Writers and the entire publishing industry are sailing the seas of revolution that can toss and drown institutions that once were the foundation to the industry (such as The Writer Magazine going on hiatus after 125 years) to new writers who tear at their hair in frustration at the contradictory advice. While the reader has access to a larger array of new authors, browsing online does not give the reader the same feel that the old brick and mortar bookstores did--where you could walk the rows of books and discover by accident a new book or new author. Instead, you click the "next button" to find the next list of 20 or more books in whatever category you are looking for--and the gem you seek may be around book 534 on your search list.
There is no way to turn back the clock and the days of the standard gatekeeper is on a timer ticking away while they try to figure out how to adapt to the new world. With the obvious questions of "How do I get find new authors?" and "How do I get discovered?" comes a new paradigm coming under attack. I have heard the following question raised at multiple writers' conferences and at workshops of writers' groups I belong to. Over the years the answer to this question has always been consistent--that was until I heard a few agents at a large writers' conference I attended change the answer.
The question is, "As an author (new or established), should I post the first few chapters of my book online?" The traditional answer has been a resounding "No." Actually, that no rings like a bell slammed with a sledge hammer. That was until July this year when I heard some agents say "Yes."
In the past--and still many think this today--if a writer posts the first few chapters of a book on their website, then those chapters are self-published. By doing that, the author would not be able to sell that work. Now, this hard line that had been chiseled into granite is now not so solid and the opinion is shifting among the agents and the publishers. So, what is the answer? Is there an answer?
I'm not sure if there is an answer. I can only hear more questions like: "What if it is the next book in a series and the first book just came out? Won't it ruin the suspense?" and "What if I decide I need to rewrite? Is it too late?" or "Will it attract agents and readers? Will they be the right agents?"
An ancient Chinese curse would be to wish someone to live in interesting times. All of us in the writing industry are living in such times.
Please, if you would, share with us your opinion on this issue. Along with your opinion, please share if you are a reader, writer (we are all readers), agent or something else.