Keeping hope alive and businesses afloat

Chapter one

This afternoon at the Writer’s Digest Conference Pitch Slam, I was impressed enough by one of the conference attendees’ pitches to ask if I could read the full manuscript. My reaction was based solely on the strength of the writer’s summary of the plot. I haven’t seen any of the writing, and I’m hoping it will bear scrutiny. The writer knows the battle is far from won.

This year, the conferencegoers seemed more composed and adept at delivering their pitches. They or their session instructors had put the effort into preparation, and it showed.

The conference sessions I was able to watch were overviews of the publishing process that I appreciated but which I felt might have caused writers some anguish. Certainly aspiring authors need to be told that there are no simple answers. They need to be told to weigh their options. In the grand scheme of things, literary agents can’t offer guidance and assistance to very many writers, so the majority must obtain the knowledge and services they need elsewhere.

Back in September 2010, a conversation with a colleague in this industry led me to blog about “The uncomfortable alliance of communities, self-publishing services, and traditional publishers.” Later, I mentioned my predictions to a bright young former publisher, who saw the same developments as inevitable. But it’s always easier to judge from a comfortable distance.

Today, on Facebook of all places, I learned that Writer’s Digest has formed a business partnership with the self-publishing company Author Solutions and launched a self-publishing imprint called Abbott Press. Everything I have to say on the subject, I said in that September blogpost, to which I can now conveniently link to allude to my discomfort. It’s a mild discomfort. Business is business.

Times change. The people I know at Writer’s Digest are sincerely devoted to helping and also protecting aspiring authors. I hope they’re able to continue that service as they turn to more profitable endeavors.

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