I had to comment on this eventually. It is my opinion and my opinion only. I am not an industry insider, just a writer who has noticed some things.
This has been a hot and intense topic within the writing and publishing worlds for awhile now. I have seen the debate rage on Twitter and blogs, and the lines are often drawn in the sand the same way: editors, agents, and publishers on one side, writers on another. My question is…why?
This evolution of technology has hit every other industry, from music to newspapers. Why did anyone think that the book publishing industry would not go through the same transformation? At this point, you have to either adapt or become extinct.
Here is what is freaking out so many on the “e-publishing is a phase/won’t last/can’t replace trad” side: it would eliminate most of them. If I can just go to a site like Smashwords and publish my novel there, without an editor’s red pen or an agent’s connections, I have no use for them. Granted, this means that you’ll have e-books that read like a 6-year-old wrote them, but there will be quality books amongst them. Editors are still needed to fix those 6-year-old books or glance over some of the better ones. Agents…we’ll see.
I know what some people are thinking now: “I want my book on a shelf in a bookstore, I want a best seller. That’s not going to happen through e-books.”
Okay, perhaps these people have different reasons for writing than myself. I write because I must and because I want to connect people through it. I would like to make an income from writing, but I don’t need a bestseller. Would I like to see one of my books in Barnes & Noble? Sure, although I’m a bit nervous about that prospect now that they are closing one of their biggest stores in New York City. Heck, there is mess starting up over B&N going up for sale.
As far as best seller potential, well, that’s kind of tough no matter which route you take.
Then there is the subject of promotion. Look, authors are going to have to do some leg work to promote themselves no matter which route they choose. They have to have an online presence if they hope to sell anything, and they have to be willing to step out from behind their desks at least a little bit. They will probably have to use some of their own money to promote as well. I honestly believe that the days of million dollar advances and all expense paid book tours are over for most of us…at least for now.
I do believe that the traditional publishing houses can survive these lovely growing pains the industry is going through. They have to be willing to adapt, though. That is the key word for everyone who is in this business or wants to be in this business: adapt. When the smoke clears from this revolution (it is a revolution, by the way), I think everyone can still be standing. They might be standing in different places, or in different clothes, but everyone can still be standing.
Things are changing: adapt to it.
PS- I guess I never really said if one was better than another, did I? I have a personal preference to e-publishing, but I would never knock the traditional route, either. It’s up to the writer. Just make sure you know all of the pros and cons of whichever route you take.
Here’s another take on the issue: How will it affect readers?