What It Takes to be An Author in The 21st Century

ACFW Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, Publishing 2 Comments

By Rachel Hauck

On a plane ride from Kansas City to Atlanta, I watched a film called “Best Sellers,” a comedy-drama starring Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine.

The premise caught my eye. It was Old World, harkening to another age in book publishing. The time of the big-name author, book tours, peer and literary reviews, the literati, even where a one-hit wonder was talked about 50 years later. It’s a romantic, almost mythological image of literature.

Aubrey Plaza plays Lucy Stanbridge, who inherits her father’s publishing company, Stanbridge Publishing. Like so many smaller publishers, the company is struggling in the modern age. Harris Shaw, played by Michael Caine, is an old man, a drunk who is bitter about life. His first, and so far, only, book was Stanbridge Publishing’s biggest success.

Through a series of events, Lucy finds Shaw, publishes his latest book, and drives him around on a wintery book tour that is an utter disaster.

As I watched “Best Sellers,” I tried to fit a man like Shaw, a large literary navel-gazer, into our “real” literary world.

The biggest question I asked myself was: What’s happening in publishing today?

Then I asked the better question: What’s not happening?

There are so many opportunities for 21st century authors. Publishing houses still publish books that go to bookstores. Thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, independent authors can publish in multiple online venues and even list their book for bookstore and library acquisitions.

There are short story venues like Watt Pad and Kindle Vella. I think you can even publish on YouTube. And these days, most books have audio versions. Even that is affordable for most authors.

Thanks to social media and newsletters, Facetime and Zoom, Skype, Webinar, authors have direct access to readers.

Back in the day—Don’t you love that phrase?— traditional publishing required busting through steel door after steel door. Vanity publishing was costly. New York publishers curated what they considered to be the best of the best. They held the standard on “literary excellence.”

According to writer Joseph Epstein, “Eighty-one percent of Americans feel they have a book in them.” That’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to authorship.

Shew! That’s a lot of folks! Not until Amazon invented Create Space was it even possible for 200 million people to dream of publishing a book.

In January of 2013, reports estimated that approximately 600 thousand to one million books were published every year. In 2016, stats cited that of all books published, about .0025 of authors sold more than 1000 units.

Fast forward to 2021, where approximately four million new books were published. New books! Not reprints.

“Ah, Rach, you’re not really cheering me up.” Hang on, this is good news.

Maybe we won’t sell millions of books or become a real-life Jane Austen or F. Scott Fitzgerald, we are part of the literary machine. We have a chance to impact the world around us. Only you can say what YOU have to say. And someone needs to read it. Or hear it.

While you may not be a break-out bestseller or an indie publishing “millie,” (millionaire), you can publish. A small beginning is  better than your manuscript being stuffed in the bottom of a trunk or an old desk drawer.

Let’s also be grateful. Around the world, millions of those wannabe writers with books in them have no access to publishing, to craft training, to conferences or networking, to marketing and technical training.

We have a gift. A chance, a way, an opportunity to tell our stories. Don’t shrink back. Publishing is a long-haul game! Stick with it!

The Lord is more than willing to make you His ready writer. (Psalm 45.)

Go write something brilliant.

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.



Comments 2

  1. I never thought that I would be
    a writer-dude of any kind.
    I didn’t have a book in me,
    and I did not mind.
    Then there came the inspiration,
    and thus a novel did come forth,
    but not knowing situation,
    I know not of its worth,
    for Kindle is just half the fight,
    one that I could master,
    but promotion never came quite right;
    in fact, it was disaster,
    but there is balm, for fact is
    abysmal sales meant lower taxes.

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