Here's how I opened my talk at Seton Hill University's "In Your Write Mind" conference this past weekend:
Publishing is in a state of flux. Rapid changes in technology have resulted in an explosion of vanity publishers, self-publishers, and small press publishers. Nearly anyone with access to a computer can produce an electronic periodical. The once clear line between professional and amateur has blurred to the point where the difference between “us” and “them” is only obvious at the extreme ends of the spectrum.
Differences in attitude between art forms confuse us: A musician self-records a CD to sell at his gigs and he’s hailed for taking his career into his own hands; a novelist releases a book through iUniverse and other writers think he’s -- at best -- ill-informed or -- at worst -- a complete moron. Professional writers’ organizations struggle with the definition of “professional” and succeed only in defining qualifications for membership in their particular organizations.
Rip-off artists scam unsuspecting new writers. The “agents” that charge up-front fees, the “publishers” that charge writers to be published, the “editors” that charge for negligible editing services, the “contests” that exist solely to make money for the contest sponsors, all make their money because new writers spend more time dreaming than they spend working.
So how can any new writer successfully traverse a minefield filled with rapidly advancing technology, scam artists seeking to pick their pockets, and a plethora of writers’ organizations that can’t agree on the definition of “professional”?
The secret to success for most writers is the same today as it was when I started more than 30 years ago: It’s inspiration, determination, and perspiration.