They tell me that you cannot be a hermit writer anymore, locked up in your attic banging out manuscripts without having to deal directly with publishers and such. They tell me that in order to make it you have to go to writers’ conferences. Writers’ conferences: where hopeful amateurs go to get lectures from from writers who make more money speaking at conferences than they do publishing their works. I even sat in lecture halls as established authors told me that to be a successful writer you had to be a good public speaker. I actually listened on as one told us that he made most of his book deals by chit-chatting with publishing people over drinks.
Times sure are changing, though. With the online distribution of electronic files (epub, pdf, etc), anybody can sell their work directly to consumers. It gets even better! No longer are sales tied to the geographically limited book stores. I can conceivably sell my works to any consumer in the world with an internet connection, from Mongolia to Washington DC. What does this mean for the oh-so-important conferences? It means that a succesful author can make enough money from their book sales that they don’t have to lecture to a roomful of people hoping to be given the secret to success as a writer if they don’t want to. It means that you no longer have to become a social butterfly to sell your work.
It means that not only are the days of the hermit-writer not dead, as an industry fearful of change has been declaring for years now, but that they are only just beginning.
Of course, the publishing industry is not yet dead, and a lot of money still flows through their veins. I know I wouldn’t turn down a good deal from them!