As an editor, I get a first row seat to see how publishing is changing. Digital is shooting up and brick and mortar is struggling to stay level (or trend downward slower than competitors). Still, most of the money is in brick and mortar--at least for now. No one can accurately predict the future of publishing and media (except maybe Jane Friedman), but here's my attempt anyway on how I think eReaders may affect writers going forward.
More than ever before, writers have the ability to experiment. In fact, the taboos against experimenting with various self-publishing models are collapsing like old monuments. Writers like J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking are showing that self-publishing can enable writers to make money like never before through digital downloads. All that's needed is a good story, a lot of hard work, and yes, a little luck (in that respect, things haven't changed so much).
As eReaders get more advanced, writers may have the opportunity to create more interactive experiences and deliver audio and video.
Each new technology improvement seems to make it even more vital for writers to develop an audience for their writing. (Here are some tips on what you can do today to build your platform.) The rise of eReaders offers no reprieve from this author platform momentum, whether you are self-published or published through a traditional publisher.
If writers go the self-publishing route, they are the ones who create the content, format the content, distribute the content, and connect readers to the content. They wear many hats, and have to brand themselves as businesses.
Traditionally published authors may not have to format or distribute the content, but they still need to create and help connect readers to the content. Publishers will do their part through professional editing and design. They'll also use their sales force to get your books in bookstores. But to really sell books, especially digital books, publishers need their authors to spread the word and connect with their core audience.
As I mentioned, the importance of platform building is not a new development, but it's only gaining momentum. Publishers aren't just asking whether a book proposal is good or not, they're questioning the reach of the author, and this can affect everything from the size of the advance to whether the project is even ultimately accepted for publication.
The all-important writing
So do eReaders affect how writers attack their actual writing? In the short term, I don't think it's had a huge impact, but it's easy to see how economy of language should only increase over time.
Nonfiction writers will probably need to apply a blogging mentality to their writing. That means a lot of links to other information.
Some poets have objected to how eReaders affect the formatting of poems. Since there's not a whole lot of money in poetry, I don't know how this will be fixed. If it's not, eReaders may not change poetry, but prose poets and short-line poets may find that eReaders suit them better than others.
I'm really interested in how fiction might be affected by eReaders. Will shorter works sell better? Or will size not matter? One thing digital does seem to enable is a great launching area for super long debut novels and/or shorter novellas that might not work in traditional, brick and mortar publishing.
In many ways, I feel that the business of writing and being a writer isn't going to change a whole lot. The craft of writing is always evolving (compare Charles Dickens against the current bestsellers lists, if you don't believe me) and so are the delivery methods for that writing. Ultimately, the changes may be a good thing for writers and readers.
Successful writers will continue working their butts off to provide content that readers want and finding ways to connect with those readers. Such writers always seem to find a way to make their own luck no matter what technology throws their way.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Interested in developing an audience for your writing? Check these out: