Is Book Publishing Dead?

Yosemite Writers Conference Provides Food For Hungry Writers

Is book publishing dead? No, but new strategies on how to be a successful writer do change the way authors get published and promote their work.


Writers wanting to know if their dreams of success should stay alive often attend conferences like the Yosemite Writers Conference. They want information on how to get published and how to survive in a rapidly changing industry that may or may not ever look their way.

As ABC23 Managing Editor (Nick Belardes) and indie publisher (Noveltown), I recently entered the Yosemite Writers Conference to moderate a panel on blogging and sit on another panel on writing for social change.

Although I sat on panels and interviewed the author of Rambo about his new Captain America series, I had a larger overall question in mind as I explored the conference. I wanted to get a feel for the state of the book publishing industry and how writers could include themselves as successful participants.

Great panel discussions ensued.

You can read some of my thoughts on writing for social change in the blog, “Headed to Yosemite Writers Conference to talk writing for social change.” Or you can get a feel for the blog panel discussion in the Sierra Star article, “Yosemite Writers Conference gives attendees at the Tenaya Lodge an inside look at the book business.”

While blogging was a hot topic, the hot talk at the conference was that success for authors can only occur if writers have an author platform: a vehicle to promote themselves as authors, and as an expert on certain topics.

An author platform can be a popular blog, magazine column, radio or television show, or other similar media-related avenue.

“You can’t start too soon to build your platform,” said Meg Bertini of Dreamtime Publishing. “The media doesn’t care about your book. You are an expert. Sell your information.”

Literary agent Jeffery McGraw of the August Agency agreed. He said, “Become an expert in your field if you’re going to write on a subject matter.”

That means when authors write books, they should write articles and appear on television and radio not solely with their book in mind, but should be prepared to discuss hot topics related to their work.

Author David Morell, creator of Rambo and the new “Captain America: The Chosen” series said that book tours of the 1980s are dying as a sure-fire way to promote books. He included that authors have to look at new ways to make a book tour news in itself, as well as writers needing to become experts on the non-fiction topics related to their works. He said if authors don’t take the time to become an expert, their books won’t be successful.

Kate Gale, co-founder of Red Hen Press provided a reality check for many attendees. She suggested poetry in the publishing world is dead and has no market for buyers. “If you’re just writing poetry, there is no future,” she said.

According to Gale, writers have to write in multiple arenas and have an author platform.

Gale went on to say that most writers won’t get wealthy from the publishing industry.

“Publishing is not where you should expect to make a lot of money,” McGraw added.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t excitement in the field of publishing.

Brenda Knight of Red Wheel/Weiser Books and Conari Press said about authors building up their areas of expertise in blogs and articles, “You never know who is reading your blog and using your site as a resource.”

ABC23 Digi-cam Video: Brenda Knight Interview Part One

ABC23 Digi-cam Video: Brenda Knight Interview Part Two

Hazel Dixon-Cooper, bedside astrologer for “Cosmopolitan Magazine” and author of the popular humorous astrology series, “Born On A Rotten Day,” and “Love On A Rotten Day,” said spiritual books are popular all the time.

She found a market within spiritual books where she could become an expert.

“I went on a Google search for humorous astrology. Out of 3,000 books on, less than 3 percent had a humorous bent.”

Dixon-Cooper participated in three book panels at the Yosemite Writers Conference. She wanted writers to know how to stand out in a non-fiction market, how to stay fresh, and how to convey to publishers why they’re the best person to write on particular subjects.

“If you can help just one person get unstuck, that’s fabulous. It’s your duty to give back, to remember where you came from as a writer,” she said.

While the publishing industry has changed to allow for the rise of indie presses, in no way did Dixon-Cooper feel that North America book sales or big publishers were on the way out.

“You write good books and people will read them…somebody is reading those books. I don’t think anything is going to take the place of a book and curling up reading, and nothing is ever going to drive books out of print.”