The internet has brought so many tools to help writers. Everybody talks about how writing is easier than ever and becoming an author is more possible than author. In some ways, this is true. Products like Kindle and Amazon publishing tools make putting content online extremely easy. Writing sites make it easy to create and build audiences online. There is more content on how to succeed as an author and negotiate publishing deals than ever before. With so many tools at your disposal, it is easy to believe that authors today have it easy.
Why writing has gotten harder
Because anybody can put content online now, the prestige of publishing has gone down as well. It is far more competitive to get publishing deals than before and far more difficult to build your audience. Though there are so many tools, there are also so many more people competing for that attention. As a result, having just a great love story or scary story isn’t enough. You need to really stand out.
In some ways, the economics of the business have gotten tougher as well. The rise of Amazon and ebook sellers have made it easier for people to buy books, at the expense of bookstores. That, however, has led to other effects. There is now a huge supply of free content online. There is a ton of free fanfiction, famous poetry, flash fiction, and short stories. There are free novels as well. There are entire reading apps dedicated for this purpose. Now not only do you compete with all the other books that are for sale, but you also have to be so much better than the free stuff that people will be willing to buy it. The bar has really gotten higher, which makes it a lot more difficult.
Outside of just novels, there are also a ton of places to get and consume content. Books also indirectly compete against traditional media and anything that consumes your time, both for attention and wallet. If you can spend $10 and get a book or $10 and get unlimited access to a month of Netflix movies, which provides more value? How does a book even compete against that?
Surviving as a Writer
The reality is that for most, book sales have gone done. There are select authors that still do well, but for many, it is not as economical as it used to be. Publishers have aggregated a lot of power despite all the new writing platforms as they tend to have strong relationships with sales channels. Most writers, even successful bestselling ones, have side jobs to make sure they can stay afloat. It gets a lot more difficult to sustain and thrive. Many writers also take contract work to make sure they can pay the bills.
Get Good At Marketing
The one way to really rise above in this new world is marketing. In the age of the internet, great digital marketers win. E.L. James was extremely successful with 50 Shades of Grey, which started off as a fanfiction piece that went viral. Many Amazon Best Sellers are also the work of fantastic marketing campaigns. Many Trump parodies also currently sit at the front of Amazon and Barnes & Nobles because of their viral success. Many Facebook Ad and algorithm wizards have also been successful in driving high volumes of sales.
In this age, it really pays to be a great marketer and is the one way to win in the new age of publishing. Publishers lose their iron grip over you as an author since you don’t have to rely on them for distribution.