Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Does Publishing Take So Long?

I was fascinated by a story about the publishing industry that appeared in this past weekend's New York Times Book Review. The article starts from the premise that, given the advent of electronic communication, publishing should have speeded up like the news cycle. But that's not true.

Although technology makes it easier to turn a manuscript into a finished book, it still takes a long time to build a book that'll sell. Word of mouth is still paramount.

The book I'm reading right now would agree. It's called The Practical Writer, and it's published by the folks who put together Poets and Writers magazine. Published in 2004, it is compiled with an awareness of the importance of Web sites in the process of finding an agent and developing an audience. The essays seem to be written around 2002, so blogs were still in their nascent stages. [A late chapter on authors developing a presence on the Web makes no mention of blogs.] The book, which consists of essays by publishing professionals of all stripes, is a perfect example of what the Times article is talking about; the writing is roughly two years old by the time it appeared in print.

The article outlines the carousel of the publishing game. While all the pretty horses are going up and down, the music playing in the background is publicity. The Practical Writer's description of this aspect of publishing is contained in several essays -- the one by the bookseller is a good example as are the items by agents and publicists.

I've always expected that if I'm able to sell my first novel, this blog will be the basis for developing a community of readers -- or perhaps it'll remain a hidden little alcove not far from an as yet undeveloped "professional" Web site. [Of course, if I never see my book in published form, I'll still enjoy writing. It's what I do.] The key is to develop word of mouth, and that will require an online presence, an expansion of my freelance writing, and probably reaching out to book clubs and readers through other literary sites.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop an audience. I hope the forty people or so who visit per day like what you see and stick around.

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