Becoming an Author in the Digital Age

You’ve just finished reading the latest hit book series, which will soon be in theaters as the next hit movie series, and you’re dreaming of becoming a famous author. Days of writing on a beach, a big advance check, a publicity manager handling your press tour to big cities…Wipe the sand from your eyes, you were dreaming! The publishing world has changed. The days where all you needed was your typewriter or computer and your beautiful mind are gone.

Today’s author has to be more than just a great writer. They also have to be a businessman, salesman, and publicist all in one. The further technology advances, the more the publishing industry is changing, and the more authors are affected.

Great writing ability is still the key to ultimately being successful as a writer. I don’t mean great characters and plot—what about your use of the English language? Are you bad at spelling? Do you use punctuation properly? The more technology changes, the fewer filters (i.e. editors) there are between the author and readers, and the higher the chance of poor writing reaching the reader. Today’s writers may also be writing materials related to the promotion of their book, and will need the skill to write those as well.

Are you ready to run your own business? If you want to be an author in the digital age you’ll need to be. As fewer and fewer authors are picked up by traditional publishers, here are some things you’ll face: deciding whether or not to form an LLC, production and distribution costs, budgeting for future books,  reporting sales taxes to the state, and more. Publishing a book is just like forming a business. You are creating a product and putting it into the marketplace with the goal of selling it. Once written, a book must be published and promoted like a business, by someone who thinks like a businessperson, not just a writer.

How comfortable are you speaking in front of strangers? Now what if you have to sell your book to a whole room of strangers in two minutes or less? Today’s author needs to act a bit like a salesperson, prepared to speak comfortably but succinctly about their book at a moment’s notice, and get total strangers to make a purchase. And what if you’re not with buyers in person, can you come up with tactics to get them to buy your book? Today’s authors are responsible for more and more of their own marketing, and yes, that includes those who are published by traditional publishers.

Are you up to date on the latest social media? Do you know what Tik-Tok is? You’ll need to know if you’re an author in the digital age. Social media is a critical tool to promote your book. You may say you’ll find someone to do it for you, but force yourself to learn it! A general comfort level with today’s technology is critical as an author.  You never know when you’ll need your website or Facebook page updated and suddenly have no one but yourself to do it.

If some of this sounds overwhelming, don’t let it stop you. There are lots of resources out there to help today’s writers on the path to becoming a published author, such as workshops, blogs, and writing groups.