What is it like being an author in the 21st Century?

Writing has come a long way since mankind started writing on stone, clay tablets, and tree bark. As the digital age progresses, new types of media people read from – and write and publish on – continue to be innovated and evolve. So, what is it like to write in the 21st century?

Digital publishing platforms, specifically online platforms that allow the public to freely express themselves in hopes of getting noticed or picked up by major publishing houses. Sounds easy, but it is almost never the case. These platforms host millions of creators worldwide and standing out amongst the multitudes is a little challenging. One may suggest you keep writing and posting until someone notices, or show publishers your projects. An online repository of writing also comes in handy as a portfolio publishers and agents can use to gauge your mettle.

Building an audience is another major challenge in making it big writing online. If you’re good, lucky, or both, it could take weeks or months; if you’re good but not so lucky, it could probably take years. Some may think that getting published traditionally is a surefire shortcut to fame, but that’s not guaranteed. Regardless of whether one is published digitally or physically, the outcome is somewhat similar. The only difference is, the costs of digital publishing is slightly cheaper due to the exclusion of printing, delivery and warehousing costs.

Another good thing about getting digitally published is, if your works have a formidable fanbase on an online platform, TV streaming companies might see it fit to adapt a title or two. As you’ve probably noticed, some recent releases on Netflix or the silver screen are based on books where the most successful ones are The Kissing Booth, the After series, and Through my Window. Let’s not forget the rise of anime adaptations of web novels from China and Japan.

With so many online platforms available for writers, such as Kobo, Smashwords, Wattpad, Medium and Substack, what will happen to traditional publishers? Would people still want to read physical books? The answer is, yes. Despite the advent of digital publishing, many still prefer physical books. In 2017, print books outsold e-books by three times in Canada – a trend that still continues today. Studies on reader preferences seem to affirm the printed book’s hallowed status in readers’ hearts, at least in the near future.

Nevertheless, authors in the 21st century should explore various publishing media to make their works more accessible for audiences, including audiobooks. To all of you who are still writing and publishing digitally while working on your big break, we advise you to pen, platform, pray and persist!

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