Back in 1989 I started writing a novel on a very early version of a portable computer. Not knowing much about computers at the time, I didn’t give a thought to the safety of my scribbling. You can probably imagine what happened…I had a technical problem and everything I had written was gone in an instant. Some mysterious electron had shifted in its orbit inside a piece of silicon and months of work was obliterated. Destroyed. Completely annihilated and removed from existence.
I was pissed. Really pissed. I eventually got over it, but the thrill was gone and I never really got the urge to write again for almost 15 years.
But as upset as I was about losing an unfinished manuscript due to my own stupidity, I cannot imagine what it must be like to pour your heart and soul (and time and creativity) into writing a finished manuscript, then sending it off to a bunch of publishers only to receive rejection letter after rejection letter. In the end the product of your hard work and dreams of being a novelist end up in a box under your desk. I cannot imagine what that would feel like. Nor do I think I am emotionally equipped to deal with that particular brand of abandoned hope.
Luckily, we live in an age where technology (while still something that must be handled carefully…sort of like plutonium) can set free the mind and hands of creative types. For writers, the deal has recently gotten especially sweet with the advent of electronic publishing, e-books, and e-book readers like the Kindle and tablet computers like the iPad. Amazon has done an excellent job creating tools and programs for writers that allow guys like me to write the next Great American Novel, and then publish their work with very little hassle. The result is nothing short of magical. Writers can now be independent of the big six publishers and take control of the entire creative and marketing process from end to end.
This revolution is really just getting started. As millions of new consumers snap up the ever-expanding universe of e-book readers and tablet computers, writers like me will be able to feed them a steady stream of high-quality and competitively priced content. Of course since the barrier to entering the self-publishing market is decidedly low, the e-book market is awash in garbage that would otherwise never see the light of day (or the back-lit screen of an iPad). But consumers will sort out the good from the bad and reward authors who take the time to follow a traditional publishing workflow (write, edit, rewrite, edit again, beta read, final edit, then publish). They will vote with their dollars, their loyalty, and their recommendations to other readers.
I am not taking this plunge alone – I have made some new friends in the independent publishing world who have “cracked the code” – and I am diligently following their advice on how to promote myself and my work. Over the past month I have become an expert in leveraging social media and can see how many self-published authors fail at the business end of the craft. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to think differently about where the creative process ends and the business begins.
So…I am fully engaged and will do whatever it takes to be successful at this. And now…all my writing lives in the cloud so that it can never be lost again. Lesson learned!