It’s an undeniable truth that the traditional publishing industry is floundering, even if they don’t realize it, and the reason is the power of e-publishing and self-publishing. Agents and traditional publishers have long been plagued by the problem of trying to guess what people want to read, and making their selection on what to accept based on that. They rely on their “tried and true” authors to keep cranking out work that will appeal to audiences and almost never take a chance on a new author, even if their work is interesting. It’s just too risky to take a chance on making an investment that might not pay off, even though they do it with their regular list all the time and still lose. At least epublishing and self publishing allow new authors a chance to get their work in front of a niche audience and gauge their interest in the work so they can adapt, adjust, and improve their skills. You can’t do that if you’re being rejected by big or mid-list publishers every day. It leaves you in the same situation they’re in – guessing what a moving target wants. And yes, it’s a moving target because trends change all the time, and what’s popular today might be the thing they’re spoofing and making fun of tomorrow while they embrace “the next new thing” which, unfortunately, we only see in retrospect.
I read a blog article Thursday named 5 Reasons to Admire Self-Publishing, by Alison Baverstock, and it turns out that most of those things are what all authors should be doing anyway. The only difference is that self-published authors direct all of their hard work and effort into a productive effort of putting their work out there instead of constantly knocking on doors that may never open for them. They take a chance and put it in front of the readers instead of begging “the experts” for a chance. Because whether you’re self published or traditionally published, the burden of producing work, capturing the interest of readers, and promoting your published work falls on you, the author. Even big publishers will only do a limited amount of publicity around your release date. Keeping interest up in the responsibility of the author.
I often hear people say that we still need the traditional publishing industry because self publishing allows anybody and everybody to publish a book, and there’s a lot of crap out there because there’s no quality control. I can’t deny that yes, you see a wide gamut of talent through self publishing, but I don’t think there’s a complete lack of quality control. The quality control is where it’s supposed to be – between the readers and the writers. Writers are tasked with putting their best work out there for the public to enjoy, and readers can help improve the quality by rating and reviewing the work they read. Believe it or not, writers rely heavily on good, constructive reviews so they know what the reader wants and how to adjust to deliver it, either through edits to their current work or to developing new work. Even if you don’t like it, you can help the author by articulating exactly what it was that kept you from entering the “suspension of belief” phase with their work so they know how to fix it. “I hated it” isn’t helpful, but a “the characters were good but I didn’t believe they would react to such and such situation the way they did given their personality quirks” is constructive advice that the writer can use to improve. And if the reader likes it, then such reviews are also helpful. We all like “I loved it!” but what’s helpful is “I liked it because I could relate to how the character reacted to such and such situation and appreciated how it affected his/her perspective on their life situation.” Reviews help tremendously, and if readers will engage more by posting them, then I believe the quality of self-published work that you see on the market will improve drastically over time.
That’s not to say that the traditional publishing industry is broken, or that it’s demise is imminent. Certainly it isn’t, and I don’t forsee a day when it won’t exist, but a new day is upon us. I believe that the Internet has opened up the world to allow people to enjoy entertainment by independent artists that would otherwise be denied by the traditional industry. Traditional publishers and institutions would be wise to keep an eye on trends in the indie world to see what people really want, and to adjust accordingly. After all, the niche markets shouldn’t be underestimated. That’s where the trends are born, and that’s where the “next big thing” is taking shape, perhaps this very minute.
That’s all today. I hope you have a great weekend.