Looking over a few posts this morning from indie success stories like Joe Konrath and a few others - I have some thoughts. When Penguin came out with a self pub option on their critique site "Book Country" the other day the entire publishing world sat up and took notice. A major, one of the "Big Six", offering self publishing? You heard me right. Controversy immediately erupted as scrutiny of what you get for the $500+ fee proved it to be not-so-good-of-a-deal - according to some. I however have found that $549 isn't that high at all but you still need to do your own editing and cover and formatting too I think. (AND that's a grind and pain I think some techie needs to address and standardize). Also, many might think they're chances of getting noticed by the people behind this, from Penguin, might be a possibility since they own the site and you gotta think they're looking for talent, right?. After all they have the top echelon editors and publishing heavy hitters over there. Or maybe they're, Penguin, just jumping on the cash flow bandwagon and if they are maybe more major houses will do the same and elevate the self pub industry for us all. As for me, I don't see how their influence can hurt, in that, it's a very competitive marketplace, self publishing is and it was bound to go mainstream because of the success of some authors doing it. I can't say for sure but I can say this: Many authors who have been passed over and others who might have been accepted by a major house, that is to say - their books, both types are taking the indie route. I've heard of a few bestselling authors going indie (Barry Eisler) and of course as I mentioned, vice versa. There are success stories on either side of the fence and I know this for a fact since I have have several major author friends in both worlds and ALL agree on one thing: Good writing will find it's way to the readers out there. Period.
I do reviews of books too, mostly on Goodreads, although I've tapered my activity lately since I working full bore on my own novel, but, along with many other reviewers I was seeing many indie efforts, some good, some not-so-good. Many fear, including myself, that the indie revolution will have a lot of writers thinking they are authors ready for the big stage, when they're not, and this includes me as well. It's easy to think just because you can push a book out there that that makes one an author. But it doesn't.
Listen, I never tell anyone NOT to try, I haven't yet, but let's face it many of us have a ways to go before our work and sales will make headlines, and, clever marketing will only get you so far. Though, again, I've seen mediocre writers with pro level marketing skills sell lots of books too, so.....AND, I can totally see Joe and Amanda's perspective. They have opted for the marketing power of a major house and honestly: I would too. Both, good writers with superior marketing knowledge, at the least, and what they know preceded many in the industry of indie authors AND, with a decent back-list, well, we see what can happen..
It's inspiring and at the same time confusing, at least at first glance. Amanda made a good point back when she signed her pub deal, a major deal, last year. And though many were put off by her "defection" from the self pub ranks, me, I was cheering her on, knowing that underneath this breakthrough was hope for ALL indie authors both to remain indie or sign a deal. In either case both her and Joe broke new ground.
From a traditional publisher point of view I can understand their concern with the whole indie thing however as I reflect of the situation I'm thinking that maybe they wouldn't accept any more authors into their ranks then they ever did, indie stampede or not. The ones they did, and will, well, I'm pretty sure it was a matter of sales not so much a matter of love for their work.
The real revolution in my view isn't indie authors but eBooks and the publishers are jumping all over it, though, I think they were very slow on the draw. This was something that surprised me, how few major's saw the eBook thing coming and moreover, how slow they were to pick up on it. The fact of the matter boys and girls is that eBooks will be the biggest sales portion of the market in terms of books, soon. Now, does that mean a year or two or three? I don't know but the trend is there and all it really means to you as a author is that you damn well better make sure your book is formatted for the eReaders out there and you better learn the ropes of uploading it to the big sales sites in internet land.
Print? Yes, sure, why not. Just do your homework on that one, there's a lot of predatory companies out there. I say go with Create Space from Amazon and bag ALL the vanity presses.
As in any expanding wild west frontier, I'm seeing new companies spring up by the dozen, every day. From formatting, editing, and book promotion to just about everything, including some who will do the writing for you....and, like anything else you need to do your homework, read the latest in indie news AND major publishing news. Yes, BOTH. And, plug into the better writer blogs and book reviewers and keep your critical consumer nose into the wind. Stash a little money for a book promo co. that has a lot going on and look for a great graphic artist for your cover. Stuff like that.
If you plan to self publish then you better learn how to network, study trends, discern BS from the real deal, plan on being VERY active in social media and integrate ALL of this stuff into your program, EVERY DAY.
Oh yeah....and write too....and find a good editor.....and a beta and critique group....or marry someone highly placed in the publishing world. I'm just saying, the indie thing is a lot to bite off and don't ever forget to become the best possible writer first, then become a marketer and social media guru second, or third, or whatever.....
Don't be confused by it all, and don't be overwhelmed by ANY of it. At the end of the day it's about getting a good story, YOUR story, into the hands of someone who will love it enough and tell others and buy your next few books too. The brave new world of publishing is simply a world of more opportunites.
My guess is that once the public adjusts to the market shifts, they will be just as discerning with their dollars and their time as they are in other areas of purchase.
Also, it looks like there's a lot more going on out there than there actually is. Technology is moving quickly and even with tech stuff it's ALWAYS about the money. People will still spend on entertainment (and that's what it is darling....) even in a bad economy. Less, yes. Maybe. I also believe that was and is a big help to the eBook market, since eBooks are generally cheaper. Hard cover sales would have dropped even without eBooks. No one wants to spend $30 on a book, in a tight economy, when it will come out in PPBK (80% of the market) soon and even though the publishers are all crying they are also grateful for the eBook thing too, it's saving their asses. And it's offering unknown writers out there a chance to get their work in front of people that would never have had the opportunity.
Me? I'm working very hard on mastering the art and craft of writing. I live it, eat it, drink it, sleep it and think about it every waking second of the day. I know a little about life in the online fast-lane and hopefully it will help me get my work in front of the right people both on the industry side and the reader side - those who I hope will love my characters. When I'm ready, that is.
The better I become as a writer the better my voice as an author is. Fact.
The rest of it? Man, I have no idea but like I said: Get yourself in the mix and keep your nose in the wind. Don't say NO to anything until you figure out if you need, or will need, to know it and use it.
I grew up an avid reader, mostly thriller, high action stuff and I am still a huge fan of this genre. I'm also a writer in this genre. My love for the classics, what I grew up reading too, sustained me when life was bleakest, in my darkest days. Great writers were the deepest and most intense source of wisdom and inspiration for me in those days and now as a writer I understand what they must have gone through to become the caliber of author they were and it humbles me to my knees. To ever be counted among them is a dream that lives beyond a thousand hills, but a journey to a home I've never been to is one I have undertaken nonetheless.
For me, to me, eBooks, indie this, traditional that, whatever, all of it, is just tinsel on a great and mighty tree I hope to one day be.
Love, passion, depth and integrity of character, fearless sincerity,clarity and pure motive are my aspirations and my inspiration. They will always rule and reign in my heart first and foremost and motivate my struggle to learn how to translate these profound elements of life to the written word.
How about you?
....you know where to find me...