Skip to main content

Ask Margaret Atwood: Digital or print?

Should you pursue print publication, or focus your efforts online? Progressive literary icon Margaret Atwood shares more advice in outtakes from our September issue’s Q&A.

Should you pursue print publication, or focus your efforts online? Progressive literary icon Margaret Atwood shares more advice in outtakes from our September issue’s Q&A.

by Kristen Grace

What do you suggest for writers looking for publication and trying to decide if they should go the traditional route, which you obviously started out with, or if they should just start looking for online publication?

Well, they can do that, and there are these amazing success stories and people have made a “batillion” dollars doing it, but that ignores the part of the iceberg that’s under water, does it not? The invisible part. All of those people that are out there having self-published but don’t know how to build themselves out from there. And there is a lot of advice about that. There is virtual book tour advice, and there are people that will do that for you who have made businesses out of helping or supplying services to those very people, just as there are freelance editors who will help you polish up your book, for instance. There are designers that will help you design your book. There are online things you download that take you step by step through how to do e-pub. There are all those tools out there, but what works? And it’s still the same gambling game that it always has been.

Namely, there are four kinds of books. There are only four. Good books that make money, good books that don’t make money, bad books that make money, and bad books that don’t make money. And of all of those, you don’t want to be the fourth. So I have no advice for bad books that don’t make money. I can’t help you there [laughs]. … The good books that do make money don’t need advice. It’s the good books that don’t make money that need advice.

And what would you advise for them?

Oh boy. Well, if it weren’t such a problem, you wouldn’t be asking me the question. There are a lot of mid-list books, there are also books where publishers have gambled quite a bit of money that haven’t paid off for them, and the reason for that is because publishing is what it always has been. It is not like the beer business. Every single item is unique. So the task of the writer—let’s suppose it’s a good book—is to find those ideal readers who are out there somewhere. So how do you get your book to the person who is going to enjoy it?

And you can write a book about that.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 6 WDU Courses, an Upcoming Virtual Conference, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce six new WDU courses, a romance writing virtual conference, and more!

Going From Me to We: Collaborating on the Writing of a Novel

Going From Me to We: Collaborating on the Writing of a Novel

Past experiences taught bestselling author Alan Russell to tread lightly when it came to collaborating on projects. Here, he discusses how the right person and the right story helped him go from a “me” to a “we.”

From Script

Short Film Goals, Writing the Cinematic Experience on the Page and Sundance Film Festival 2022 (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, set your creative goals with a monthly guide to write and produce your short film, provided by Script contributor Rebecca Norris Resnick. Plus, an exclusive interview with Academy Award-winning screenwriter William Monahan, a Sundance Film Festival 2022 day one recap, and more!

Your Story Writing Prompts

94 Your Story Writing Prompts

Due to popular demand, we've assembled all the Your Story writing prompts on WritersDigest.com in one post. Click the link to find each prompt, the winners, and more.

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Poetic Forms

Saraband: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the saraband, a septet (or seven-line) form based on a forbidden dance.

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

International bestselling author Karen Hamilton discusses the “then and now” format of her new domestic thriller, The Ex-Husband.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach was friend to many writers who wrote what we consider classics today. Here, author Kerri Maher shares six things everyone should know about her and Shakespeare and Company.