Wednesday, February 29, 2012

LTUE 30: Tracy Hickman - "The Playing Field is Level between You and Me."

by Deren Hansen

Aside from a certifiably mind-blowing presentation first thing on the morning of Thursday, Feb 9, 2012 (about which modesty forbids me to say more) at Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE 30), I found Tracy Hickman's Saturday morning discussion about the sea change in publishing as he sees it to be the most thought-provoking.

Tracy made three key points:
  • What makes you an author? Readers.
  • The challenge now is to find your audience, not your publisher.
  • The future of publishing is to find, connect with, and maintain your audience.
In the world before pervasive interconnectivity, getting published was the writer's holy grail because the publisher, who controlled the book distribution system, was the key to getting into the bookstores and ultimately finding readers. Now writers have additional ways to reach readers. More importantly, readers have ways to find and acquire books that don't include bookstores.

Tracy, who estimates that his fifty books have attracted about six million readers, told us how that lesson was made very clear to him when, on his last book tour, only eight people showed up when he signed at the largest sci-fi/fantasy bookstore in San Francisco but many more emailed after the fact to say they were sorry they missed him but didn't know he was at the bookstore.

"The playing field is level between you and me," Tracy said. "My readers were used to finding me in the bookstore, but they don't go there anymore."

It is both sobering and encouraging to think that if Tracy, who has paid his dues many times over, doesn't get a free pass to publishing success no one does. On the one hand, assuming we've written high quality books, you have as much a chance at success as I do. On the other, there are no guarantees.

Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.

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