How the Publishing Industry Changed in the Age of the Internet

Ok….so that’s a hella long title for this week’s post. But it’s something I wanted to touch on.

For those in the know – I have been writing stories since I was a kid. I used to scribble in notebooks when I was in preschool and pretend I knew what the hell I was writing (of course, I didn’t). But when I read those scribbles out loud – I would create a story. I always loved the idea of having a book filled with my words – even if for my own enjoyment.

I actually tried to get published back in 2004 (during my senior year of high school). I had a book that a friend beta read for me (an alum of Wellesley College in Boston with an English degree). I thought I was ready and I wanted to be another Christopher Paolini and a published author by 19.

Senior Pic
La Mari at 18 – one of my senior pictures

Back in 2004, the internet was nowhere near as extensive as it is now – even the face of the publishing industry was different when you wanted to be discovered by a publishing house.

How was it different?

Well, back in 2004 – not every publishing house required that you have an agent. Some of the bigger ones did, but most allowed you to submit directly. Nowadays, it is imperative that you have an agent. Honestly, it’s a good thing. That agent’s job is to find the right house for you and use their knowledge of the industry to make sure said house doesn’t (literally) eat you alive. They are on your side and they only make money when your book sells so when one decides to take you on – you know it’s because they also believe in your work and its ability to sell.

Big Five
The Big Five (Publishing Houses in the States)

What does that have to do with the internet? Well, I had to look for potential publishing houses through a book…that’s right – a book. One of our neighbors was (and still is) a children’s book author and let me borrow her book on the recent (recent as in 2004) listing of publishing houses and agents along with what genres they accepted and what to submit. Each publishing house requests a query letter, summary, and a sample of your work. Back then, you didn’t send it by email – oh no – you printed that shit out and mailed it.

I submitted to 28 different publishing houses. That was a loooooooooooooooooooot of paper.

Publishing Stack

I was also rejected by each and everyone. Looking back, I wasn’t surprised. The story wasn’t ready. However – I did get feedback from one. I don’t remember from which house, but they said that while I had a lot of good ideas – I had too many (my editor is probably laughing at this comment right now and think “oh geez, MORE ideas?!” Yeah…..). She was right and I needed to learn to kill my darlings and take things out and decide what each story should focus on. Although later, with the help of my editor, we slaughtered more darlings….

Fast forward to now and during the time that I still wanted to go the traditional publishing route – I learned a lot of about the industry has changed. I will go into tools can use in later posts but I thought I would muse on how things have changed in 15 years.

What about you? Those of you with experience – have you also noticed the change?

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