What’s New at the Writer’s Digest Conference? Convergence

This was my first time at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City in August, so actually everything was new to me. But the more I talked to people, and the more sessions I attended, I got the sense that this year was different: Big Publishing was talking more about how it’s dealing with the rise of independent publishing, and independent publishing was talking more about how it’s making inroads into Big Publishing.

I heard more examples than I expected of authors who’d bridged the gap. Three that come to mind:

  • Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, who started installment writing  and self-publishing on Amazon, and eventually signed a deal with Simon and Schuster, as well as selling the movie rights to Ridley Scott.
  • E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, who honed her craft as a fanfiction writer, self-published the book, got picked up by Vintage Books, and eventually topped the Forbes list of highest-earning authors (including a tidy $5 million for the film rights).
  • Andy Weir, author of The Martian, who put his little book online for 99 cents, and soon got picked up by Crown (and sold the film rights to Twentieth Century Fox).

So is this a pattern? Is this a new way of doing business for the big, traditional publishers – find a rising independent author’s star and catch it? From the folks I talked to at the conference – definitely. But not only are big and independent publishers now meeting in the middle, each is offering services traditionally offered by the other. For example, big publisher Penguin purchased self-publishing firm Author Solutions (iUniverse) to create a “curated self-publishing” arm to the business. And companies like Goldfinch Publishing (us) are offering fully-curated publishing with no fees.

 

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