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Julie Hyzy explains her preference for today’s publishing industry

Julie Hyzy

Julie Hyzy

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The summer I turned 10, I went into the publishing business. Every week, I hand-printed a four-page neighborhood newspaper and gave it to my dad to Xerox (because that’s what everybody called it back then). When he returned home with my 10 crisp, stapled copies, I headed out to deliver them to my subscribers.

The 50 cents a week I earned from my indulgent neighbors in Little Village wasn’t mere pocket money. Placing a new edition in their hands each week meant that real people — not just family members — were reading stories I’d written. It was a heady time for me, and although I didn’t realize it until much later, a formative time. I was in control of content, timing and distribution for an entire blissful summer.

Fast forward a few decades, and here I am, a hybrid author, with one foot in the old and one in the new, once again writing, promoting and occasionally publishing myself.

There was a time when, as a writer, if you managed to catch the eye of an editor, you were golden. Publishers paid for book tours, advertising and placement in bookstores. Advances were generous enough to live on. Publishers controlled your brand, your message. They did a great job helping authors become successful.

Since then, the publishing industry has changed and continues to evolve so quickly it’s hard to keep up. Authors complain that to succeed in the writing world today, you have to be an entertainer, publicist, distributor and marketing genius all rolled into one.

Umm … yeah. That pretty much sums it up. And guess what? I love it.

Most authors today run their careers with little help from publishers. And it’s no longer enough to simply write a good book; authors are expected to have a strong presence online. They’re required to be accessible via Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, websites and blogs. Who designs and maintains these sites? The authors themselves, or a professional paid out of pocket to help.

I spend at least two hours a day on promotion. Is promoting myself a lot of work? Absolutely! Does it take time away from crafting stories, amassing pages, meeting deadlines? Again, yes.

Yet this wondrous digital age also allows me to interact with readers, chart my own course, control my message, release content as I see fit and set my own schedule. The “golden” days where publishers managed these things are long gone, and — you know what? That’s perfectly OK.

I understand the frustration from authors who loathe these new responsibilities, especially if they’ve been in this business for a while. Change can be hard.

The revolutions in the publishing world today definitely come with drawbacks. Sure, the easily accessible online content means that there are hackers and pirates. And I’m bothered by the blatant stealing as much as the next author. But the good we’re seeing outweighs the bad by such a wide margin that I can’t help but wake up every morning thrilled to be part of this wonderful new world of publishing.

A dozen years ago, when I first got started, I had to rely on my publisher to get my name out there. Today, it’s up to me. Back then, I may have met a handful of readers at a signing and fielded a few snail mail letters. Today, I correspond with thousands regularly. I love the direction publishing is headed. I’m lucky to be a part of it right now.

The digital age may have changed the way we authors greet the world, but without change there would be no growth. Every minute of every day I feel myself grow, both as a writer and as an individual. Just like when I was crafting newspapers those many years ago, I’m blissfully in charge of my own future. What could be better than that?

Julie Hyzy is the New York Times best-selling author of the White House Chef mysteries and the Manor House mysteries. Her latest Manor House mystery, “Grace Takes Off,” is available wherever books are sold. She resides in Tinley Park with her family.

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