For a guide to the shifting landscape of book publishing, I highly recommend Joe Konrath, who has established himself both as a writer who successfully self-publishes and as a discerning observer of the scene. Be forewarned that he covers way more ground than the average reader needs to be familiar with, and his language is rough and occasionally foul, as you might expect from someone who writes popular horror and suspense books.
As with many of my sources, I read Konrath in detail so you don’t have to. If you are inspired to dig deeply into self-publishing, ebook technology, and the like then I recommend you toughen up and read him regularly for yourself. But if you merely want to keep abreast of the most important trends, I’ll pass them along as I identify and digest them myself.
One thing I like about Konrath is that, while he can be blunt, he usually saves his bluntness for situations where there is no benefit in softening a point with gentle fuzziness. If he knows an unpleasant truth, he does not coat it with honey and try to coax his readers to swallow the bitter pill; he puts the pill on the table, tells you what it will do and how it will taste, and then leaves you to make your own mind up.
This came up just yesterday in a comment thread, where Konrath wrote something worth rescuing. Another commenter, Robin Sullivan, prolific but also knowledgeable and level-headed, reported that she had just been banned from an author forum because the moderator simply didn’t like what she was saying about the new realities. I read through quite a few of her comments and thought she was considerate, kind in her language, and exactly right in the unpleasant truths she was telling.
Many of Konrath’s other commenters commiserated with Robin, praised her even-handedness, disparaged the banning moderator, etc. Finally Konrath himself chimed in:
I’ve been banned!!
Good. Now learn from it.
We talked about this over dinner. You need to realize that there are idiots in the world who don’t want to hear your common sense.
If you argue with idiots, you always lose. Walk away.
This is something I learned long ago. I mostly keep my ideas and opinions to my blog, because people come here looking for what I have to say.
People seeking out the information you’re offering will find you. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.
You also can’t fix someone with a closed mind.
Prove you don’t have a closed mind. Stop wasting time and energy arguing with morons.
I’ve long ago stopped trying to convince other people that I’m right. I know I’m right. Those who want to benefit from my knowledge can do so. The rest aren’t worth my time, or yours.
When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Stop trying to teach those who don’t want to hear it.
Nothing profound, but this is excellent advice, clearly and directly written. It is also an unpleasant truth of sorts. Too often we spend our time in fruitless efforts to make a case with our words because it is much easier than making a case with our actions. Easier to persuade someone else that something needs to be done (and get them to actually do it!) then to become a living demonstration of the benefits by doing it ourselves. All of the glory, none of the sweat.
I suspect this is why I’ve heard so many Christian teachers disparage the adage from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” If folks in the pews discover that the Gospel can be preached through actions—and more effectively—then where will that leave those who make their living behind a pulpit?