Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pirates, Gatekeepers and Darwinian Publishing Part III

One of the supposed dangers of the Internet is the possibility that a few search engines or providers will dominate the net and therefore will be able to surreptitiously direct us to their preferred customers or supress sites they don't agree with. As of this writing Google accounts for 66% of Internet searches. Unless you include non-traditional (isn't that delicious) search 'engines' like Facebook, which accounts for about half of all searches in the US. Add the dozens of watchdog/reporting/marketing services like Search Engine Watch, and the hundreds of industry specific search services, eGroups devoted to one thing or another, blogs, etc and you realize there is no chance of a monopoly taking over the Internet.

Unless it's the Feds of course. That would be 'snowball earth' scenario in our little Darwinian world. But I digress.

For writers there is no better time and there is no worse time. All the known, comfortable ways of publishing seem to be changing, morphing before our eyes. Each week we learn some new thing that opens up possibilities, yet confuses our path even more. Query letters? Agents? ePub? Self ePub? Start our own publishing house? (It's easier than you think, they're springing up like weeds.)

Kindle, Smashwords, Pubit, and the like offer unprecedented access to world markets. Oh, yeah, you need a killer cover, and marketing blog/website/twitter/facebook pages that establish your platform, or as Kathryn Craft put it, your 'street cred' for whatever you're writing. And you better get your branding right.

Confusing, mind numbing, head-spinning changes and terms, yet more and more authors are choosing to epub their own works. Established mid-list authors are reissuing their back-lists to establish revenue streams from otherwise unavailable novels. New authors are publishing their first books. Services exist that will get you an ISBN number and push your book through the process that puts it on Kindle, Nook, and other eBook outlets. New services are springing up to design covers, web sites, blogs to develop the branding and platform for eAuthors.

Oops, I think I just coined a term, eAuthor.

So lets assume anyone can do this (and if you're smart and persistent enough to write a novel you can do this) what are the consequences? What happens when anyone who wants to publish a book can do so at little or no cost except personal effort?

First off, virtually all novels are written on spec, that is you write it, then shop it around and try to sell it. That means there are a lot of unpubed novels sitting on hard drives. I suspect a flood will hit Amazon, Pubit, Nook, etc. over the next two years as ebooks become more 'legit' and people become savvy about how to publish them. Many of them will be trash, of course, and will sink without a trace.

But among them will be dozens, or even hundreds, of runaway best sellers. And thousands of mid-list books, none of which would have seen the light of day without self-epublishing. Thousands more will find a large enough 'niche' market to make decent money for their authors without ever reaching the mid-list.

Successful authors will write and publish more eBooks, the unsuccessful will get better or disappear. Sites like Goodreads will help us tell each other about the good ones.

Remember the market is word-wide and the information is free.

When main stream reviewers see this, some of them anyway, will turn to the eList (Oops, coined another term) for books to review. That may take a while, especially for the self-pubd. Eventually main stream publishers will also recognize the value to be found in the eList, and contracts will be offered to top selling authors.

This means that we, the writers, will increasingly choose what to offer the public, and the public will increasingly choose what is successful. There are few gatekeepers in this ePub world to tell us what we can or can't have.

In essence self-epublishing for novels will become a world sized Helium, brutally Darwinian in its selection process and brilliant in its ultimate output.

It's what real competition is about.

I can't wait.


  1. Great post! I've been saying for a months - capitalism at its best and I'm not much of a capitalist! I think you nailed the future of publishing - it may happen in fits and starts, but it will happen and the cream will rise to the top.

  2. Interesting post, Bart. I think for most writers, a strong online presence, or the supposrt of companies with a strong online presence, is going to be all but essential within the next few years.

  3. Isn't it an exciting time to be a writer? I've been banging away at writing for over seventeen years and WOW have the times changed. Excellent thought-provoking post!

  4. Great post Bart! It is an exciting thing and I'm happy to say that I've been part of it. I had my first book published as an ebook and through an independent publisher and so far, I'm loving it!