Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
The way we create and distribute media is constantly changing. The traditional route to publishing, whether for fiction or nonfiction, rests on getting an agent. You find an agent, they find a publisher and your work goes to press. However, this is much easier said than done. It’s often a long, frustrating process that shuts out many writers.
Fortunately, today, there are ways to skip tradition altogether. Writers are not limited to the “Big Five” publishers anymore, and there are many options for releasing their stories. In a digital world, sharing and publishing content is more accessible than ever.
Audio Storytelling Is the New Normal
Podcasting, or audio storytelling, is one new way that creators are sharing their works. In the old days, audio storytelling meant broadcasting on the radio, where a story would be commissioned for a radio play and read on-air. Podcasts are the modern version of this, and they stretch across fiction and nonfiction subjects.
Audiobooks are another popular digital method of storytelling. Many people choose this format because it allows them to connect with the narrator and get a deeper feel for the story. Both in the past and present, dramatic storytelling has taken audio form.
Digestibility Is Key in the Digital World
In our current society, we often like to receive things in small digestible pieces. We prefer things broken down for us instead of having to sift through long pages. People are busy and want to multitask. Thankfully, there is a level of convenience that audiobooks and podcasts provide. You can listen to your favorite stories in the car, on a walk or anywhere else you might be on the go.
Audiobooks and some podcasts also allow listeners to increase the narration speed, which is helpful for anyone who needs to get through stories quicker. Convenience and speed are not possible with older methods like print or even e-books. These new methods can be beneficial for people who want to save time, increase productivity and squeeze more into their day.
Technology Can Enhance Narratives
Audio storytelling can be much more than one person reading from a book. Many podcasts and audiobooks now incorporate sound design, sound effects, music and a cast. These elements bring the text to life. With reading, you are recreating the scenes in your mind. With audio dramas, they recreate it for you. There are pros and cons to this. On one hand, reading sparks imagination. On the other, audio storytelling brings the scenes to you and is helpful if you’re walking or driving.
Genres like true crime and thriller podcasts are popular partially due to the vivid sound design that frames these stories. If the narrator talks about a paranormal experience, for example, you might hear eerie music, chilling footsteps and creaking doors. This impacts the story in a way that print text cannot.
Creators Have More Agency
In the traditional way of publishing, creators are at the behest of agents. They must first figure out how to find an agent, and it takes time to make the right choice. After finding an agent, they have to hope they’re accepted, which is never promised. If an agent accepts a new creator, then they need to pitch to a publisher successfully. It’s a lengthy process, and nothing is guaranteed.
This has become increasingly difficult over time as more creators look to publish and, in turn, the marketplace becomes more selective. With digital publishing, creators get to control their own work instead of leaving it in someone else’s hands. They can command the space by building their own audience and distributing their own work.
If you’re writing a story, go online and see what kinds of app platforms are available. Make use of those digital spaces. Even Instagram can bring you audiences. Once you find the right platform for your project’s format, use it to share your work.
Taking Advantage of the New
Some new creators want to dive right into this process, while others are risk-averse and wary of avoiding the traditional publishing route. They’re afraid other mediums will lower their reputation.
New creators shouldn’t be fearful of this. Is it more important to have a story published by a big name than to have it published on your terms? What if you put that same story on a digital platform in a new and unique way? This could potentially build a loyal audience and lead to even more buzz. There are many opportunities out there today.
Of course, there will always be a place for print. Just don’t count other outlets out before viewing those options — you never know what you’ll find.
You Can Start Right Now
When you’re creating a story, think about your narrative and target audience. Once you have an understanding of what they are, consider how you want to deliver the story. See how you can leverage different apps and technology. Then — and this is the most critical step — just do it. Don’t spend too long waiting to publish when you have the power to make it happen now.