Dear Reader: we need to talk about your role
marjorie steele

I think a significant issue not addressed here is how shifting from a press to internet world has fundamentally changed the literary environment.

With a press, there is a significant start up cost so to recoup their investment a series of filters in the form of literary agents and editors has developed which writers have to go through before they’re published. The publisher will also market your work.

In contrast, being able to post on the internet requires a minimal investment. You don’t have to go through any sort of filter to publish or distribute your writing. The issue then becomes how can readers find the writing that will be of interest to them? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff or find the needle in the hay stack?

One way is to continue utilizing traditional publishers who also distribute their products through the internet. The collapse of physical bookstores as a viable business model has been significant.

Other approaches would be to try and utilize search engines or social media to connect with readers or to pay writers directly through a service like Medium or Patreon.

Another significant issue is that while the internet and other electronic technologies have made it easier to self publish or use non-traditional distribution methods for writers, the same can be said of other forms of media including music, video, and audio. Many people may connect more readily to and resonate with narratives in these other media.

Given this changing dynamic for writers where there is more competition for a dwindling reader base, more writers willing to publish their work for low cost or no cost, and readers having even more choices of where to obtain stories it’s imperative that writers hone their craft and connect with the readership who appreciates their work.

Until such time as people do not have to work for a living, story writers will be limited by the amount of time they’re able to spend writing versus having to earn a living through other means. Hopefully technologies will continue to develop which encourage writers to focus on producing quality stories while also facilitating readers to be able to connect with their work.

The degree to which writers can focus on writing rather than how to distribute their work, the more opportunity we’ll have to read their work so Medium does seem like a reasonable approach to me.