The Future of Writing/Thinking Outside the Book

June 10, 2011 | Indie Publishing | 2 comments

pen writing

Did the title throw you a bit? Over the past year there has been a lot of talk about the future of publishing–and if there IS a future in publishing–but no one seems to ask about the future of writing.

Honestly? I think a lot of people think publishing and writing, are,  if not the SAME thing, so closely tied together that if one goes down, the other will too.

Well, this is true–on one side. If writing goes down/stops, there will be no publishing. But if publishing goes down? Guess what…there will still be a place for writing and writers. Not only that, there will still be a place for writers to get PAID for their writing.

Writing is a form of storytelling, and storytelling has been around since a caveman drew his first mammoth on some cave wall. Bards used to travel town to town earning their keep by telling stories of epic battles.

Publishing can go away. Books can go away, but people will still have a thirst for stories. It’s just part of who humans are.

But, but…I can hear the cries…if Publishing doesn’t buy my book, how will I make any money? I want to write, but I want to be able to afford to write and for that I need money!

Ah, yes, kind of sucks that last part doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing. You don’t need publishing to make money from your writing. They are not the only road to readers. Really! And they are not the only road to making money from your writing. If they go down, readers will still be there looking for stories–not books…stories.

I would, in fact, argue that for the vast majority of writers, publishing has never been that road. The vast majority of writers either never got one of those coveted slots, or if they did, they weren’t paid enough for their writing to make a career of it.

Yes, I know some did. I slithered my way through those bars, but most didn’t. This is why when I hear the self-publishing naysayers yell that there are/or will be too many self-published books out there for anyone to make a living I laugh. There were always too many books out there–it’s just that the competition was happening in a different place. The competition wasn’t for the millions of readers that are out there looking for a story. The competition was for the far fewer number of slots at some publishing house.

Just as many people failed to make it through those bars as will fail to make whatever sum of money these naysayers deem as “real.” In fact, IMO, MORE people will make a reasonable amount without publishers than the number that now do with them.

But this article  isn’t about self-publishing, at least not in the way most people think of self-publishing. This is about writing and making a living from your writing. And my first point is–you don’t have to go through a publisher to do that. So the failure of publishing, while disturbing if you have a lucrative existence with a publisher, is not in any way the same as the end of writing, or even writing for pay.

So, smartie pants (talking to myself there) how is a writer supposed to make a living without publishing?

  1. You write/tell a story. You are doing that anyway, right?
  2. You write/tell a story people want to read/hear. This, by the way, is different than writing/telling what a publisher wants to read/hear. Forget them! Think about your real audience–readers. Write for them. Give them the experience (whatever it might be) that they crave.
  3. You put the story out for your reader to find you. Who is your reader? Where do they hang out? Are they strictly book people? Or do they already read content on the Web? If the first, self-publishing may be the best way to reach them. If the second, you might try an online serial or a blog. Or maybe they never crack a book, but they have a smart phone they use constantly. These people buy apps. These people use apps. You can build apps or hire someone to build an app. You could syndicate your blog through Amazon. Maybe your “readers” aren’t readers at all. Maybe they listen to podcasts or audio books. Or maybe they like their stories with pictures; think about teaming up with an artist to do a web comic. The possibilities are wide and varied. If you know where your audience is and where/how they consume content–there is a way to reach them.
  4. You decide how you want to be paid for telling your story.  Don’t just think about charging every person who reads your story a flat fee. What about memberships? Or advertising? Subscriptions? Donations? Selling that app or giving that app away and selling advertising on it. There are a lot of other ways to get paid.

And now you are going to say…yeah, right. I can’t do that or no one really makes money doing any of that.

But you would be wrong. People do make money doing all of that and you can too. Will every writer make money doing these things? Of course not. Does every writer make money from publishing today? Of course not.

So, don’t get hung up on publishing and if it has a future. Remember what you are…remember what you do. Because, you my friend are a storyteller, and you will out live them all.

Is there a future for publishing? Well, that remains to be seen.

(Oh and a side note…if you do these things will you be a “real” writer? Hell, yes. And don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t!)


  1. Rob Layton

    How is a writer supposed to make a living without publishing? They can’t. Publishing is not just books. You published this blog. Same concept, different platform.

  2. Lori Devoti

    True, Rob. The danger of using a word with multiple meanings. This was published, but it isn’t part of what most authors think of when they talk about the future of publishing. In that instance we are always referring to book publishers and most often, the big six.


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