Marie Force Blog
15

Advantage: Author

My 17-year-old son Jake and I had an interesting conversation recently about technology and how it has evolved in positive and negative ways. Depending on your point of view, technology has enabled us to do so many new things we never could’ve dreamed of even ten years ago, and it has changed the way we live and communicate. Those of us who came of age before the digital revolution will probably agree that we work much harder than we used to because there is so much more we can do.

But sometimes more is better.

My daughter’s boyfriend is living overseas for the next few years, and they FaceTime every day while keeping in close touch by text the rest of the time. When my husband (then boyfriend) was stationed overseas in the Navy in the early 1990s, we considered ourselves lucky to have one phone call a week—with a terrible connection that sounded like it was coming from Mars rather than across an ocean. We kept in touch by regular mail the rest of the time. Remember letters? Ha!

When we lived in Spain from 1992-1995, I would’ve KILLED for Skype and FaceTime or even email to keep in touch with my family at home. None of those things were invented yet. Can you remember a life without email?!? I barely can. The first Christmas in Spain in 1992, I ran up a $500 phone bill talking to my parents during my first major holiday away from home. Today, those conversations would be held face-to-face on a screen and wouldn’t cost us a dime beyond the expense of Wi-Fi.

My children, ages 17 and 20, can’t imagine life without the whole world at their fingertips via the phones they carry with them everywhere they go. They live their lives “out loud” on social media, through Instagram and Twitter and SnapChat and other forms of social media that didn’t exist a few years ago. Their world is so different than ours was only one generation removed. Think about all the things that used to be so prevalent that aren’t as much anymore—payphones, landlines, DVDs and CDs, to name a few.

This is slightly off topic, but it’s relevant. Recently, Jake made a comment about how one of his friends has to reach across the car to unlock the door for his passenger, as if this was the most insane thing he’d ever heard. We realized he’s never been in a car without a power package, so how would he know they all used to be that way? And yes, we’re considering summer camp in a Third-World nation to give him some much-needed perspective!

My conversation with Jake about technology arose when we noticed that one of the Game Stop stores in our town had closed down. “They might all be gone before long,” Jake said, noting that games are now available for immediate download through the gaming consoles, rendering the retail stores nearly obsolete. Not that long ago, people were “sleeping out” to get the latest new game the second it was released. Now they can do that from the comfort of their own homes.

The same thing happened to Blockbuster and other video rental stores when Netflix and video streaming came along. Blockbuster, once among the biggest chains in America, simply disappeared from our culture.

There-so-much-more-we-can-do.As someone who relies upon technology to make a living and meet my payroll, technological advances that result in obsolescence have me thinking about how technology will affect my business going forward. We all know how the digital revolution and the advent of ebooks completely upended the publishing business. A couple of years ago, I heard a longtime editor say that more changed in publishing in the last five years than in the previous twenty combined.

There was a time, not that long ago, when some in publishing referred to authors disdainfully as “content providers.” I’ve actually heard this term used with my own ears, more than once, or I’d never say so here. Back in the not-so-distant past, authors were often treated like cogs in the wheel, even though we were the critical element that made the wheel spin in the first place. We were endlessly replaceable because there was always someone, burning with the desire to be published, standing in line to replace us if our books failed to sell or if we refused to work for the terms we were offered.

That made it easy for some—certainly not all—in publishing to be dismissive toward authors who were often paid far less than they deserved for the critical role they played in the process. I want to say, for the record, that my experience with traditional publishers has, for the most part, been very positive. I’ve been treated much more as a partner than a cog, but I know that not everyone has had that experience.

Though ebooks were available in other formats, such as PDF, early in the 2000s, the real sea change in publishing began in 2007 with the advent of the Kindle, which changed the way so many of us read. Little did we know then that it would also change the way we publish. Around 2008-2009, Kindle Direct Publishing heralded the era of digital self-publishing with other retailers soon following, creating platforms that led to NookPress, iBooks, Kobo Writing Life and Google Play, among many others, as outlets for authors to sell their work directly to readers. And the readers showed up in droves to successfully “legitimize” self-publishing as a real path toward career success for authors.

In the scope of eight short years, everything has changed for the content providers. Prior to the ebook revolution, we had one possible path to our customers—through traditional publishers and distributors that put print books into the hands of readers in retail outlets. Now we have multiple paths to readers through print, ebook and audio formats. We have the choice to self-publish or we can try to pursue traditional publishing, or we can do both at the same time the way I do.

But what does the future hold for authors and the delivery of content to readers? Do we need to be worried that we’re the next Blockbuster, on the verge of being replaced by something better?

I believe we’re at the very beginning of the technological revolution when it comes to publishing. I believe this so strongly that I’ve taken legal steps to ensure that my children and grandchildren can continue to profit from the content I’m developing today long after I’m a distant memory. I believe there will be many more advancements in the delivery of stories to consumers, and I believe these developments will happen as quickly as other advancements did.

As authors, we can take comfort in knowing there’s one thing that technology will never replace and that is the creative minds that come up with the stories that readers and listeners voraciously consume. There will always be a need for the content providers. Technology will come and go, but the one thing that will never go out of style or be replaced by a computer is the writer who dreams up the story in the first place.

There has never been a better time to be a content provider. Advantage author.

What do you think the next big thing coming down the road will be for getting stories to readers and listeners?


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  • Denise

    I have no idea what it will be yet. I have a laptop and a kindle. I do not have an iPhone or an iPad because I don’t feel I need it with what I already have. Whatever it is will have to be better and load things faster.

  • dholcomb1

    probably be able to stream them on google glass or something in eyewear. lol. I love my kindle, but I still love print books.

    Denise

  • Mary Smith

    I have all the latest in kindle but I do still enjoy my paperbacks. I guess somehow streaming thru the TV could be next. Technology is great but each year it gets harder for older adults to understand all the new methods.

  • Gem Border

    I have no answer to your final question but what a brilliantly written blog. I haven’t bought a novel in paper format since getting my first Kindle five years ago but you “content providers” are still “authors” as far as I’m concerned. A content provider could be almost anyone providing anything. An author is a very special person and you’re one of the best.

  • Kathleen Bylsma

    I shudder to think…some advances are a major advantage and convenience gut I will ALWAYS prefer paper to e-books. I do have a Kindle but use that for traveling and e-reads only by authors whose books I don’t want to miss.

  • Farmer_Girl

    Publishing houses hopefully will go the way of the Pony Express and milkmen. As a reader I try very hard to avoid purchasing books released by the big five publishing houses. They only add to the cost of the book and they refuse to allow lending. Instead the bulk of my dollars go to SPA writers who need the money. I’m grateful to technology for providing buyers with more options.

  • Anita Fusco

    Can’t imagine what is next. I’m amazed that I can read my books on my Smartphone and my Kindle. As to technology I agree with you. My Dad was in WW11 and Mom had no phone. They wrote letters to each other for 4 years. I was 1 yr. old when he left and almost 5 when he returned. My Mom passed away 3 years ago and my sister and I were going through boxes and found some of the letter from my Dad. He wrote quite a bit about how he missed me and couldn’t wait to come home. Yes SKYPE would have been great. Imagine living without a telephone! They are definitely spoiled with instant information at their fingertips. Can’t wait for Rapturous and Celebration After Dark was awesome. Wedding night then much different than today. It was then a “Special Night.”

  • Anita Fusco

    PS: Don’t ever stop your brain from working. It produces great things!

  • Patt Mondik

    I love this blog so timely! I live and die by my Kindle! I am on my FIFTH one! I don’t use it for social media just reading so I like the simple Paperwhite…I just read and enjoyed “Celebration After Dark” on it and I am rereading the Gansette series from my library.
    I believe with the “boomers” aging the next big thing will be audio books. Kindle in large print is just not feasible. I know as I age I would not be able to give up “reading”…as long as I have earphones for the “blush” parts I’m good to go!
    I am sad to see so much social media I miss personal interaction. Where I live too many auto wrecks are happening while people text while driving on the freeway! I cherish my letters from the time of the Viet Nam war they are a window on history. However, I would have given anything to have had email, text and Skype then.
    Timely blog! Thoughtful and I love the new book.

  • Greybeard

    Like many people, I resisted the Kindle on principle–I loves my books, my preciouses! But eventually the lure was too great, and I’m on my second now (a Paperwhite). In fact, I’m so used to it that when I’ve been reading a paper book, I’ve turned the light off as I left a room and then stopped in puzzlement because I could no longer read as I walked. I’ve also poked at paper pages several times to look up a word. Guess I’m a lost cause.

    Anyway, this is a great column. As others have said, we mostly can’t imagine where things will go. Nobody really predicted smartphones (although the germ of the idea was there in various science fiction stories, nobody that I’m aware of really nailed it, especially their ubiquity). And even when SF sort of got it right, it’s often wildly wrong on the details. I remember a story from the 40s where they had a hand-held calculator–which was connected by radio to the giant computer that did the actual calculations!

    I’m afraid that those of us with grey hair aren’t likely to be the ones to come up with the ideas, as our thinking is largely stuck in that past. We’re thinking about how to make digital buggy whips, and today’s kids are thinking about…well, that mysterious Next Big Thing!

  • It is a shift to realize that young people have no concept of a world without technology infused in every part of their life. I remember having no TV–we didn’t get one until 1963. I remember playing fantasy or role playing games in person, instead of electronically. I remember typing on a non-electric typewriter. Though I have somewhat kept up with technology, there are days I long for the ability to think uninterrupted by it.

    As for where publishing is going technologically, I think we will continue to see synergies of technologies in ebooks to provide a choice of reader experiences. Already we are seeing “enhanced” ebooks with options for selecting audio or silent reading. Some platforms provide the ability to read and make notes and share them with your friends–somewhat like an online book group. I’ve seen options to include videos related to the story. These might be book trailers, movie trailers (if book is being made into a movie), author interviews, or even book video-blogger (Vlogs) reviews. I suspect this will become more integrated in the near future.

    From the authors as “content providers” perspective, I think the above integration will open up the opportunities for a variety of content providers related to a particular book. The question will be how/if these integrations will be monetized and what control will the author have over them? This is where a good understanding of copyright, licensing, and derivative works will become key. I suggest that all authors have a good IP attorney as part of their team.

    Just ten years ago, there was some common understanding of what the word “publish” meant and what the term “book” meant. Today, that is no longer true. With electronic publishing changing daily, authors typically see contracts that say something like: “the publisher retains the sole and exclusive right to use and adapt, and to authorize others to use and adapt, the work by any means whether now known, or hereinafter invented.”

    Thanks for asking the question, Marie. It is important that all authors realize the world is opening up to exploiting stories in a variety of ways. The author is at the center of that and has control of what her work will look like if she doesn’t give away all her rights because she can’t imagine what else will be developed in the future.

  • Great post!

  • Amy Deluca

    Great post, Marie! I absolutely love new technology, especially the tech that’s allowed us to reach readers more directly! (and lets me afford to read more books) I only wish it had existed earlier. It’s amazing to think how different all our lives would be today if we *had* been able to stay in contact with people years ago via email, Skype, Facetime, and texting. I’m happy to be a content provider in this day and age- writers are only going to become *more* necessary as these opportunities continue to develop. 🙂

  • KateDouglas

    Great post Marie. FWIW, after years of rejection from traditional publishers, I finally sold my first story to Hard Shell Word Factory in 1998. That’s right, there were ebooks then, but very few people knew what they were, though we still managed to find an audience. Readers read them on their PDAs or Rocket readers, one of the first ereaders. I think I paid around $400 for mine in 1999. We used to say that a cheap ereader would revolutionize publishing, and Amazon nailed it.

    My first sale to a traditional publisher was Wolf Tales, an online serial that started at Changeling Press, another epublisher, in 2004. I went on to write twenty-one novels and novellas for Kensington publishing in that series alone, and another ten novels and novellas in different series for them before moving to St. Martin’s Press, but the changes in publishing have, for once, been in the favor of all of us little content providers. We suddenly have control of that content, and when it does well and the traditional publishers come calling, there’s a lot more respect paid. I remember attending RWA a few years ago shortly after authors began publishing online and finding success, and editors were searching for writers willing to meet with them.

    You’ve been an absolute shining light in this changing business, Marie, and I hope you realize how much we all appreciate your willingness to share what you’ve learned. You go girl!

  • Jennifer Ashley

    First, I have to say I still have plenty of DVDs and CDs and use them all the time. LOL That said, I am very interested to watch where technology goes next. No matter where, I will still be writing and still creating. I came to indie publishing after my trad publisher (Dorchester) closed. Instead of worrying that my career was over, I said “Where have the readers gone? Ah-ha, *there* they are!” and joined them at the e-book stores. I am still published traditionally, still with print books in bricks and mortar bookstores, which is fine with me (I love reading print books myself), but I’m not terribly worried about the next stage in technology. Already e-books have evolved from files purchased to be uploaded in a few stages to your device (e.g., Palm pilots or eBookwise readers), to instantly download to your phone or device of choice as soon as you click “Buy.” Who knows what we’ll do next? But I have already determined, that wherever readers go, I will go with them! (I speak as both a reader and writer). Thanks for the great post, Marie!

MARIE FORCE


Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of 60 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the name of M.S. Force. All together, her books have sold 6 million copies worldwide!


Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news.


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