Starting from the bottom in any industry, we expect that we must pay our dues by interning or even working for free. As I am preparing to graduate college this semester, it is a truth I am coming to terms with. After reading this article, I began to wonder if such a system is not coming into play in the publishing industry, or the writing industry in general.
The publishing industry stays alive by selling new releases by established authors or genres. Taking a risk on a mid-list author or a very “different” book is a dangerous business move that, if it ends badly, could result in a major loss of money. Mid-List authors must look for ways to minimize that risk. In book proposals, they identify markets that exist for their book as well as point out the successes of books that are similar. In the aforementioned article, it is suggested that authors who do a respectable job as a self-published author may be able to find a publisher, a more exciting advance, and better contractual terms. It’s not a bad strategy, as long as the author chooses not to self-publish his most developed idea, saving it for round two.
This idea prompted me into considering other ways an author might pay their dues before soliciting one of the 6 major publishing houses. Blogging, an obvious conclusion, is one way an author may get their name out and publish material in a timely, accessible fashion. Even more successfully, some bloggers can literally transform their blogs into books and expedite their publishing journey. Of course, such authors assume much responsibility as the books editor and photographer, and are expected to use their existing fan bases as initial grounds for marketing.
Freelancing is another place to start. By writing articles for free or without a contract, it is possible to network within the industry and start building a reputation. The more bylines or clips an author can place on his/her resume, the more likely they will be able to find even more work and eventually be solicited by contractors or demand a higher payment.