Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sink or swim, it's raining ebooks

First, read (or at least scan) this:

Publishing Is Broken, We're Drowning In Indie Books - And That's A Good Thing - by David Vinjamuri

It's a timely and telling article on the state of the publishing industry with a specific question for indies: Is Indie Publishing Good or Bad for Authors?

It's hard not to think that Vinjamuri has his own ideas on that question. After all, one of the earliest points he makes is this:

"Bestselling authors who are talented and hard working [...] are inclined to believe that publishing is a meritocracy where the best work by the most diligent writers gets represented, acquired, published and sold. But this is demonstrably untrue."

The writer goes on to look at how the traditional publishing industry got into its current fix. The content of the article is good, especially when it comes to identifying where the current publishing system is broken and how the indie publishing movement has stepped up to fill in some of the gaps left by changes wrought by industry policies and market forces.

Where the article really shines, however, is in the quotes from indie writer superstars Hugh Howey and Robert Bidinotto. One of the most telling examples:

"No customer going to Amazon knows what is traditionally published or independently published – and they don’t care. They’re interested in an experience that will educate or entertain them." - Robert Bidinotto, former journalist turned indie author

That's a powerful statement because it questions the traditional wisdom that New York publishing houses (the so-called Big Six which currently supply at least half of all books sold in the US) are the ultimate arbiters of content, style and taste when it comes to what the reading public - you - will have offered to them. The idea that they might not be is dynamite. And the Big Six are, variously, struggling to figure out what to do about it.

Here's another potent quote, this one by Hugh Howey, on how indie publishing is different from traditional publishing:

"I don’t have to compete with the price of mainstream publishers. They used to have the price advantage with economies of scale and the realities of large print runs. Now I have the advantage because I have low overhead. Where I once couldn’t compete with their physical price, they now can’t compete with my digital price."

What do you think? Do you buy a book solely because it is a New York Times bestseller? Do you buy a book because your friend recommended it to you? Or maybe because you know and like the author and his writing? What role does social media play in your buying habits? Would you be more likely to read something by an author who engaged with his readers online, or one who was reclusive, mysterious, and hidden behind the high gray walls of a Big Six publishing house?

Lots of good material for discussion here, especially because there are no clearly right or wrong answers. I highly encourage reading the article.

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