So as I was not-writing, I happened upon an article that makes ten “bold” predictions about the future of book publishing, specifically fiction.
It seems to me that there’s a big divide in the literary community on the fate of the big publishing house.
There’s the traditionalists, who are convinced that the big publishing houses are here to stay, that they are too strong, too well-established to go anywhere. Yes, they concede that there may be changes, but things will stay more or less the same. This group isn’t just populated by the dinosaurs who are terrified of change, either. There are more than a few people in my own generation who hold this belief, an opinion that they are entitled to.
Then there’s the futurists, like the writer of that article. They believe that the e-book is killing the big publisher, that big changes are afoot and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it.
Both sides have their points: the traditionalist recognizes that there are things that publishing houses can do that self-published authors can not. Sure, an author can hire copy-editors, designers, and marketers, but they often come with a large price tag that many simply can’t afford. However, the futurist understands that with e-books an author has a much closer relationship to their audience and get a substantially larger cut of the profits.
And while each side has their up and down shots, I’m going to firmly place myself in the camp of the futurist.
E-books are the future not only because the writer has a more direct line to his audience, but also because there will simply be more writers in general.
Back in the day, (By which I mean 5-10 years ago) self-publishing a book meant that 1) your book wasn’t good enough to be “really” published and 2) that you were too stupid/stubborn to realize it.
However, there are some things that need to be understood about the publishing industry. We often forget that they are for profit. And so when they invest money in books, especially from new authors, they are investing in what they consider to be a risk. A book can be well written and well thought out and still be rejected by a publishing house because the house thinks selling the book will be too big of a risk. Take all of the classics written by famous authors that were rejected. In retrospect, these publishers look ridiculously foolish. We slap our heads and say “How could they have possibly rejected Lolita?! It’s a literary masterpiece!” But at the time, these publishers saw these books as risks they were unwilling to take.
Now, I’m not saying that every book rejected by publishers is a literary masterpiece slipping through the cracks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: many manuscripts deserve to be rejected. But there are some that do not, and I would rather see a hundred shitty books get published than see one masterpiece get rejected.
In fact, that’s actually another one of the main arguments against self-published e-books: there’s a mountain of shit that readers need to wade through before they find anything worth reading. And while this might be true, I ask what isn’t that true for? For any product you’re examining, there’s gonna be an almost infinite number of inferior versions for every one great version. Why can’t this be true for e-books? It’s definitely true for regular books: just go to any grocery store and I promise you won’t recognize most of the titles/authors they have.
It’s no secret or surprise that our culture is getting stupider with every passing day. What we need is a Renaissance. And the e-book revolution can be part of this rebirth. How many new books will be put out solely because a person now has the means to without jumping through the hoops of the publisher? Not only will there be more books, but they will also be a purer version of the author’s vision, as they have complete creative control right down to what the cover looks like.
But don’t get me wrong, there will still be a deluge of shitty writing put out. But studding the shit will be gems of unimaginable worth and beauty. So don’t count the self-published e-book out, as it has vast potential for the modern writer. I know that change is scary, especially a change as massive as this one, but it is for the better. Any change that fosters creativity and gives people a voice is a change for the better.