18 July 2011

Publishing: Tortoise vs Hare

Traditionally publishing has been survival of the most persistent. There have always been writers who sold quickly, but most traditionally published writers struggled for years, sometimes decades, with rejections and self doubt. When they were finally published, they had already proved their worth.

Things have changed.

These days, anybody with a completed manuscript—no matter the length, the genre, or the quality—can become a published author and be sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places. Good thing? Bad thing? I say it’s both.

The good. Previously published books that would probably only be available in used bookstores, if at all. Today they’re enjoying new life as freshly released ebooks, and these books have the potential shelf life of forever. Also in the good category are those writers who write hard to classify books. Books that publishers and bookstores would have a hard time shelving, inspirational erotica, for instance,  or science fiction, mystery, romantic horror. Also, there is a place for books that only appeal to a small segment of the population, red headed dog lovers from Alaska, for instance. This gives readers more choice. Choice is good.

The bad. I remember when I finished my first novel-length manuscript. Like everybody else, I thought I’d written a masterpiece. I had written another “masterpiece” and started a third before I had the guts to submit. By then, I’d collected a pile of rejections for short stories. Still, having my “baby” that I’d worked and revised repeatedly over years rejected hurt. Really hurt. If today’s easy publishing had been available then, would I have published my “masterpiece”? Probably. Would I be embarrassed now? Yes. Would I be as good a writer without the struggle? No. Absolutely not.

Today’s easy, and much more accepted, self-publishing will produce some real masterpieces, and some “masterpieces” that might have a lot of potential, but not the seasoning. Like a recipe without the spices. Maybe not horrible, but not nearly as good as it could be. And maybe word has gotten around that those books are not that good. That writer will have a hard time convincing people that their newly published books really are masterpieces. Like any technology, self-publishing can be used for good or bad.

In the end, readers decide who becomes bestsellers, who are one book wonders, and who are writers who may not attract a huge audience, but are consistent sellers. The face of publishing has changed, but its heart continues to beat inside each and every reader.

Have a great week!

Post a Comment