Sun 4 Mar 2012
Posted by Mary Anne under The E-book Industry
Alan Jacobs of The Atlantic posted a piece entitled: Digital Self-Publishing: Should Publishers Be Worried? In the article, he says: “John O’Hara, who long ago wrote the book for the musical Pal Joey, based on his own novel. When the play was making a big run on Broadway, two friends of O’Hara’s bumped into him on the streets of New York. “Oh John,” they cooed, “We just saw Pal Joey again, and we enjoyed it even more than the first time!” O’Hara snarled, “What the hell was wrong with it the first time?”"
Jacobs’ piece also quotes Colorado College’s librarian Steve Lawson’s Piece. Lawson’s article is entitled: Publishers Hate You. You Should Hate Them Back. Lawson says:
So library-types, let’s get our story straight. Publishers have contempt for the authors they need to write works, and the readers they need to read works. Publishers are scared that the internet is going to disintermediate their asses into the dustbin of history, and the best response that many of them have come up with is to express their fear through hatred. For all the things that we might need to improve in libraries or apologize for, this isn’t one of them.
Jacobs reply is basically as follows, although you should read the whole piece:
But one of the illusions most common to writers — an illusion that may make the long slow slog of writing possible, for many people — is that an enormous audience is out there waiting for the wisdom and delight that I alone can provide, and that the Publishing System is a giant obstacle to my reaching those people. Thus the dream that digital publishing technologies will indeed “disintermediate” — will eliminate that obstacle and connect me directly to what Bugs Bunny calls “me Public.” (See “Bully for Bugs”.) And we have heard just enough unexpected success stories to keep that dream alive.
Well, here’s hoping. But a couple of months ago I decided to dip my toes into these waters: I wrote a longish essay called “Reverting to Type” about my own history as a reader — a kind of personal epilogue to The Pleasures of Reading — and decided to submit it as a Kindle Single. Amazon wasn’t interested, so I decided to publish it myself using Kindle Direct Publishing. I announced its existence to the world: that is, I posted a link on my tumblelog and tweeted about it. A few people downloaded it; some pointed out typos that I had missed, but that a copy editor surely would have caught. I thought about ways to promote it better but haven’t been able to come up with anything other than becoming a self-promoting jerk on Twitter. Last time I checked it had sold 98 copies
I’m an indie author who distributes through Smashwords, KDP, Pubit for B&N and most recently, All Romance eBooks. My books sit on the virtual shelves beside great work published by big companies and indie authors alike. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve sold a lot more than 98 copies of my work – I don’t have the number but I’ve sold thousands. I’ve (probably – haven’t totaled them) sold at least 98 so far this month across the channels and it’s only 4 days into March. And NO, my numbers don’t IN ANY WAY even begin to compare to some of the success stories, like Amanda Hocking’s for example. All in all, self publishing is a lot of work, but the rewards are amazing. Some of the reward is monetary – extra money to supplement yet another family struggling in this economy. Much of the reward is simply having my work out there to be loved and hated – and yes, it has received both responses.
When I started self publishing I wrote long blogs about how companies like Smashwords would break through and destroy the walls of the publishing royals castles. I continue to think that self publishing has greatly, greatly enriched the literary world and, more importantly, that it has empowered the reader to decide whether or not the work is worth her money. No longer do the publishing companies’ systems and slush piles serve as socially acceptable censors.
Now, however, I’m farther along on my journey and my attitude has changed slightly. Yes, I think self publishing has already destroyed the castle walls so that all writers can get their work to readers. Yes, work from the big companies usually – but not always – sells better, but the market share of those companies will go the way of the castle walls. I think we’re headed for greater equality which is always a good thing.
I believe that publishing companies who change the way they do business can adapt, survive and succeed. I believe that they will have to adopt an Amazon approach and partner with writers, showing a willingness to throw out the old models and craft individual deals that recognize writers as important business partners with individual needs and concerns. I don’t think publishing will survive in any kind of “one size fits all” way.
In the long run, I hope that publishers do adapt to the digital world. I’ve read many great published books and hope to read many more. Today, I’ve come far enough along my journey to wish publishers who adapt and change – and especially the writers who partner with them – great success.
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