Extract from a new book we are currently developing for Professional Writers:
MANAGING CHANGE AS A WRITER
The biggest problem for professional writers in today’s world is often “change.” The world is changing fast….places that you can sell or use writing skills are changing fast too.
The type and style of writing required can differ from one situation to another. A writer who can change and adapt their style according to demand is more capable of getting work in the short term and sustaining a career in the long term.
The one thing that does not change is that people will always communicate through writing; but the way in which they communicate and the way writers are reimbursed for their work is something that has changed a lot in recent decades; and is likely to continue changing.
In the mid 20th century, the writing market was more straightforward than it has now become. Many professional writers in the past would be employed and paid by publishers of printed books, magazines or newspapers; who generated an income from both selling publications, and from selling advertising. Broadcast media also paid writers (largely with revenue generated from advertising revenue). Public organisations would provide financial support to writers, funding coming from the public purse. Commercial businesses would provide other opportunities, such as writing marketing materials, product manuals etc.
Today’s world is a different world for the media industries, as well as politically and commercially. Government finances are under more pressure than in the past; traditional media is unable to generate income through advertising at the same levels, or in the same way as in the past. The print media has seen reductions in their revenue from advertising and so on. This revenue funded writers and other aspects of the running print media. With the advent of the internet, more and more newspapers offer online forums, where people can subscribe to their paper or actually receive it for free. There will also be adverts on their websites as well.
There is also online news from other organisations, such as the BBC, Sky News and so on, they also offer written word online newspapers. This has reduced the need for people to buy a printed newspaper. This is not to say that people don’t buy newspapers or magazines, but at a lower rate than in the past. Consider before the internet or television, newspapers were the only way really to get the news. Apart from being told by someone else verbally. So at that time, the print media had a pretty much exclusive opportunity for advertising.
Many other things have changed.
Writers need to recognise not only that changes have occurred in the “writing market”, but that they will continue to occur.
The opportunity for work in newspapers or magazines diminished from 2000 to 2012; but opportunities to sell writing for electronic publishing on the internet increased. Writers who were “in the know” have found opportunities in emerging media, and been able to find new places to sell their skills.
The world continues to change though; and the rate of change that has occurred over the past decade is only likely to accelerate over the next. Professional writers should be asking themselves how the writers’ marketplace might change over the coming years; and be adapting to changes as they occur.
In the past, publications were often planned well in advance; and writers may have been given greater flexibility in meeting deadlines. Example: If a book manuscript was a month or two late, it might not have mattered so much in the past as it did today. This has changed as well with the advent of new technology. Look at a news website now and the news is updated virtually as it happens. We also see this on TV with 24 hour TV stations, the news is also updated as it happens. Writers are there writing the news for the newsreaders to read. This has put a more intense pressure on writers, particular in the arena of news and current affairs to be writing NOW. Even writing novels and fiction deadlines have changed. The market is so fickle and you see writers bringing out one novel after another in quick succession, particularly when they are popular. Look at the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, The True Blood books by Charlaine Harris, The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling and so on. They are popular and the publishers use that popularity to increase their sales. This puts more demand on writers to get books written and published quickly. Obviously popular and bestselling authors, such as Harris, Meyer and Rowling can work as full time writers, spending their time doing their writing. But this still can affect their creativity and can cause a struggle to find new ideas.
As we have already said, the advent of the internet and television, has changed writing. It has reduced the need for some types of writing and increased the need for other forms of writing. The internet has changed the way writers get published; but perhaps there will be changes in the future that could impact upon writing opportunities in the future.
EBooks is an area that is increasing rapidly. EBooks are electronic books. Books can still be bought as hard back and paperback. But many are now also available as a downloadable eBook. But some book sellers and publishers are now only selling via eBook.
Technology changes rapidly. New things become available all the time and we don’t know how this will impact upon writers and how people write.
Digital writing is the term used to describe those who write online, for any reason.
Writing sound bites for an online magazine requires a different form of writing skill to a writer who is writing romantic fiction.
Look at social media, such as twitter and facebook. With twitter, only 147 characters are allowed in a “tweet”. This has lead to a new “language” almost developing, a short hand for those using twitter. But many people using twitter still write in “proper” words, so this requires a writer to be able to write in a sharp, punchy way. A different style to writing a long description of something, perhaps in a travel article or wildlife article.
A writer on twitter is often writing to encourage the reader to look elsewhere – at their blog, their adverts, their book, their website, their newsletter, their products and so on.
Many writers will also write blogs. As we said earlier, this can be for personal use or to encourage a reader to visit their website, buy their novel and so on. Again, blog writing requires a different skill to novel writing.
Many of the media laws of the past (in developed countries) were designed for a media industry that was primarily broadcast and print media; operating within state or national borders.
With a rapid growth in electronic media and shifts in the nature and scope of other media; law makers have struggled to keep up to date. Governments are really not equipped to react quickly to change; but with a world that is changing faster than ever; difficulties keep emerging for professional writers.
More in the book -It should be published march/april 2012