The future of publishing: An interview with Tom Lloyd
Tom Lloyd is the author of the Twilight Reign fantasy series and, more recently, Moon’s Artifice. In the UK Lloyd is published by Gollancz / Orion. Tom has a website which uses Amazon affiliate links to sell his books.
I was able to catch up with Tom for a quick Q&A style interview. It was an interesting chat as he’s worked for an agent and been a publisher. The last question was simple – what do you think the future of publishing will be?
You’ve worked as an agent before. What do you think the role of an agent is today given the wealth of self publishing and self publicising options authors?
I should maybe point out I’ve worked for an agent, not as one, in foreign rights and contracts. However… I think the role’s been adapting for a number of years already and in it’s current state, it’s still certainly of value. Obviously if you’re self-publishing you don’t need an agent to get that deal, but that’s not the only part of their job. Self-publishing in translation, for example, isn’t an option really – you could hire translators yourself etc I suppose, but selling rights is what an agent does and you have to ask yourself how much time you want to spend doing that yourself.
The agent is there to get you a traditional publishing deal and the translation deals, plus the inevitable TV series of course…. but these days, they’re often also there to be the first professional eyes on your work. The one who stays with your career and knows your writing (and you) best as editors swap around, lists go in different directions and generally publishing doesn’t stick to the format it once had. Modern life is creeping into everything these days, and while the musty corridors of publishing might have been accept to see that, people don’t take a job for life and the firms increasingly act like the big corporations they are. Your agent is likely to be the longest-running relationship you’ll have in publishing and one of the reasons I signed up with mine is because I knew he is careful to be honest with clients. If that means saying the book isn’t good enough and I should work on X, Y or Z, he’ll do that and the book will end up better as a result.
Should an author write an extra book every year or spend the same amount of time building awareness of their name and creations on social media?
I doubt anyone truly knows that. Social media presence is hugely important, that’s certain – I’d love to have a bigger profile in the core genre market, but if I was given the choice I’d choose an extra book every year. If you’ve got the force of personality to win over new fans, that’s great, but you still need the work to speak for itself and word of mouth remains more important than anything else I think. Produce a good book and you’ve done the best you can towards ensuring people like it and tell others. If it’s stunning, there’s an army of bloggers out there willing to tell others – they want to engage with you, but they’re not going to hold that against you when recommending the book to others.
How important are sites like Goodreads.com to you?
For me, not so much, for all that it has a better quality of review than Amazon. I use it to keep track of my own reading and see feedback on my work, not as a vehicle to sell. I’m certainly not the best self-promoter in the world, but I’m also a slow writer compared to some and the book needs to be done before there’s anything to promote.
What do you think the biggest challenge an author who has just finished writing a fantastic book faces today?
Just one? It’s a hugely competitive market, one that feels tougher even than when I got my big break. The fight for market share and changes to buying policies from bookshops is hurting a lot of us, but mostly it’s the global market forces that I fear about. As in so many ways, a smaller number of names are everywhere, dominating reviews and coverage across the world rather than in just certain corners. Success breeds success and just as the wealth of the world is concentrating, income from writing is going the same way as markets blur into each other. The mid-list is going to be a place where we all bleed as we try to earn enough to live on.
Would do you think the future of publishing looks like?
That partly depends on someone working out how to make bookshops work. It’ll be a dull and cruel market without them, but at the moment no one is sure how to have a physical shop that’ll keep on making money. Physical books aren’t going to die, for the same reason that there’ll always be far more new writers than the market can sustain. There’s a love of books in the bone that won’t die and ebooks aren’t here to kill that.
This post first appeared on Zebra Eclipse in 2014. In 2023, it was moved here.