch of copies, nor will they support the author in a full-time job, but the books will be out there.

    Nate: I'm glad these changes will make your job more enjoyable. I can't imagine it's much fun to tell a lot of people no, but trolling the web for hidden jewels…it makes me want to become an agent. Well, maybe not, but I'm at least going to look for these treasures and write them up on my blog.

    Oh, and I have a question for you, Nate: I had a YA novel published last year by a now-defunct small press; the book has gone on to get uniformly nice reviews and just won an award. I guess it makes sense to go the traditional route for the companion/sequel that I'm about to send out, even if it takes years. What do you think?

  24. Dara

    I think that's pretty great, too!

  25. Marilyn Peake

    I agree with you. There are so many opportunities for writers to get published and find readers today, it’s mind-boggling. With my own books available for practically all e-reader devices, I’ve thought about starting up the book promotion campaigns that led to lots of paperback sales for me back when POD was the brand new thing and distribution was readily available for small press books. It was fun to receive emails from people and libraries all across the country that had purchased my books, and to hear that kids were doing school book reports on my middle grade novels. I hesitate to put too much money into a lot of book promotion at this point in time, though, because I know what it’s like to lose access to the distribution channels. Right now, with all the publishing wars over eBook prices and distribution channels, I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out before spending money on more promotion. Instead, I’m spending time editing my latest adult science fiction novel with plans to query literary agents when it’s done.

    Despite the many ways to get published today, or maybe because of the many new authors resulting from all those ways to get published, many best-selling authors don’t actually make that much money. Recently, a few YA authors whose books made the New York Times Best Seller List posted discussions of how much money they had actually made on each of their books. They made less money than a lot of low-paying jobs. And best-selling author Cherie Priest – who also has a day job – recently blogged about how she can’t afford too much dental work because she doesn’t have enough health insurance. All of this made me realize that being a best-selling writer today is NOT the same as it used to be even a few short years ago. I think today a writer needs to be much more interested in writing itself than in making money from their writing, in order to have the best chance of ever succeeding at a writing career.

  26. Chris Bates

    Personally, for all it's worth, I think these next five to ten years will prove to be the best era for authors in the history of publishing.

    Those who write what people want to read will have the world at their feet. Stories that resonate with an audience will be unstoppable.

    Of course, it helps to have one of those stories. Which kinda leaves writers like me living with the usual unproven writer's fear! 🙂

  27. Nick

    Nick wishes he could be so optimistic. But on a good day, Nick doubts that a changed landscape could land him anywhere near what his brain deems to be "any degree of success". And as of late, I've just lost it. I want to write, but the moment I contemplate doing so, the drive's just gone. Oh well. Suppose my mood'll shift eventually. Hopefully soon, for the sake of my book.

  28. Genella deGrey

    I agree. It *is* a great time to be an author.

  29. Christine

    You know, I never really thought about it being super positive, but now I do. I have the desire to put my stuff out there. I want it to be for the right reasons, like the writing really snared an agent and/or publisher who loved it, but I know that's a subjective deal if the craft is decent. And I've read my fair share of published print dreck and wondered why not me when it is not always dreck (okay, the first book I wrote DESERVED the rejection but not all of them)? So maybe if I look at this the way you stated, I can see a way to achieving my dream albeit in a different way than I had envisioned. I also know readers are frustrated, too. This might be the way for all of us to find an audience and for readers to get their paws onto new books that they're excited by as well.

    Thanks for this post. I needed it.

  30. debutnovelist

    Also an optimistic note tonight from Canongate publishers interviewed on TV. Old style books are great, new style books are great – all books are great.

  31. Marilyn Peake

    I've recently noticed through Internet discussions that at least one literary agency – The Knight Agency – has started building a relationship with very small indie publishing houses. Having many books on the New York Times Best Seller List, The Knight Agency now also has quite a few books, including some new novels written by Deidre Knight, published by Samhain Publishing. This is the first example I’ve seen of a literary agency throwing a huge amount of support behind a very small publishing house formerly known mostly for eBook publication.

  32. Crystal

    JUST what I needed to hear. Over the last year I began to wonder if I made the right decision about becoming a writer (even though there's really nothing else I want to be doing). From reading all the agent/publisher blogs you'd think the age of the author was over. That's so not the truth. Yes, the business is changing and e-books are gaining speed, but that doesn't mean that all hope is lost for us writers. It's actually quite an exciting time.

    Thanks for this positive post!

  33. roxy

    Thanks. I loved this post.

  34. Haste yee back ;-)

    I just want the E pubbers and e readers to get crackin' on providing high quality illustrations for their publications/devices!

    Look to your right, see the little guy in the boat reading? Why can't an e reader/pubber produce that… Hell, I'll take it in black and white!

    Haste yee back 😉

  35. Michael

    I'm going to be the miserable negative bastard and say… what I can see ahead are some gems getting a deserved audience, along with a tidal wave of crap rolling towards unsuspecting readers. Readers who don't care anything about a publishing imprint or even know what it is, are going to care a whole lot more as soon as they've got stung by downloading a poorly edited book. For authors, it's going to mean the risk being shifted from the publishing house to the writer, so writers will *have* to have a self publishing success before they can win a contract. All joy to the extroverts who love nothing more than marketing their work. For thoughtful introverts, who may have huge talents, this new era is going to be much less promising.

  36. Nathan Bransford


    I agree that's the downside. It presents an opportunities to publishers, who can offer readers trusted brands, but it's going to be a challenging landscape for readers to negotiate, especially in the beginning. I'm guessing, though, that word of mouth and go-to sites will arise to propel the cream to success (even if the author of one of those books happens to be an introvert).

    But I agree it's not going to be an easy time for the "just an authors," and I hope the average reader will still trust that there are gems among the muck. And try to find them.

  37. Chris Bates


    I will buy the occasional book based on marketing. But usually it's more a trusted word-of-mouth network that entices me to fork out some cash.

    If you write a good story and people tell me it's a good story – I'll seek you out. I couldn't give a rat's arse if you can do great accents at a book store reading or leave a crowd at a literary festival in stitches. First and foremost I'm seeking a good book.

  38. Vegas Linda Lou

    It is great! And let's keep in mind that a book doesn't have to be a bestseller to be a success.

    Almost every day I get an email from a reader who reports having a laugh or being inspired by Bastard Husband: A Love Story. My self-published book is the impetus behind my upcoming one-woman show—how’s that for an opportunity of a lifetime?

    A bestseller? Not yet. A success? Definitely. It's an amazing time to be an author!

  39. Douglas Hulick


    I think one thing that keeps getting over-looked in all this is the assumption that everyone (or almost everyone) is going to have an e-reader. Really? Even if the price-point drops to $100 or a bit lower, that's still pretty steep. And then there are the individual investments per title that will have to make on top of that. It adds up quick.

    A LOT of people still buy books used, or wait for the cheaper mass market paperback, or go to the library because those are what are in their budget. The belief that, somehow, e-readers are going to dominate the reading landscape is a bit idealistic. Maybe if/when they get to the point that you can pick them up as cheaply (and use them nearly as universally) as a cell phone it will hold a bit more water, but guess what? There are lots of people (here and around the world) who still can't afford cell service, either, and phones are a bit more critical than books for a lot of folks.

    Fact of the matter is you are still going to be seeing old-fashioned codexes dominating the landscape for a looong time. Yes, the more affluent may prefer to go with e-readers, but the technology will be out of reach for many for a long time to come, I think.

    As for authors getting their work more-or-less directly to readers via e-readers: no thanks. As both an author and a reader, I *like* that there are gate keepers who both police for editorial as well as artistic quality. Yes, some good (maybe even great) work falls through the gaps, but a lot more dross is filtered out by agents and publishers. You yourself have shown that with your break downs of what you request vs. what you are sent. The ratio is daunting. I don't want to have to become a part-time slush/review reader simply so I can find a decent novel to read — with everything else in my life, I don't have time for it.

    I appreciate the optimistic take on things, but given your well-documented love for e-books & readers already, I think your glasses still have a little too much rose tinting in them. (But that's not to say that mine don't have an over-abundance of cloudy gray in them, either. 🙂

  40. Rick Daley

    I'd second that, but it looks like many others beat me to it. So I 44th it.

  41. TKAstle

    Amen and man, I love your glass half full attitude. So refreshing.

  42. Nathan Bransford


    I don't believe that e-readers are always going to be so expensive that they're out of reach. Every new technology starts as a luxury item until costs come down to an affordable place, at which time they become ubiquitous. I think you'll see kids getting them at school instead of texbooks and smart phones will have a much higher penetration than they do now.

    Technology gets cheaper, and I think this transition is going to happen sooner rather than later. Books won't disappear, but I wouldn't assume things will always be as they are now.

    Cell phones used to be a luxury – now, according to Wikipedia, 97% of everyone in the developed world has one.

  43. Madeleine

    That post is like a breath of fresh, reassuring air – much needed air. Thanks!

  44. Marilyn Peake

    Douglas Hulick –

    I picture e-reading devices of the future being something like the floppy electronic readers in the TV show, ANDROMEDA – they look like plastic sheets the size of a sheet of paper, and look cheap enough to be thrown away. I also think there could eventually be "hologram" books, devices through which tiny holograms pop up and read the story to you, way beyond audio books.

  45. Henri

    Well said, there are an awful lot of opportunities for writers and the internet has leveled the playing field quite nicely. Still, the great American novel is not an everyday event, but for those, who are just freelancing and making a living, there is a lot going on. Things could be worse. You could be an autoworker.

  46. Susan Quinn

    I knew there was a reason I liked you.

    Right you are, it is a great time, in spite of the roar of gnashing teeth.

    Also: the kids (even in elementary school) are already using on-line textbooks. Translating that to e-readers is inevitable and could easily pump some $$ into the system to keep it off life support.

    And I'm intrigued by the idea that "other" options will open up to readers to help them sort through the supposed "dreck". I can imagine websites, bloggers, but what else could it be? On-line bookstores that acts as imprints by filtering?

  47. Erasmus

    I'll copy and paste your headline, print it in XL fonts and pin it on my board. Danki!

  48. anne vinsel

    on the nostalgia theme, you left out mildew, foxing, mold and rodent urine! gawd, i'll missem 😉

  49. Anonymous

    Hmmm…. you really think leaving it up to the public to decide is a good thing, in terms of quality?

    I don't mean to be Debbie Downer (well, okay, I do) but this whole thing makes me instantly think of the music industry. Shows like American Idol, The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent, etc, where 'everyone can have a go' and the public decides who's good and who's not.

    No offense, but American Idol's been going for what- 10+ seasons now?- and we still haven't seen the next Aretha Franklin.

    The other thing that concerns me is the part about 'readers having to wade through dreck to find something good.'

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of agents don't exactly seem to enjoy wading through slush piles and thousands of queries to find something good, and they're getting PAID (sort of) to do that.

    You think a casual reader is going to be bothered with it? People are lazy enough finding books as it is. I know as a music fan I can't be bothered searching through 20+ pages of to find a good band; why would it be any different for books?

  50. Tambra


    I'm a huge fan of Deidre Knight as a writer and as an agent.

    The story behind her publishing with Samhain is Deidre's book had problems fitting in with traditional publishing houses. She investigated top epublishers and chose Samhain.
    The editor she worked with is now with Carina Press, Angela James.

    The book is Butterfly Tattoo and it just came out in print. If you haven't read her work, give it a try.

    TKA is in the top five agencies I'm submitting to for representation. Deidre and her staff understand the publishing world is changing, along with Nathan. As writers, this is the kind of agent a writer needs. One who sees the possibilities.

    I write in more than one genre: romance, children's and young adult, so I'm going to need a literary agent who knows the industry.

    I wish you the best, Marilyn.


  51. Nathan Bransford


    There are a lot of bad restaurants out there too, but we manage to find the good ones. There are a lot of bad websites out there, but we find the good ones. Etc. Heck, there were a lot of bad bands when Aretha Franklin was big and people found her.

    Things will organize themselves. I can't tell you precisely what it will look like, but it will work itself out. Humans are good at organizing things.

    And besides – my experience is that people don't often go hunting for what to read. It's more that the book comes to them – they hear about it from a friend, read a review, word of mouth, etc. and they go looking for where to buy it. That won't change.

  52. Amy

    I like your thoughts – very optimistic and encouraging.

  53. J. M. Hunter

    Great perspective – I was really feeling the pressure of all of the doom and gloom, but this post helps me to keep moving forward!

    Although….like Thermocline said and Nathan confirmed, it doesn't seem to be a GREAT time to write query letters…. I've never had so many form rejection in such a short turnaround.

  54. yurichang

    "All any writer wants is the chance to reach an audience…." and my audience is going to be women ALL OVER THIS WORLD!! and perhaps some of their husbands as well…. THAT's what I want! and you know what Nathan? YOU are at the TOP of "the top ten most queried agents!" Congrats!

  55. Dawn Maria

    I've often wondered who has the harder role right now, the emerging writer or an established one who is watching the paradigm shift. In a way, those of us trying to break into publishing already understand the new dynamics present and are probably comfortable with them.

    You're right Nathan, this is a great time to be a writer.

  56. ryan field

    It is exciting, and keeps getting more exciting.

  57. Kaitlyne

    Actually, I'm not sure I agree with the idea of it being a good thing that authors will have to market themselves and be able to maintain a great web presence to be successful. Not saying I wouldn't put the effort into it and try, but I guess I've worked darn hard to improve my skill and hopefully get up to a point that is publishable, and it makes me cringe to think that I could potentially have a good book that no one would read just because I don't blog well.

    Heck, I'm the only person I know without a Facebook page, and I find Twitter to be pretty silly, and I don't have anything interesting happening in my life to warrant either. Though in a fun note of irony, my last story relied heavily on social networking. 😛

    Anyway, thanks for the positive note. I get what you're saying, and while I agree with some of it, I honestly hadn't been worried about the publishing industry at all, and this actually makes me a tad nervous. At least I can hopefully get into the game before all the changes happen.

    What can I say, I'm weird! 😉

  58. SeaHayes

    In the face of all the doom and gloom, it is nice to hear a little good spin. Hate to hear that about the queries…

  59. Marilyn Peake

    Susan Quinn –

    There are already quite a few websites that review and offer book awards for indie and e-published books. I think one of the best is the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. For example, Amity Gaige originally published O MY DARLING and THE FOLDED WORLD through the indie publishing house, Other Press. In 2007, THE FOLDED WORLD was named a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year. After seeing the award, I purchased a paperback copy of THE FOLDED WORLD published by Other Press. Soon after, THE FOLDED WORLD was picked up for publication by Random House. Here’s the website of Amity Gaige that includes her very impressive Bio. And here’s an interview she did with ForeWord Magazine. There are many ways to find great indie and e-published books online, and it’s always fun to find the treasures.

  60. Moses

    Good post. I like the current environment because as a new author I feel I have so many options now. There was a time when if you couldn't get past the gatekeepers, that was pretty much THE END. But not any longer. I will take my chances with the gatekeepers first, but now I can push ahead knowing that there's a good plan B if I need it.

    Nathan or anyone else, have you seen any kind of projections as to when ebook sales might equal print sales? Or do you know of any kind of statistics or research that would help put that projection together? Thanks in advance.

  61. Nathan Bransford


    I think it's too early to know for certain and there are lots of variables involved.

  62. T. Anne

    Thanks I needed the lift. Good times lie ahead, and I cannot wait.

  63. Nathan

    It really is amazing. At no other time in history has such a host of men and women been able to seek an audience. Nearly every human being has a platform in this new age of information and open technology.

    It has pulled our world together in an incredible way as well. Communication is one of the first keys to understanding, and we've unearthed a source of communication with unbelievable potential and breadth.

    This digital age for publishing is really another facet of this, although tough to work out in these beginning stages.

  64. Terry

    I like the "cabin in the woods" scenario, or more to my taste, the "tree house in the tropics." But, yes, there may be more options on the horizon.

    How good they prove to be, that's the question. The 70 percent Amazon lure, is so enticing. But is it a case of mermaids tempting the sailors?

  65. Mary Malcolm

    While I am excited about this new wave, I find myself nostalgic and sad, too. I love print books. I love the thrill of pulling a book off the shelf, curling up under a comfy blanket and reading by a window. Now, I realize I can do this with an e-reader as well, but it isn't the same.

    I really hope some talanted, so far unseen writers get their chance to provide the world with their stories, it thrills me…

    But at the same time, I worry about what this new word will mean for brick and mortar stores and their devotees…me.

  66. J.J. Bennett

    Very true. Today it came to me in a vision… If I want to get an agent to love my book and want to work with me it needs to be something extraordinary. So much so, that anyone who reads it will want to shout it's lines from the roof-tops. I think I'm getting it…

  67. Lady Glamis

    What a fantastic, upbeat post! Thank you for this, Nathan!

  68. Kristin Laughtin

    I'm glad you find the positive in everything, especially since (as you said) there is so much doom and gloom out there.

  69. Kristi

    Thank you for this post. 🙂

  70. Anonymous

    I believe the query letter will be a dead form within the next 1-2 years.

    Agents will be trolling the indie community on Kindle, Smashwords,etc to find new talent . . . in fact they already are . . .

  71. Marilyn Peake

    Tambra –

    Wow, small world. One of my writer friends who started out being published by the same small press that publishes my books went on to be represented by The Knight Agency, and another one of my writer friends won a writing contest at that same agency. I’ve known about Samhain Publishing for years, and remember it being known mostly for eBooks, and I purchased a few of Deidre Knight’s earlier books that were published by the large publishing houses to see what her writing was like. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

  72. Charlie Eve

    Love this! Thanks for the positive note. I love looking on the bright side of life and publishing.

  73. mesmered

    'Oh happy day . . . oh happy day!' (with gospel clapping please)

    Finally I feel that a tough decision between mainstream and indie two years ago has been vindicated.

  74. Stephanie

    I think you've got a great outlook on it! How can it be a bad thing that everyone gets a shot?! I do wonder how we'll be able to sort through the bad stuff though! What are your thoughts on that?

  75. Marilyn Peake

    Michael @2:45 PM –

    There always seem to be writers, both those published traditionally and those published primarily in eBook format, who manage to succeed without massive book promotion. Cormac McCarthy, published the traditional way, doesn’t do much book promotion at all. In 2005, the Fictionwise eBook Author of the Year – for most books sold and highest ratings by readers – was Darrell Bain, a small press author who does very little book promotion. He won over all the famous authors on Fictionwise after someone brought his books to Science Fiction/Fantasy Conventions and they caught on like wildfire, resulting in a large fan base.

  76. Elizabeth Rushing

    Nathan, what powerful and positive words. As a writer and a reader, you've given me hope that amazing works will surface through this calamity.

  77. Marilyn Peake

    One more post, and then I better stop for tonight. I realized one more way in which I’ve found indie-published gems on the Internet. Sometimes genre writers will write for small press anthologies even if they’re already writing for major publications. One of those writers is Keith R.A. Candido. He’s written official books based on STAR TREK, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, DR. WHO, SPIDER-MAN, ANDROMEDA and many other well-known TV shows. Here’s his AMAZING Bibliography. Well, he also contributed to an anthology titled BAD-ASS FAERIES, published by a small press, Marietta Publishing. I purchased the anthology because it sounded intriguing, and was delighted to find that Keith R.A. Candido had contributed to the book.

  78. Marilyn Peake

    Ooooooops, I’m tired. I meant "Keith R.A. DeCandido", not "Candido".

  79. Joan

    So it's a great time to be an author, but a bad time to query? 😉

  80. Donna Hole

    I enjoyed both those posts the first time, and they gave just as much inspiration and positive feelings this time.

    And the monkeys was way cool! Really brightened an otherwise gloomy day.


    word verif: rensuato. Not sure what it means, but I think its my new word for the day. "Hey man, that really rensuato." See if they try to explain it.

  81. Mira

    Nathan, thank you.

    This message carries weight when it's spoken by an industry professional.

    I'd love for every writer to feel as hopeful and thrilled and empowered about the future as I do.

    To have direct access to readers no matter what – no one can stop you from having access to readers – whether they don't like your work, or they think it's too controversial, or they just don't like you personally – no matter what – you can reach readers – that's true freedom for the writer.

  82. Vacuum Queen

    So, what is the vision? People go straight to epub and IF the book catches on, then agents come and take over? That's sounds harder than the impossible query/slushpile. I'm also confused as a reader just how to figure out which books I'll be buying as well. I know everyone will say their work is a masterpiece, so how will I know who to believe? I do see the good, but I'm wondering how it'll all play out. The ideal.

  83. Steve Fuller

    I will keep saying it: It's all about perspective. Mourn the past or embrace the future. Those clinging to the old ways will be left behind. Future generations will be handed a Kindle-type device in the first grade with all their textbooks preloaded. College kids will download textbooks from the university's e-store. By the time they are ready for recreational reading, e-books will be as natural as breathing.

    It's a great time to be a writer.

  84. Anonymous

    I am new at all of this and my head hurts! I just finished my
    8th edit on a book I finished January of 2009. It is as perfect as I can get it and I am very proud of it. I learned how to write a query letter and synopsis by studying like crazy and obsessed over both for months, changing it I don't know how many times until I was satisfied with it(sounds familiar, yes?). I finally began sending it to agents with some marginal success but no taker yet. I've been keeping tabs on the e-reader deal, wondering how this was going to possibly impact not only me but the industry as well. Now I read that queries are soon to be history and I'm suppose to do…what? E-publish it myself and hope that an agent/publisher will stumble across it out of the tens of thousands that will be floating around out there? Yikes…. And to make it more enticing, I need to do…WHAT?? I need a website and/or a blog–and I'm suppose to promote myself shamelesly and by the way, how does one do that? What do I do to promote myself? And who would stumble across an obscure blog that I would create? I am confused and my head feels like it's gonna explode! Hey, I am up for it but HELP!–Sharon

  85. Wanda B. Ontheshelves

    Re: "And to make it more enticing, I need to do…WHAT?? I need a website and/or a blog–and I'm suppose to promote myself shamelesly and by the way, how does one do that? What do I do to promote myself? And who would stumble across an obscure blog that I would create?"

    Think of the transition from being a classic "writer in a cabin" to a shameless cyberpromoter (hmm, maybe that looks too much like teleprompter – but hey, I think I like that – a cyberprompter, since you're prompting people to buy your book and associated merchandising) – think of the transition from cabinwriter to cyberprompter, as analogous to "Dylan going electric" –

    Cute quote from wiki entry, apropos to the dismay and disdain cyberpromptin' elicits:

    "To Robbie Robertson, 'The Dylan's gone electric' debate seemed irrational: "It seemed kind of a funny statement to me at the time, that somebody's gone electric. It was like, Jeez, somebody's just bought a television."[9]"

  86. Karen McQ.

    Great post, Nathan! As someone who's had some success as a self-published Kindle author, I find this to be an exciting time.

  87. SFixe

    My hearts racing, I have to be honest. I'm scared.
    I own a kindle, but still find myself buying books. I actually feel bad paying a lower price?
    Sometimes it feels like Im stabbing my kind (wanna be authors) in the back.
    The future will happen regardless, and am all in for progress–POSITIVE yeah.
    BUT…I guess its hard to know where I'll fit in when its my turn (oh I will have my turn) to get published, especially if almost ANYONE who can string a few sentences together will be able to be published in the "e" world.

  88. Fiona Ingram

    As we have progressed, so have our means of communication. It was inevitable that books would 'go electronic.' But just as some people enjoy e-books etc, so will many other people continue to read 'real books.' (Me for one) I think things will settle down and books and their readers find their place in the grand scheme of things. When Gutenberg invented movable type, I am sure many people shook their heads and muttered,"It's a fad; it won't last." (BTW, that's what they said about the first car and the telephone) Before the printing press, books were written out by toiling monks sweating over parchments. Things have to change and we change with them. But reading (aha! that's the important thing!) will never die out.

  89. Anonymous

    I used to have a cell phone.
    I used it when our daughter was a teen to stay in touch or when I was traveling.
    My daughter and my husband still have cell phones.
    But I don't need one unless I am traveling.
    In this economy, there is little reason for me to have one and little excuse for the expense.
    What was once necessary, is now only "if needed."

  90. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe

    It gets me excited and hopeful. Of course I selfishly wonder how to fit into all of this. I guess I’ll continue slowly.
    I can only hope we will indeed get a chance.

  91. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe

    You know what. That last response from me doesn’t cut the mustard. What I should truly do is ask…

    “But how? How, dear Nathan, can we 1st time authors get our voice out there?”

  92. Mira

    Sharon –

    I know, it's scary, but honestly, I don't think shameless self-promoting is required at all.

    You know, Nathan had a terrific post a few weeks ago about choosing the type of promotion that works well for you. Matching your personality to the type of marketing you do. Then it comes naturally and easily and will feel genuine to other people. It might even be fun to promote something you are so proud of, if you promote it in a way that fits your natural style.

    My computer is slow as molasses right now or I'd find the link to Nathan's post. But you might search through the posts – it was within the last couple of months.

    Personally, I do shamelessly promote myself, but that's just because it's fun. It's not like I've written a book or anything. But once I get around to writing a book, I plan to write the most astounding, incredible, magnificent, awe-inspiring book in the history of Western civilization, and then I'm going to tell a few people about it.

    That should do it. 🙂

  93. Anonymous

    Wanda B.:

    I do like the idea of self-promotion. But I am I'm bewildered about how the masses find your promotion "out there" amidst the thousands of other promotions. What does one do or write or say to promote–and where? (Yes, I am that clueless. Sorry, folks–be patient with me.) I'm not very inventive, apparently or imaginative when trying to figure this out–it's like learning Latin for me. I like the idea of e-books and paper books–like Debutauthor wrote–all books are great. But I am crass enough to be cautious as far as payment is concerned. I want my characters to be known and loved and I am willing to fight for them, but what is the best way to do this? I have no experience in self-promotion and don't know where to even start. This is why my head feels like it's in a vice! ha! Any ideas? Or am I over-thinking this like I do everything else? Thank you. Sharon

  94. JTShea

    Thanks Nathan, for being positive and realistic at the same time. Push versus pull. Promotion vs demand. Selling versus word-of-mouth. Both seem necessary, but word-of-mouth seems vital. Incidentally, comments on your previous post have just passed the 1,000 mark. Is that a record? John.

  95. Claudia

    Aren't musicians having a much harder time, generally, making a living, since the advent of MP3? You either have to tour to death or resign yourself to being a musician as a hobby, because you can't make enough money selling music. I would think the same thing would happen with books. Part of the problem *is* the noise consumers have to sort through, and it's why, I think, the older acts are still the ones that sell the most. No one knows what else to do…what other music to buy.

    I see opportunities as well as risks and agree that the change is inevitable. But even among kids it's not entirely welcomed. My son decided not to apply to Grinnell College, an excellent school, because of their commitment to becoming paperless. "I like to hold my work in my hands," he said. The idea of kids being handed e-readers in school would make him sick to his stomach. There are different learning styles and personality types and he dreams of being a writer in the woods. He hates turning on his computer, doesn't watch much TV, doesn't have text on his phone (well, that's because I wouldn't pay for it, because I couldn't see why a kid wouldn't be texting during class). I'm a marketing professional and can live with what writers will have to do. But it's interesting that all this technology has actually made the world a less tolerant and flexible place for those who might have much to contribute but just don't want to participate in all this noise.

  96. Dan Holloway

    I disagree quite strongly with quite a lot of your posts, but this one is absolutely spot on. What we forget about the past – and it's the case with music as well as books – is that before the current age of the gatekeepers, there were other times when self-publishing had a fairly free rein – and there was a LOT of dreck (my wife's a classical musician – she's always relating stories of new performances of long lost works for 200 years ago "there's a REASON they were lost" she reminds me). We just don't see it now – because actually hostory did a pretty good job of filtering it out. my take is that the quality/quantity bemoaners are actually pretty patronising towards readers – quality will rise – sure what's popular now may have disappeared in 10 years' time; but the genuine masterpieces, even those that go unrecognised, WILL surface in time – in a way they might not have have done a few decades back.

    In answer to Claudia, yes, bands have to make their money on the road not in the studio. As a writer I also see that as an opportunity. For me art is about the conversation between artist and audience – that direct communication, the opportunity to look into your audience's eyes and see the effect your work has – that's not a chore, it's a privilege. And if the new model – where what we "value" (monetarily) is not a physical thing, a book, but the whole package – gets writers out of their garrets and in fornt of their readers and reminds them what storytelling is all about, I can't see that as anything but beneficial.

  97. Steve


    You said:

    "…can find writers who have achieved a certain level of success on their own but need someone to translate that success into a better deal, more $$, and more opportunities."

    You seem to be describing something very close to the traditional role of a band's business manager.


  98. Linguista

    Interesting perspective.

    Are you sayin that those of us fortunate enough to be above dreck, but unpublished and unsigned, should give it a shot?

    I suppose it's nice to know that if you want to say something, you can, without having to do it the long way.

  99. Jason

    Totally agree Nathan…I think electronic publishing won't replace the traditional publishing industry, but will simply be another avenue authors can use to get discovered by traditional publishing houses.

    We shouldn't confuse the industry with the medium used by the industry. The main thing that publishing houses offer is exposure and evolving the medium won't change that fact. You can get a book printed on your own, but it doesn't do any good if people don't know about it.

    This will continue to be the case no matter what medium is used…whether paper or electronic text.

  100. Heather Kelly

    Thanks for not being afraid to be optimistic. Are you going to throw a party when you get to 3,000 followers? 3,000!!!

  101. CMR Prindle

    This is the pep talk I needed. Thanks, Nathan!

  102. Anonymous

    Nathan said:

    "…can find writers who have achieved a certain level of success on their own but need someone to translate that success into a better deal, more $$, and more opportunities."

    Steve commented on this:

    You seem to be describing something very close to the traditional role of a band's business manager.

    That description could also apply to a pimp or Mary Kay district manager.

    Mary Jo

  103. Charles

    I am not sure Salinger would agree with you. Most writers are not entrepreneurs. Their profession and their craft demand other qualities. The more a writer is a craftsmen (or woman) the less likely he or she will be entrepreneurial. You need to be predisposed to some form of solitude, otherwise it is not going to work.

  104. Dana Stabenow

    My first three Kate Shugak novels were paperback originals. The fourth started Berkley's Prime Crime series in hardcover. I.e., they were testing the waters, could I sell or couldn't I? Could I help them generate a profit at a higher price point? Turns out I could (whew).

    I can see a business model where publishers test a writer's potential market by bringing out their first novels in eBook format(cheapest production costs), and as the writer's readership increases upgrading them through mass, trade and hardcover (steadily more expensive formats).

    No? Yes?

  105. Melissa Gill


    When do you think we'll be able to interact with our e-books, meaning, if we're reading about Henry VIII we'll be able to look at his picture/bio on Wikipedia. Or if we have a character who's a carrion beetle we can link to a u-tube of them burrying a body. I think that will bring a lot more readers into the mix. I can't wait for that day myself, both as a reader and a writer

  106. CMR Prindle


    Not that I'm in any way, shape, or form part of the publishing world (yet!) but that sounds like it'd be a great idea for publishers…as well as authors. You try out a new author, or an established author who might be venturing out of their tried-and-true genre(s), and see if anything sticks. If it does, then you can put in the additional time and money to do a more traditional printing. And of course as Nathan, or perhaps a commenter, mentioned the industry could something similar with people who are self-publishing on these platforms, or indie-publishing.

  107. Mira

    Mary Kay –

    Actually, I don't think it decribes a pimp. Pimps don't usually require success prior to engaging a worker.

    And by engaging a worker, I mean using physical, verbal and emotional violence, very real threats and intimidation, as well as emotional manipulation to force an extremely exploitative relationship that frequently becomes a form endentured servitude or even slavery.

    Sort of a different business model.

  108. Anonymous

    Yes, it IS a great time to be an author, especially an indie who is self-published to Kindle.

    Just two months ago I couldn't find indie books in the top 100 sellers (category) lists on Kindle. Today I see many indie books in the top 100, and a few holding down the #1 bestseller position in their category.

    I just checked the hourly charts for contemporary romance, for example (a highly competitive genre), and there are 5 indie books in the top 25! The #2 spot is Elisa Lorello's fantastic book (Faking It) ! McQuestion, Nordin, and Braziel are there too!

    You are right — this is a GREAT time to be an author, and the self-pubbed Kindle authors are quickly building an audience.

  109. Kathryn Magendie

    I live in a little log house in the woods by a creek with bears and bobcats and other critters – but, yeah, I still have to work me arse off *laugh*

    You know, the other day I was worrying how I didn't try to find an agent and maybe I should have, or should do so; how I wasn't sure if I could be selling more books if "I'd just do …whatever…that big time authors did" -sniffling that not only Oprah hadn't called but I still wasn't mentioned in (insert some place here) *laugh* ….

    Then…well, then I went to the bookshelf and pulled down my published book, smelled it, thumbed through it, and then I looked at the contract for the second book and pulled up the cover for it …and suddenly I felt pretty durn happy . . . soon I'll have two books out and a maybe on a third. All the rest of the "Stuff" is just "Stuff" …yeah, Good Stuff, but maybe one day I'll have even more Good Stuff ….and if not…well…

    I figure – there is always The Next Thing – we want more more more when sometimes just what we have is pretty cool….

    Now I'm smiling.

  110. Marilyn Peake

    Anon @11:05 AM 2/5/10 –

    There are lots of ways to promote eBooks. You can get together with other authors, put interesting information about your books on a CD – book covers, excerpts, free short stories, etc. – with links to the authors’ websites and purchase pages, make 100 or more copies of the CD and hand them out for free at book fairs and conventions. Another way to promote eBooks is to go to places where people who like your genre get together, e.g. science fiction/fantasy conventions are great places to appear as a speaker or book seller if you're a science fiction or fantasy writer. You can bring along a laptop and actually show people the eBook versions of your books. You can also have T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. that feature your book covers created at a place like Café Press and give them out as prizes. You can have pencils engraved with your website very cheaply at places like Oriental Trading and, again, you can give those out for free. Taking out ads in magazines is another way to promote, and you can do this more cheaply if several authors chip in for one ad featuring multiple books. Getting reviews and winning awards on popular websites also helps sell eBooks. And it's very important to have a website.

  111. Marilyn Peake

    My last post was meant for Anon @11:05 PM 2/4/10. For some reason, I thought that post came in this morning. I obviously need another cup of coffee. 🙂

  112. Marilyn Peake

    SFixe @8:59 PM 2/4/09 said:
    "I own a kindle, but still find myself buying books. I actually feel bad paying a lower price?
    Sometimes it feels like Im stabbing my kind (wanna be authors) in the back."

    Actually, although this might change in the future, authors usually earn a much larger percentage in royalties on eBooks than on paperbacks or hard covers.

  113. Vegas Linda Lou

    “Shameless” self-promotion? I don’t get it. Why should the word “shame” come into play at all? I PROUDLY self-promote! My book is friggin’ awesome–ask any reader to whom I've proudly self-promoted!

  114. maybeimamazed02

    Thank you, Nathan! I'm on a writing residency right now, and this is just the encouragement I needed. 🙂

  115. Mira

    Good point, Vegas Linda! Love hearing about your book's success. 🙂


    In terms of lowering royalty rates, I hope not. If Amazon is willing to give 70%, I doubt Amazon will significantly lower royalty rates at any point in the forseeable future – they're trying to build an empire. And down the road, there will be most likely be competition over authors. I hope so, anyway.

  116. Lisa Lane

    The industry might be in the process of making huge changes, but I agree that it's a great time to be an author.

    With all of the social networking venues available through the Internet, anyone really does have a chance at being noticed and making a name for his or herself. The price wars might have many issues up in the air right now–but what writer writes for the money? Sure, we all want to make a living, but those of us who are realistic weren't writing with huge dollar signs in our eyes to begin with.

    Change is good. I look forward to it.

  117. Erin Edwards

    What a great post – when looking for an agent (or a publisher), I think a positive, forward-thinking attitude toward ebooks is going to turn out to be very important to an author.

  118. SM Blooding

    YES! Positive!

    Change is inevitable. I'm glad I finally found a post that said something GOOD about it! Nicely done!


  119. Peter Dudley

    You will fail to be surprised that I agree, of course.

    Although I do quibble with this:

    All any writer wants is the chance to reach an audience and see what happens from there. Just a chance.

    I think that most writers also want a lot of money, a yacht, adulation, happiness, and a private tropical island. But maybe I'm projecting.

  120. Wild Child

    I've heard the film industry is changing due to digital. Since they can deliver the content to movie theaters electronically instead of shipping it out, more indie films might make it to the big screen before the small screen. Interesting to think about the parallels.

  121. Marilyn Peake

    Mira @11:38 AM 2/5/10 –

    Ever since I was first published, I’ve received about 3x the royalty percentage for my eBook novels compared to my paperback novels. 🙂

  122. C.A. Scott

    except of course that the ability to write and the ability to sell are seldom found in the same person

  123. Mira


    Good to know – definitely! 🙂

  124. Anonymous

    Thank you Mira. I will find Nathan's post that you suggested.

    Thank you, Marilyn Peake, for your wonderful and inventive suggestions!!!! I have copied that and put them on my desktop for inspiration when my time comes to shamelessly promote.–Sharon

  125. Chris Pedersen

    It's all good! But learning about the Drunken Monkeys of the Caribbean was HILARIOUS!!!

  126. Beryl Hall Bray

    Thank you, Nathan. Today really isn't so different; authors have always had their challenges. An excellent author, Diana Abu-Jaber said regarding a manuscript she wrote, and re-wrote, and re-wrote, that she finally threw it on the floor and stomped on it. Dues will be paid! It is an exciting time for us. Now, I have to get off my computer, I have a manuscript that needs attention. ;-D

  127. Crotchety Old Fan

    Unfortunately I think this is wrong in so many ways:

    what is really going to happen is – the crappy authors and bad books that can find a budget for massive self promotion are going to get all the sales, nasty business tactics will be used to attack nay-sayers and competitors, the general public (that can't really tell a good book from a bad one) will be educated to believe that glitz and glitter mean 'good writin' and best sellers will be featured on the cover of the electronic versions of tabloid rags. Meanwhile, the bottom drops out for most mid-list authors and we end up with a glut of waiters who used to be writers.

  128. Anthony Puttee

    The opportunity is there. It's up to authors to capitalise on it, but sweat, persistence, patience and the drive to work late nights don't come packaged free with this opportunity. These assets are what determine the kind of success you'll likely have. Regardless of your budget.

  129. Marilyn Peake

    Sharon –

    I'm so glad you liked those ideas!

  130. C. Michael Fontes

    This really helps… I've been feeling down lately about trying to break in as a new author. Thanks!

  131. MzMannerz

    As long as, one day, I get to know that someone I didn't email it to directly is reading and enjoying my novel, I will always be excited about the process and getting to that point. It's always a great time to be an author!

  132. Mainely Marla

    Hi Nathan, Your comments are encouraging to this author of one published book and two wannabes. I have taken my published book and, with retained digital rights, published it in ebook format. I am relieved by the concept that even one book already published can attract an agent, it sure beats the endless querries. I would much rather spend my time writing books. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    Launa McNeilly, Lies, In a Season of Tribulation


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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