Ebooks rockin’ the house(s)
A few days ago, I read Kristen Lamb’s blog post Big Six Publishing is Dead–Welcome the Massive Three. In it, she discusses the changing face of book publishing. It seems the Big Six publishers in New York are slow in following technological trends and are more than likely going to lose out to the companies that are embracing digital books over paper – Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
As an unpublished author who is just taking the first steps into the maze of the publishing world, it makes me queasy. For as long as I can remember, I have secretly wanted to write. Part of that dream inevitably included having a New York publishing house offer me a huge contract and their marketing department run amok with my book, pushing sales to levels the likes of which the publishing industry has never seem!
Of course, I am more realistic now.
I realize that the odds of my manuscript being pulled from the slush pile and passed to the right editor at the right publishing house at just the right moment are slim. Millions of unpublished authors learn this lesson every day. I also know that getting an agent to sell your manuscript to the right publishing house is almost as difficult. Agents are as hard to impress as publishers, and they are bombarded with query letters and book proposals every hour.
I have recently joined a group of writers online and as I have scrolled through the forum discussions, I am amazed a the number of writers that have decided to bypass the traditional methods of bringing their book to publication. They are self-promoting, building a platform and selling their books in digital format through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They are amazing. They have complete control over every aspect of their journey. And while that may seem liberating to some, it seems downright scary to me. They may make all the final decisions but they also put in all the time, the legwork, the bankroll. Marketing strictly by word of mouth seems pretty risky to an amateur like me.
It seems the stigma that used to be attached to being self-published has lifted. No longer does it mean that you could not land a “real” contract with one of the big publishers. It does not mean that your book is poorly written or lacks content. It means the publishers that used to act as gatekeepers, keeping poorly written books off public shelves, are losing their influence. Along with increases in ebook sales, I am sure there have been declines in paper book sales. And with the major publishers still poo-pooing the whole digital movement, they are limiting the number of authors they can effectively back and the readers they can effectively reach. The physical book is not the product; the content or story is the product. They seem to have forgotten that.
I recently finished Kristen’s book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. If there are any writers reading this, I highly recommend it! Reading it was like having a cheering section behind me as I took the first baby steps into social media. I still have a lot to learn, but she helped me to realize that no one will market you as a writer like you will. Agents are hoping that you come to them with a built-in ready-made platform that they can use to sell your books. Publishers want authors that despite being unpublished, already have a following. Smaller and smaller marketing budgets are thrown at known authors, not newcomers who have yet to prove their abilities. So I am learning to put myself out there and proclaim my writer-hood. Still, the entire publishing process is intimidating.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against e-publishing at all. I have a Kindle, and love the convenience of carrying around hundreds of books in my purse. But, still, there is something about the feel of a “real” paper book with a cover and spine and pages to physically turn. Plus, I love using greeting cards with inspirational sayings as bookmarks, something I can’t do with an ebook. Still, the whole e-publishing, self-publishing, indie author thing has piqued my curiosity. Maybe it all comes down to paper books being my first love, and going digital feels like cheating on them. I am sure the iphone, ipad, twitter generations behind me will never miss the feel of paper beneath their fingers. So maybe it does come down to nostalgia after all.
When I read articles like Kristen’s blog post, though, the wheels in my head start turning. I am starting to see that even if I follow the traditional path, there are other alternatives to consider. I can set limits and then change my line of attack. For example, I can submit queries to five agents, and while I wait the many weeks it can take to get a response, I can start researching self-publishing and digital media. I can attempt to get a contract with a major publisher, but if that falls through, I can take the reins and publish my book myself.
It is nice to know there are options. Maybe Kristen is right, after all.
It is an exciting time to be an author.
So what do you think? Will online ebook retailers replace physical bookstores? Will paper books be a thing of the past, something novel (pun intended) to keep as a reminder of days gone by? Do we really need NY publishing to tell us what is worth reading? Will the slow demise of NY publishing houses make it easier or more difficult for the new author? Or, will they surprise us all, throw the old game book out the window, and jump on the digital train?