Trends in Publication: The Old Way Versus the New Way

Updated on December 17, 2016
Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin tries to maintain an active position in the Hubpages writing community.

In just the last decade or two, with the increasing popularity of the Internet, the landscape of writing has changed drastically. While the ultimate goal is still more or less unchanged, (Get somebody with lots of money to pay you to write.) the journey from A to B has morphed into something altogether different. As a result, many aspiring authors whose would-be careers have been an ongoing project in both eras find themselves asking: Which way was/is better?

Rather than try to derive an opinion on the matter, the scope of this article is to simply provide a list of the pros and cons in each era.

Old vs. New
Old vs. New | Source

The Old Way

Pro: Once you were discovered, you primarily focused on writing. All the other stuff was taken care of by PR, artists, advertising, etc.

Con: Through these vehicles you were more likely to have your message diluted or destroyed.

The New Way

Pro: Your voice is the only one that matters. From publication to finished product, it’s all you.

Con: What if you’re not good at any of the stuff that isn’t writing. Just because a writer can’t design a decent book cover, does that mean they aren’t an amazing writer? There is also no safety net. Sometimes it is good for an outside party to put the brakes on a project that isn’t ready. At some point money will come out of you own pocket, and if you fail, it’s money you’ll never get back.

The Old Way

Pro: If you succeeded, it put you in elite company amongst writers mainly of quality ilk.

Con: It was almost impossible to get discovered. It was a process that entailed sending off manuscript after manuscript, often times with publishers never even bothering to send back a rejection letter. Good or otherwise, most writings were doomed to never find a home

The New Way

Pro: With the internet, you can get your writing out to an audience instantly.

Con: Even if your writing is good, a lot of writers’ writings are garbage, and that’s out there, too. In addition, this bad writing can be bloated up as quality by something as arbitrary as meeting the criteria of a popular heading search on Google. It’s hard for brilliance to be noticed when it swims amongst a sea of sewage.

The Old Way

Pro: If you wanted to do something controversial, even if it was at first panned by audiences, large publication firms had the deep pockets and pedigree to withstand the storm until society caught up.

Con: This same principle allowed unscrupulous wealthy to dictate what we think. Sometimes a controversial idea is also just a bad idea, but when this bad idea coincides with the agenda of someone rich and powerful, they can continue to shove it down society’s throat until we believe it’s art.

Where is controversy most at home?
Where is controversy most at home? | Source

The New Way

Pro: If you succeed on the internet, it means that many people believe your writing is great, not just a few people.

Con: Internet writing can so often degrade to a big popularity contest. As a result, people often become afraid to say anything controversial, and this can lead to the stunted growth of society. In addition, audiences often times don’t know what they want. For example, take the cult classic. These are creative works that were predominantly disliked at first, yet over time became great. Writings like these will almost always die on the vine in the venue of internet writing.

The Old Way

Pro: A low success rate in writing and an audience that was forced to buy books meant tremendous profits for most of those that succeeded commercially.

Con: A low success rate also meant that the aspiring writer was doomed to stay such. In addition, this format favored the wannabe writer already from a wealthy background who could survive the years without success while having the means to continue to devote all of his or her time on writing.

The New Way

Pro: People who otherwise would never have had the opportunity to write are now published authors.

Con: Why would publishers invest money in writers who have basically shown themselves willing to work for free?

The Old Way

Pro: While there have always been copyright issues in writing, there were far fewer in the old days with print books. The money primarily went to the people creatively responsible for the books.

Con: Print books are bad for the environment on many levels, from the destruction of trees, to transportation, to the chemicals that go into making a quality physical copy of a book.

The New Way

Pro: Internet publication is very green. Besides the almost negligible amount of energy that computers pull these days, there really isn’t much in the process to negatively impact Mother Earth.

Con: The stealing of copyrighted materials on the internet is so prevalent as to be almost impossible to stop on any meaningful level. Rest assured, for any quality article that you write there are 1,000 cretins just waiting to copy and paste it to another site, and because we are backed by ourselves and not large publishers, it just isn’t practical to fight it. Even if we could win, for every battle won, how much time and money would have to be spent?

Is the globetrotting author dead and gone?
Is the globetrotting author dead and gone? | Source

The Old Way

Pro: The lifestyle of the old way could be pretty awesome if you were successful. Things like book signing tours, jet planes, hotels, meeting celebrities, becoming a celebrity, actually getting to physically mingle with your fan base.

Con: All of these luxuries cost money—money that could feasibly have went straight to you in your contract. Also, this sort of lifestyle isn’t a fit for all of us. Some of us would rather be there to raise our families.

The New Way

Pro: With the click of a button, all at once the whole world has access to your writing from Greenland to Patagonia. No need for the writing tour when you can communicate with any of your fans you choose to via messaging from the comfort of wherever you happen to be.

Con: It’s fun to many of us when success physically takes us somewhere. Where’s the pageantry of being a writer in all of this? Where’s the experiencing of culture and the world? Only so much can be garnered about the human experience when staring at a computer screen. In addition, there are those among us with a million hits or more who haven’t made the money for a road trip, much less a world tour.

The Old Way

Pro: The old way involved contracts for the future. It was possible to be paid a large advance for the idea of a book or ideas for books, whether they were written or not. The amounts paid for the books were not largely contingent on whether or not the books were successful. True, there may have been incentive clauses or percentages given for the number of books sold, but that was the icing, not the cake.

Con: It’s stressful to meet contracts like these, and it can be frustrating to have to follow a preordained path when your muse beckons you elsewhere.

The New Way

Pro: As a self-publishing internet writer, you often are afforded the luxury of writing whatever you want.

Con: You can’t plan for the future because the future can’t be predicted. There are no contracts, and even if your cup runneth over for a time, there is no telling when that proverbial tap might be slowed or shut off entirely.

Opinion

Which was/is better?

See results

Conclusions:

There is a lot of information to ponder here, and in addition, there is much more regarding this topic that wasn’t broached in the article. So what’s the verdict? Keeping in mind that the lot of the writer has never been an easy one regardless of era, Who had/has the better path to follow, writers of old or new?

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        12 months ago from Oklahoma

        Catherine: but just to give the other side, I get so sick of being responsible for everything!

        I wish I could just write and have people whose job it was to bother with the details.

        I always enjoy when you stop by.

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 

        12 months ago from Orlando Florida

        Which way is better--the old way or the new way? It's hard to say--they both have good things and bad things. The new way does provide immediate gratification--instant publication and instant feedback.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        19 months ago from Oklahoma

        Nadine: thanks so much for dropping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

      • Nadine May profile image

        Nadine May 

        19 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

        I agree with Billy. Today the work of an published author does not stop with a book. The marketing on social network and website and blog writing on a weekly bases ongoing for many years is not for everyone. I liked the way you wrote this post with the pros and cons.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        21 months ago from Oklahoma

        Mel: I'm with you on the word processor being a God Send. Can you imagine how hard it was before typewriters, lol.

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        21 months ago from San Diego California

        I have to vote New Way, because if we were still on the Old Way I doubt I would be writing at all. Typing and then retyping manuscripts without a word processor? Are you kidding me? Too much like work. John Steinbeck used to write in pencil. Carpal tunnel - no thank you.

        All of your observations here were brilliantly perceptive. I agree that the Internet swimming pool is afoul in sewage, but it has given a voice to the otherwise voiceless.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        22 months ago from Oklahoma

        Lawrence: thanks for the thoughtful feedback.

        Yeah, the old way was such a sit and rot method.

      • profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        22 months ago

        Larry

        One thing I do know is that under the old system every article I went to people with (let alone books) was rejected.

        By the way Bill, I did 'Trade school' for writers writing copy for some of the content mills, it's a good way to learn some of the basics on writing, but there comes a time when you've just got to say "Stuff this for a game of soldiers" and just get on and do it!

        I won't totally 'shut down' the idea of going the 'old school' way, but for the time being I need to hone my skills, and I don't do that with the manuscripts sat gathering dust when I could get a few people to read them through the eBook way!

        Thanks for the overview though

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        22 months ago from Oklahoma

        Amy: it is nice to have a stage no matter, but all in all, I'm not so certain it's better in the long run.

      • Happymommy2520 profile image

        Amy 

        22 months ago from East Coast

        You made great points in this article Larry. The new way is better. It gives a lot more writer's the ability to publish and earn some kind of money from writing. I remember sending out articles to magazines in one of my college classes. Times have changed drastically.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        23 months ago from Oklahoma

        FlourishAnyway: wouldn't it be fun to capture a little of that glamour...sorry, started daydreaming, lol.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        23 months ago from Oklahoma

        Bronwen: with the new way I find having to be an artist, photographer, etc., to be difficult. I've certainly had to broaden my creative horizons to function here.

        Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        23 months ago from Oklahoma

        Paul: to me the ease of getting it out there is the biggest advantage of the new way.

        Thanks so much for dropping by.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        23 months ago from USA

        Great coverage of new v. Old. I like being able to publish from home and maintain creative control but the glamour of the writers of yesterday is still alluring.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        23 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        I agree with Paul, it's great to be independent, but we need to spend so much time on marketing - and that does not come naturally to many of us writers.

      • Paul Kuehn profile image

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        23 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        I tend to favor the new way of publishing. The problem I find is marketing your writing after you have a good product. Thanks for sharing a great hub.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        23 months ago from Oklahoma

        Heidithorne: I'm still on the fence, but my leanings are towards the old way.

        Thanks so much for dropping by.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        23 months ago from Oklahoma

        Alicia: it is a question worth pondering.

      • Larry Rankin profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Rankin 

        23 months ago from Oklahoma

        Bill: thanks so much for chiming in.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        23 months ago from Chicago Area

        I've had this pros and cons conversation with myself, too! Although I have to say that I'm partial to the New Way. Enjoyed!

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        This is a great comparison of the old and new ways of publishing, Larry. At the moment, I can't answer your question about who had it easier. I appreciate the information that you've shared, which will help me reach a decision.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        23 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I don't know who had it easier, the old or the new. All I know is this is a tough gig, and those not committed to the good, and the bad, probably should go to trade school. :) Have a great weekend!

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