I shared a table recently with six or seven others at a writers conference. The writer to my right (right?) leaned in my direction and directed a comment to me.
“Please tell me something encouraging about publishing now.”
Wow. Put me on the spot, why don’t you?
But I thought I understood. After all, we were a couple days into the conference. And, as these things go, this writer had made new friends, received valuable instruction and critique, and more. But she had also heard and learned a number of hard realities. “You need a platform,” of course. “Debut fiction is a tough sell right now.” “The market for Biblical fiction and historical fiction is extremely tight.” And so on.
So, I recognized the shock and pain behind her question. And, happily, I had just taken a bite of food, so I could stall for time while I chewed. Eventually, though, I had to put down my fork and attempt an answer. I said something like the following (off the top of my head, remember):
We live in amazing times. Writing and publishing haven’t seen such momentous changes—and possibilities—since the invention of movable type. And this era of change is probably bigger even than that. It’s certainly happening much faster.
It’s never been easier to write. It’s never been easier to publish. It’s probably as hard as ever to be paid for your writing and to sell a book and to gain readers, but there have never been so many ways to do that. You can write longhand or on a typewriter or on a computer. You can have your iPad read back your copy to you. You can set up a blog in minutes. You can read your original poetry on your own YouTube channel. You can buy a domain name and launch a website. You can create email newsletters for your tribe. Your self-published novel can be one of the four thousand ebooks uploaded daily to Amazon. You can record and upload your own audiobook. And all of that just scratches the surface.
I think I even mentioned that her presence at a writers conference was a fairly recent innovation. A few decades ago writers conferences were rare and expensive compared to the many options a writer has today. (I was a writer for fifteen years before I even heard of writers conferences—and, yes, I am old enough to make that claim.)
The writer’s journey is a long obedience in an uphill direction (to revise Nietzsche and Eugene Peterson). It can be exciting and intense. It can also be demanding and discouraging. It’s not for the fainthearted. But whatever you write, however and whyever, this is an amazing time to be a writer.