There was a ridiculous article last week in the Wall Street Journal called “Cherish The Book Publishers – You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone.”
I was going to write a take-down of this, but Kris Rusch and Joe Konrath beat me to it. You should check out both their responses. Krus Rusch goes point-by-point, and Joe Konrath, in a post titled “The Tsunami of Crap”, laughs at the ridiculousness of it all:
“Some people believe the ease of self-publishing means that millions of wannabe writers will flood the market with their crummy ebooks, and the good authors will get lost in the morass, and then family values will go unprotected and the economy will collapse and the world will crash into the sun and puppies and kittens by the truckload will die horrible, screaming deaths.”
Michael Stackpole weighed in too with an exploration of the genesis of this myth. All worth reading.
I’m not going to follow suit, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, and this carp is already riddled with bullets. In any event, I’ve already dealt conclusively with the myth that a “mountain of crap” will prevent good writers from making a living in this blog post.
Also, as Kris Rusch pointed out, it’s hardly a new story, and snooty bloggers, as well as various people invested in the status quo, have been pushing this line for some time.
I’m sure you remember last month’s hullabulloo instigated by one publisher hysterically claiming that 99c self-published e-books were “destroying minds“.
What was interesting to me about this Wall Street Journal article was that it was trying to elicit sympathy for the billion dollar corporations that have lost their monopoly over book distribution.
And it was also trying to spread fear about how horrible the world would be without the gatekeepers that shut out tons of new writers to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into books by Snooki and The Situation.
But I don’t want to talk about that. Instead, I want to look at all the terrible developments since the rise of self-publishing:
1. No More Disappearing Genres. Before, if you were a fan of a genre that New York declared “dead”, as happened with Horror and Westerns, you would struggle to find any new books. Self-publishers have shown there is life in these genres, and that readers were craving new books. This is good for readers and good for writers.
2. Writers have more options. So you went on submission with your agent, and only got one lousy offer. Before, your only choice was to swallow your pride and accept, or write another book. Now you can self-publish, make some money, build your audience, and still pursue that trade publishing dream if you wish. And, if you could never crack the system, now you are no longer barred from reaching your readers.
3. Writers are getting fairer pay. We put all the blood, sweat, and tears into a book. Why should we only get 8% (or less) on paperback sales? Why should a publisher keep 52.5% of e-book royalties? Well, we don’t have to take that deal anymore. We can get a 70% cut through selling on Amazon, or even more through our own websites.
4. Writers are getting more control. We can decide how our book is presented, when it is published, and what price it will sell for.
5. Readers are getting a bigger selection. Anyone that does a lot of traveling will know that every airport bookstore looks the same. It’s like there is a list of 20 writers somewhere, and they can only stock those books. And if you don’t like those writers, tough. Not anymore. Now you can buy whatever you like, wherever you like, whenever you like.
6. Readers are getting cheaper books. $12.99 for an e-book? $14.99? Or would you rather $4.99? What about $2.99?
7. Writers are trying new things. Short story collections were always a “hard sell”. So were novellas. So were longer books. None of that matters anymore. We can self-publish whatever we like. And guess what? It turns out readers like short stories. They like novellas.
8. Writers can write more. Before they were told they could only release one book a year. Prolific writers were forced to adopt a number of different pseudonyms, often having to build a new audience from scratch each time. Not anymore. And surprise, surprise, readers can handle more books written by their favorites.
9. Writers can earn more. After you had sold a short story, the reprints, and managed to get it into an anthology, the market was pretty much tapped out for that story. Now, you can self-publish it, and earn money off it forever. And those backlists that fell out of print? Turns out there were readers for those too.
10. More people are reading. Every day I get messages from people who say that since they bought their Kindle or iPhone, that they have taken up reading again, or they are reading more than ever. Lower priced books allow them to purchase more than they ever did before.
Well, we can’t inflict that upon the world. It only seems to benefit readers and writers. Sorry, self-publishing, it’s back into the box for you.