Thursday, February 04, 2016

What Still Matters?

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 15 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

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As I write this, presidential politics are front and center in the national news. The first official presidential election event just happened, the Iowa Caucus. Of course, presidential politics has been in the mainstream news every day for months. One of the big stories is how some of the leading presidential candidates are overturning everything that used to be considered the norm. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is shaking things up in a big way, while Bernie Sanders is doing the same with the Democrats.

The pundits are saying the mainstream political parties--the Establishment--are completely confused by these developments. Everything they used to do to influence the public isn't working anymore. It's like people are doing their own thing now. They aren't listening to the "powers that be" anymore. 

It almost seems like the same kind of shakeup is taking place in the publishing world. I came onto the publishing scene in 2009, when everything seemed to run the way it always had for almost a century. There were norms in place that were widely followed and acknowledged by all to be "the way things are done 'round here."

In the last couple of years, it seems like all of that has changed.  

I find myself asking this question: "What still matters?" Certain things were emphasized in publishing just a few years ago as being essential and of critical importance for success. Now? Some of those same things don't seem to matter much anymore at all. Other things matter. Newer things. Just about the time I figured out how to do some of the older things well, now it seems no one cares about these things anymore. They care about other things (things I'm not very good at and not sure I want to learn).

Let me give you a few examples:

Blogging - Used to be everybody who is anybody has a blog. You need a blog. I need to blog. Regularly, faithfully. If possible, also join a blog with several other authors. And you need to appear in other people's blogs and leave comments, not just lurk. Now I'm wondering...Does blogging still matter? Hardly anyone reads blogs faithfully and blogs that used to garner dozens of comments every day now barely receive a few.

Agents - Used to be every author needs an agent. And not just any agent, an A-lister, a real mover and a shaker. Without an agent, you're sunk. Publishers won't even look at your manuscript unless you are represented by a great agent. Does this matter anymore? With the rise of indie publishing, do authors even need literary agents anymore? If so, when? Is there a new norm when it comes to agents?

Print Books in Retail Bookstores - Used to be you weren't a bonafide author unless you had been signed by a mainstream publisher, because retail bookstores only accept books vetted by traditional publishers (well actually, this is still the case). Again, with the massive influx of successful indie authors and the rise of people reading their books on digital devices, does this even matter anymore? Do authors even need to worry about getting their books printed and made available in brick-and-mortar retail stores? I read articles that say traditional bookstores still matter but, if I'm being honest, I hardly ever see anyone in the bookstores anymore. Except in the coffee shop. I still love to go to bookstores, but I almost never see anyone browsing through the shelves. A few years ago, the same aisles used to be full. Additionally, I've met many indie authors over the past 2 years who are selling tens of thousands of books and making a great deal of money who've never seen even one of their books in a brick-and-mortar store.

I've got a number of other items I could share in this post, things I'm wondering whether they still matter, but blog posts aren't supposed to be this longThen again, does that even matter anymore? I'd love to hear from some of you on these things (that is, what do you think? What's still matters in publishing and what doesn't matter so much anymore?).

And while I'm talking about things that matter, here's a pic of my newest novel, Rescuing Finley. This matters a lot (at least to me). It's a great book. That's not me saying it, but the 65 other people who've reviewed it on Amazon the last month or so (avg 4.7 stars). It's FREE on Kindle Unlimited and only $3.99 on Kindle. It's about a rescue shelter dog named Finley who winds up rescuing the female inmate who trains him and the Afghan war vet who adopts him. Click here and check it out. 

Dogs always matter.


chappydebbie said...

Yes, dogs always matter. :-)

Very thought provoking post....blogs do matter, especially when it comes to spreading the word about your books. Yes, some posts land flat and get few comments, but then there are those that wake up readers and compel us to comment and share.


Tami said...

I can't speak for others, but blog posts matter to me. I learn so much from those of you who have "made it", those who have actually earned a few $$$ from this business. I love hearing your opinions, your ideas, your lessons, but mostly I love knowing that the written word still matters.

Electronic media is awesome, but consider what would be left if Plato, Socrates, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, Earnest Hemmingway, etc. had used electronic publishing instead of traditional paper and ink. Our history books would be easily deleted or 'revised' at will and most of the great literature would no longer exist.

Imagine an out of print book; it still exists on a library shelf, in a used book store or thrift shop. That same book on an e-reader would probably be purged to make room for the latest best seller and our world would be poorer as a result.

Dan Walsh said...


I agree with you that some blogs do matter. I've still learned things from reading blogs...occasionally. My point is that they don't matter the way they used to, they way we were told they matter. The old emphasis was that they were critical to a writer's success, and so you had all these writers creating blogs and devoting many hours a week trying to make them grow and gain followers (all time taken away from writing great books, which I think matters the most, in terms of writing success).

Even this be fair, a year or two ago, there'd be anywhere from 20-30 comments per post. Now, it's 1 or 2.

Dan Walsh said...


I agree with you that print books still matter. I take the time to have my indie books printed (don't just do ebooks). Some readers still want and will only buy print books. I love the way they look and feel in my hands (compared to a tablet). I'm just highlighting the massive shift away from brick-and-mortar stores and toward online buying. This is real. In some ways, I wish things had not changed (my wife and I used to love visiting bookstores, did it almost every week).

As to the future? Don't see this trend going away. Not unless a huge meteor makes a near-miss with earth but takes out most of our satellites (or a sun flare eruption does the same thing). Something that suddenly makes the internet an unsafe place for commerce. Barring something apocalyptic, it seems like authors had better make the adjustment and embrace this shift as real. I've had to over the last 12-18 months.