I’m hearing a lot of people trying to sum up their goals for 2015 into a single word.  This extends to a lot of writers.  I’m the odd one out it seems as I have two words:  “hard work”.
But one word (that is one word long) I’ve been hearing over and over again from writers is “diversification”.

You see, as recent as just a handful of years ago, the ‘way’ to be a writer was that you wrote a book, you submitted it to agents who found you a traditional publishing house.  This in itself was a bit of a fallacy because if you ask any successful writer how they honestly fell into publishing they tend to all start with the phrase ,“actually, it’s a funny story.”
But even if people didn’t ‘exactly’ follow the prescribed route, that was considered the route writers “should” take.
Then digital publishing came along and we saw a lot of clever and innovative things happen.  Ebooks have had writers playing with length and format, and as a result this saw serials and novellas regain some popularity.
But there was always this fight: you were one side of the digital divide or the other.  If you were traditionally published you were supposed to sneer at self-publishing and liken it to vanity presses, decry it’s lack of editorial standards, and generally treat it as second class.
Meanwhile, digital publishers were supposed to be tearing down the walls of traditional publishing, selling things at prices the traditional houses couldn’t compete with, offering books for free as promotions to hook people into series.  Traditional publishing was dead, ebooks were the future.
Those who went from one side to the other were sneered upon.  Snobbery knew no bounds from either side.
But times are always changing and I think things are changing again.
The rule book has been torn up, or rather… people are willing to admit there are no rules to publishing.  It can also be incredibly harsh.
I’ve seen award winning authors have book deals pulled out from under then mid-series, I’ve seen popular publishing houses closed down, I’ve seen a lot of talented people become so battered by the whole process of publishing they nearly quit writing.
Likewise, we’ve seen indie publishers go from writing fanfic to selling millions of copies with traditional publishing deals.  We’ve seen them develop complex marketing methods that rival the best Internet SEOs out there.  Most of those who don’t see no more than a handful of sales.  We’ve seen them try new formats, try and break down walls, only for the outcome for the majority come to nothing.
It’s made me realise that anyone who now says one way is defacto better than the other is a fool.  It’s also made me realise that if you want to be a successful writer in the next decade I think you need to be flexible.
You can’t rely on any one thing.  You have to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing market and always have a back up plan.  I have friends now doing tie-in fiction.  I have other friends who are dabbling in self-publishing.  It used to be that the writer as a brand was tied to a single genre, and pen names were kept secret so fan-bases never met, but now the idea is gaining traction that some people might just like the writer and willing to read their cowboy western as much as their period romance.
There will still be those who hate the idea of the writer as a brand.  I’ll admit that it sounded a little crass to me as well at first but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  Publishing is the act of selling books, and how you sell your books is now wide open.  There’s no prescribed career plan any more, just ways that others have done it for you to follow or ignore as your personal circumstance dictate.  And there’s still plenty of ways to experiment.  Perhaps that was always secretly the case, but it’s been blown wide open and I think the successful writers of the next decade are going to be those utilise that knowledge best.
Some (both in traditional and indie publishing) will lament how things have changed and moan about those who diversify, but in all honesty, I think unless you do so, your career is going to be dead in the water the moment you hit a roadblock.
Maybe this isn’t a particularly new insight.  Maybe you already knew all this and are there thinking “well Adrian’s just got it.”  But I’m thinking to my year ahead and my career plan.  I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do and it means I need to write a ridiculous amount of fiction and non-fiction (55,000 words so far!).  I want to guard against getting distracted and chopping and changing plans every five minutes but I’m finding that I’m still asking myself if there are ways I  can diversify?