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Saturday, 5 March 2011

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

An article by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, recently published in the Huffington Post, looked at the growing trend by writers to turn from traditional publishing and go the indie route. It claims that
a revolution is brewing that will topple Big Publishing as we know it.

The article lists a whole bunch of reasons of why this is happening - after all, the writer claims, even big name, professionally published writers are travelling the indie route. And the reasons for this, according to the article, are:

  • Advances are declining
  • Publishers reluctant to take chances on authors without established platforms
  • Most print books forced out of print before they've had a chance to reach readers
  • Authors expected to shoulder most post-publication marketing on their own dime
  • Lost and mismanaged rights
  • Brick and mortar retail distribution disappearing
  • Publishers value books through myopic prism of perceived commercial potential (publisher death panels)
  • Publishers acquire today what was hot yesterday so they can publish it 12-18 months from tomorrow
  • Publishers over-price and under-distribute author works
  • Publisher ebook royalties 17% list (25% net) vs 60-70% list (85-100% net) for self-publishing

Big Publishing, although it employs thousands of talented and well-intentioned professionals, is built upon a broken business model, Coker claims and points out that all the of the big eBook retailers -Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Amazon - have embraced indie ebook authors and grant their works equal shelf presence alongside Big Publishing authors. Readers, not publishers, have become the curators.

However given how easy it is the self publish digitally are we heading for a situation where every third person will be a self published author?

It stands to reason that there will be a lot of badly edited, badly written, eBooks out there. However there's a lot of  crap coming out from traditional publishing too.

It is likely that the big name authors of tomorrow will emerge from the indie scene. It's happened in the past with films and music, and will happen with books. Already many indie authors are making names for themselves and getting covered by mainstream magazines and newspapers - folk like Joe Konrath,, Amanda Hocking and Ann Nordin - and selling eBooks by the shed-load.

It is also obvious that a lot of deserving books have failed, for whatever reason to be picked up by traditional publishing, but by the same token there are a lot of books which are undeserving of publication that will now see their way onto the market via the self ePublishing route. What will happen is that it will be a mess out there and the fear is that readers, stung by several bad books, will be reluctant to try new authors and only those with the name of the big publishing houses behind them will thrive - we'll be back to the status quo then.

It's all very well and empowering for the likes of Amazon, Kobo, etc to make self publishing so easy, but surely there should be some quality control. As it stands someone could write a ten page short story, just bang it out in a couple of hours, do no editing at all, not even read the thing once it's written, and have it on sale with all the major eRetailers this afternoon. Too much of this and readers will learns that the big eRetailers may offer quantity but not necessarily quality.

Whatever happens we are living in eInteresting times.

1 comment:

Ron Scheer said...

Marketing drives readers' purchase decisions most of the time, and I don't think that will change. It finds a way to hog attention for a product and push other products off the shelf.

Word of mouth plays a big role, as well as the herd instinct. Consumers tend to want what everybody else wants. Thus crappy books, like a lot of other crappy products, will go on getting sold by the shed-load, as you say.

This guy's arguing that people will stop buying ebooks if they make too many bad purchases. I don't see that happening. When crap is cheap, people keeping buying and hope they'll get lucky - or they figure crap is as good as it gets. Those big super-discount stores would go out of business if this weren't the case.