Last year I wrote a post called Brave New World of Publishing and many readers have asked for a follow up. So here it is, although I admit I am more confused than ever. The debate has become increasingly hotter and the cross-currents of opinions make the waters ever murkier.
A short summary of the chatter by “experts” in the publishing trade is that the Big Six publishers are generally behind the curve and have underestimated the vast impact of e-books on their business models. Literary agents are in danger of becoming redundant as hundreds of thousands of writers now self publish (usually) e-books and flood the market already saturated with too many books. Agents who survive are retooling themselves into author’s guides in the self-publishing process.
Writer’s find the least difficult part of the process is the actual writing. Once they decide to self-publish they become a one-man publishing house designing a cover, writing their own copy, formatting the manuscript, placing it with online e-book sellers (by-passing brick and mortar stores who are quickly going bust in the same way as the mom and pop grocery store disappeared twenty years ago as Walmart took over the grocery market.) Then for the writer comes the hardest (and often the most expensive part) promotion and selling. A handful of authors strike it rich on the Internet. But they are the ones who make the headlines while hundreds and thousands of their fellow writers do not sell even one copy to the general public. The writers buy copies of their own books to give as house gifts to family and friends.
On the other hand, writers who self publish retain the rights to their work, have a greater part of the profits if the book succeeds, are independent and no longer on the receiving end of impersonal rejection letters from agents. For those writers who successfully woo an agent it can be years before the agent finds a publisher and more years before the publisher publishes one’s book. Whereas you can complete a self-publishing project in six weeks once you are satisfied that the manuscript is ready for publication. You can have a page on amazon.com before most agents will have read and responded to your query letter!
All this leads to a company like Amazon reporting a few months back that for the first time they sold more e-books than paper this past year. Great! Yes, great for Amazon who get to sell a gazillion books on their Kindles, not so good for the hundreds of thousands of self published writers who maybe get to sell three each of those books. We would all have scored big time if we had bought shares in Amazon fifteen years ago.
But the dream never dies. I have four published books, three by traditional publishers and one self-published. I see merits in both paths to publication, especially now that more and more publishing professionals agree that e-books are a stepping stone and not a red flag to agents. Currently I am working on another novel. This is the third year for this novel as I only have time to write in the summer. I know all of the above facts and as I read more and more about the current state of the world of publishing, I ask myself: am I crazy? Yet, I am working on a story I believe must be told. I love my two protagonists. I gain enormous pleasure from the process of seeing my words and ideas falling into place on the computer screen. I am nowhere near having a complete manuscript. Given that I am not sure what route I’ll take to seek publication (if ever) perhaps it is a good thing that I have months, even years, to go.