The commercially printed word has, up until very recent times, been controlled by a few.
The only news or views you could read came via a newspaper or magazine. If you wanted to write articles, you become a journalist or professional writer.
Now, blogs are online in the millions. You can publish your thoughts, interviews, journal, opinion – just about anything at all – for anyone to read. Children, stay-at-home-mothers, homeschoolers, hobbyists, artists, amateur artists and photographers, religious groups – and last but not least – people who just want to rant, can have their writing out there.
And it was previously the same with books – if you wanted to write a book and have it published, you had to pass through a gatekeeper. I have to admit that I LOVE it that people are now free to publish what they choose. It’s like the blogging revolution all over again. Self-published (indie) books are on the rise – as traditional paper books or ebooks.
Today, I am somewhat gleefully celebrating the fact that electronic publishing is really blowing apart the thinking that we in publishing somehow know better and have better taste than the average reader.
When I read Twilight, I found it a little flowery and purple – but – I knew I would have loved it if I’d read it as a teenager. I would probably have been thrilled by the sparkliness of Edward. I thought the story had a fresh take on the vampire theme. Of course, at this age, my jaded heart couldn’t thrill to Twilight. I can imagine why so many agents knocked it back. But I’m not the reading public and I’m not millions of teenage girls and my opinion of Twilight matters naught.
But then, as Jessica Faust at Bookends said in a post in January 09, certain books land at the virtual doorsteps of agents and are shaped into the books that become bestsellers (and may not have been bestsellers without the extra oompf.)
What I think all readers need to know is that what one agent and one editor could do for a book another might not. In other words, just because a book was a bestseller doesn’t mean it would be a bestseller had it landed in the hands of another agent or another publishing house. Part of what makes that happen is the publisher’s enthusiasm and vision for the book. Another publisher might have had another vision (a different cover, a different marketing strategy, a different position on the list, etc).
So could Twilight have turned out much differently in the hands of a different agent/publisher and not been a bestseller? Interesting to ponder!
At this point in time, self-publishing a book is still frowned about by many as a ‘shortcut’. I believe it to be simply part of the ‘inevitable’. People can self-publish, easily and cheaply these days, and so they will. Just like blogging. (Though not exactly like blogging. After all, anyone can whip up a blog in minutes. A full-length novel or non-fiction book takes much time and effort. Many (most?) people who start a book will never finish it.)
It isn’t just indie authors who are saying positive things about self-publishing – it’s also quite a few agents and people within the publishing business.
In the short time I’ve been reading about self-publishing, it seems that the reasons people self-publish are extremely varied. Certainly, many don’t see it as a shortcut – the reasons I’ve seen so far include:
- as a business venture
- as a creative outlet
- because they were unhappy with decisions their current agent or publisher made with their career/books
- because their agent has been unsucessful in finding a publisher for their book
- to publish a backlist of books (the books’ rights having reverted to them.)
- because they believe they can make more money self-publishing with their particular book/s
- because they want to retain a greater percentage of royalties for their ebooks
- because traditional paths to publication didn’t work
- for their families or children
Of course, at the moment, if someone decides to self-publish a book, they will invariably be asked ‘why’. But no one would ask a blogger why they started up a blog – they are more likely to simply say, ‘good for you’.
Everyone has seen a blog with incorrect (or even terrible) grammar and spelling. Everyone has a seen a blog with information so poor you’d swear they wrote it upsidedown on the nose of an aeroplane in a snowstorm. Will we see self-published books that are the equaivalent of those blogs? Most probably. But do you spend time reading sub-standard blogs? No? I’m assuming that the sub-standard books will be filtered out just the same. You can read samples of a book online and decide whether to buy or not.
Blogging is an established, indie past time – and for some, a source of income. The self-publishing of books is gaining ground and becoming more familiar – and likely to rapidly change over the coming couple of years.
I admit to liking the thought of a book being through the traditional process of a publisher – with all the editing (structural edit, line edit, spell and grammar check etc etc) included. A blog seems informal and book on the other hand, is something I’m hopefully going to be invested in for the time I’m reading it. I want it to be without distraction.
I haven’t read a lot of self-published books, but I have seen those without errors, so it certainly isn’t the case they all are full of errors. I have to mention here that it’s often pointed out that Amanda Hocking’s self-published Young Adult books are full of errors and still sold like hotcakes. Her stories obviously trumped.
Perhaps new models will emerge for indie authors. It will be interesting to see where the indie/self-publishing rage goes from here.