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Author (R)evolution Day, the Manifesto (Part I)

Authors and content creators are the future of publishing

I’m Kristen McLean, the founder & CEO of Bookigee, and I’m also the co-chair of TOC’s first conference event designed especially for professional authors and content creators.

TOC and their partners like Publishers Weekly and Argo Navis wanted to create this conference because we had a growing awareness that the kinds of conversations and information we were dealing with at TOC—important conversations about the future of publishing—were not making it over the fence to the people who needed it most: the authors and creators.

We are facing a whole new publishing paradigm, and Tools of Change has set out to create a whole new kind of author event. The subtitle “Be the Change” is telling—we think the new model is being built right now, and authors have a role to play.

Welcome to Author (R)evolution Day. Here’s our manifesto:

1) Authors and content creators are the future of the publishing business

Authors and content creators are at the head of the value chain in publishing. No matter what happens in the middle of the chain—what the role of “publisher” looks like, what formats & devices come out on top, how content is acquired, who is selling it, and how readers are buying and consuming it—there is no publishing industry without great content. And there is no great content without great authors and creators making it.

We have now reached the point where the services that used to be locked up in the publishing factory—editorial, production, distribution, sales—are now available a ‘la carte in hundreds of different flavors. The abundance of choice is sometimes overwhelming to authors who have spent years navigating the labyrinthine maze of the traditional publishing market.

But it will get better as authors and content creators get access to professional tools, better data, and straight talk on what’s what in the evolving marketplace. At the TOC Author (R)evolution project, we’re committed to creating a forum for these kinds of conversations, explorations, and community-building efforts around the future of publishing. We’re not here to preserve the old model—we’re interested in helping build the new one. One that puts authors, content creators, and readers at the very center.

2) Authors are perfectly capable of writing great books, and running great businesses [at the same time]

The number one thing we hear when we talk about empowering authors is “They don’t really want it. They just want to write. They can’t do all this stuff.” And it’s not just industry gate-keepers who tell us this—sometimes it’s other authors talking about “everyone else.”

Well, we don’t believe it.

We’re seeing plenty of examples of innovative professional authors who are in charge, trying new things, experimenting with new tools, and taking a good hard look at how they want to move their career forward using all these emerging opportunities.

Just as you can’t walk before you crawl, we think the real problem is structural. Because of the way the industry has evolved, authors have been systematically out-sourcing their knowledge of the publishing chain for so long, it’s like a muscle that’s never been used.

We think there’s tremendous potential in the author and creator class to completely upend the system, but first they have to roll up their sleeves and get busy.

3) Entrepreneurialism is the new black, and curiosity is the new currency

To paraphrase Todd Sattersten,  “Every Author is an Entrepreneur” so we all need to start thinking like one. The publishing shift we see coming has most authors picking their publisher, not the other way around.

In order to be well-equipped for this new environment, we think authors and content creators need as much training in business and publishing expertise as they do in writing. They need to understand deep structural issues like the way data flows around the industry, new modes of discovery, new thinking about consumer behavior, how to read the numbers, the potential of new technology, and how to build an effective team around themselves so they can run their businesses.

This is not a panel on how to read your Facebook Analytics—we’re talking about Bootstrapping 101. Right now the mainstream part of the industry has no incentive to help authors gain these skills, because it would be subversive to their very business model. So authors are going to have to do a lot of it themselves, and we’re here to help. 



The (R)evolution won’t happen in a day, and neither will this manifesto.

The next installment of the manifesto can be found here. Join us as we launch Author (R)evolution Day. Click the button on the right to register, use the discount code AR350 and you’ll get the best price available.

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Comments: 8

  1. Dear Ms. McLean:

    As the owner of a self publishing company for 28 years with over 250 published titles including a Pulitzer and 4 best sellers, I am also the author of 9 books. I read your article with great interest. It left me feeling sorry for new authors until I got to the last paragraph in which this major point should have been at the very beginning of your article… that authors need to learn a lot of new skills if they intend to survive this “revolution” in self-publishing.Twenty-eight years ago when I stated GM Books I purchased my first MAC computer (at $13,000). I was convinced that I was on the cusp of a new “revolution,” but I soon realized that the MAC computer put color separation operators in the printing industry out of work by the thousands as Photoshop replaced those $500,000 scanning machines.  Then film strippers and pre press people became obsolete and soon pressmen were replaced by the tens of thousands with new printing technology including computers capable of printing and binding a single book in less than an hour. I continue to be amused at those who rely on “Spell Check” which cannot decipher the difference between the words ‘there’ and ‘their,’ yet millions rely on such editing tools. As publishing becomes an open field it is, no less, full of land mines. Little mistakes can be very costly.In 1983 Los Angeles there were 80 printing companies with thousands of employees doing over $50 million per year in sales, and, in California the printing industry ranked 10th in the state.  Today in Los Angeles there are less than 20 major printing companies doing over $50 million pr year and the printing industry now ranks 47th in the state.My point therefore is that in 1983 I never realized that I would have to become a computer, Photoshop, pre press and a printing expert. While your article encourages authors to be focused on being self motivated and their own creators, you leave out the fact that they will need to pay for and learn a dozen new computer programs and spend countless hours each day doing everything but writing… it falls in line with my favorite saying… “going broke saving money.”

    As the author of 9 books, I have found it more productive and successful to hire a good editor, an excellent graphic and book designer and an expert at creating digital files for Amazon and Bookbaby and other tablet companies without spending every waking hour on such effort.  In the end, I can write more books and still have time for my family and friends. 

    • HI William,

      We’re not saying authors have to do it all. We’re saying they need good tools and information so they can build a business. I agree that in many cases it IS more efficient to hire certain services as an author–the question becomes how do they choose? Does it still make sense to do a major deal? Do they have the disposition to do it in an alternative way? What are the best practices? What DO they want to handle themselves? What are the opportunities?

      All this opportunity requires a framework for good decision-making.

      People who run great businesses don’t do everything themselves, but they do make informed decisions and grow great businesses because of it. We think the most successful authors in the evolving market will be empowered business people, and then they will make all those decisions about how they want to get their books to market.

      Given the choices you have made, you are one of these authors who has a great amount of accumulated experiences to make the right decisions for yourself. 

    •  As a writer of fiction, and a lover of reading, I am left with the same question that I started with and one in which it appears we are all unraveling, What’s going to happen in the literary world of publishing and reaching the folks wanting to savor our works?  That being said, I am happy that all of you are here putting your thoughts and experience out here for me, at least to think about.

  2. While it is true that the future of publishing is in the hands of authors, the future of reading, or more specifically, how we discover what we read, isn’t. I know you know this, but it’s an essential point, it seems to me, as authors are considering the challenges of getting their work read and maybe even paid for in a world where publishing has become, relatively speaking, a trivial process.

    • You are right, of couse. I absolutely believe discovery is the #1 issue that needs to be solved as the publishing numbers continue to grow. But I do think an empowered authorship is part and parcel of “discovery”–there is no reason why authors can’t have a hand in exploring new ways of discovery also. Authors as curators, authors in active partnerships around the conversation of discovery. I think readers WANT to hear from authors in this regard. I think the question becomes who will create a successful discovery mechanism that works for readers AND authors, and what that will look like.

      • Thanks for the reply and for sharing your further thoughts, which I completely agree with. I guess what concerns me is that so many writers drawn to self-publishing tend to over emphasize the value simply making their work available and not as much on how readers will come to their work. I suspect part of the reason is that discovery is a vast and growing challenge without many solutions in play (especially for nonfiction and literary fiction). Meanwhile, publishers like Simon & Schuster and Author Solutions  cook up ways to separate writers from their money for what seems like suspect publishing packages (http://bit.ly/YnD7r1).
        I would love to see TOC and DBW (or anyone) do an intensive data focused deep dive into what drives discovery and sales conversion and then consider what sorts of tools or platforms might scale effectively.

        • I’m with you on that. I know from my consumer research at Bowker that consumers generally don’t put much stock in the online recommendation world as it is, and are basically back on a word-of-mouth economy. At the same time they are still heading into bookstores and libraries for their curatorial expertise, even as they go home and buy elsewhere. I think there is going to be a new pattern of discovery, and we can’t quite see what it looks like just yet. I’m super curious about what it will be. 

  3. Well, duh. Some of us have known that for years. Are you-all just noticing it? 

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