Just read an interesting blog by Michael A. Stackpole, author of many books including the Star Wars X-Wing series. He talks about the harsh reality many authors face in the publishing world. At the end of his blog he brings up an alternative rout the author can take, self-published eBooks.
The eBook is a downloadable book you can read in your hand held Blackberry, iphone, iPad, Nook, or Kindle. This may not seem like the ideal way to read something that is 300+ pages. But it turns out with the Nook and Kindle at least, E ink is paving the way for electronic reading that looks as real as any page.
But what about the quality of eBooks? You can already download many well known authors out there that have been tested through the fires of a publishing company. I’d like to discuss a more intriguing prospect though. Aspiring authors have the ability to write a book so that it is directly downloaded for anyone to buy thanks to companies like Smashwords. This means, no publisher at all stands between the hallowed transaction between writer and reader. Authors would be indie and self published.
A valid concern with beginning authors (like myself) adding their hordes of stories, is there would be less editing going on. Thus the quality of well-written books could go down. Can you imagine? All the horrible indie writers you would have to trudge through just to get to a good one? I’m talking about shelves of them with catchy names and covers, but soulless mundane stories within.
Unfortunately, this already happens in bookstores all over the world. It is a huge risk to buy a brand new book without any prier knowledge of its quality, daring to take a chance on something that looks interesting. This is why buying books on line has already taken on so well. Online stores offer you the chance to read what other people thought before you buy it.
Another concern, you need the publisher to make sure it is a well written novel. I once entered a bookstore and bought a book thinking the very same thing. The back cover was a glowing description of intrigue. I flipped through the first few pages, seemed like a pretty nifty story. Then I bought the book, went home and read it. Turns out that with all the editors that looked through it, all the time the author may have put on it, all the effort it took for the publisher to publish it, all the trees that died to make it, all the paint the painter used to compose the front cover, all of this and still the book sucked. I wasted 8 dollars and a few days of my life to uncover this atrocity.
How can opening another avenue for authors to sell their stuff be any worse then this? More importantly, how could the indie author be better off than the published one?
Cut out the middle men and a much cheaper alternative presents itself. With publishers you have people trying to sell books. That is it. You’d think they would always want good books to sell because that would only make since. The problem is, they have to make money. With good books few and far between they have to sell whatever is standing around.
Micheal Stackpole pointed out in his blog that it doesn’t even make a business since to sell tree-books. 5% of all authors in a publishing house make 100% of the profit. That means less then 1% are made from cold sells, which is grabbing a book from a random author and buying it. Since a writer only makes 80 cents for every tree-book sold, it even means less money for the aspiring new author to have. All of this makes eBooks much more inviting to the bookstore and the author.
The indie writer would make more than half of what he/she sells. They also choose how high they wish to sell their product. This is because the book is completely owned by the author, which gives him more incentive to write something worth selling. He doesn’t have to fret about what a hundred executives are telling him to do. He doesn’t have to accept a crappy book cover. He chooses his own editors. He can use blogs and the internet to advertise his work. In the end, it is up to him wither the book sells or tanks.
What about all the crappy eBooks that will be written? This is where we the people come in. We must all be the critics. Through the internet we can compose lists of indie authors we enjoy reading. By sharing that list via word of mouth, we promote the better ones. A few wise guy critics are bound to make a site where they give their reviews. Sure enough as sure as butter meets bread, you have a revolution where the reader and the author are that much closer. With a vocal consumer, only the most most well-written literature would make it.
This is only the beginning though. There is no telling where indie eBooks will go. Indie films are still not making as much as Hollywood movies. Indie music seems far behind the music industry in sells. But with indie books it isn’t quite as complicated. There is no need to hire directors and actors, musicians and sound men. Every major bookstore chain is willing to distribute your work, from Amazon to Barnes and Nobel. All you need is a word processor, a clever way to advertise it, and a willingness to write.