by Kristen James
At a very young age, I decided I would be an author and began not only writing but following the publishing industry. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest before high school and started my collection of writing and publishing “How To” books. Like most things, the publishing industry has drastically changed since I began following it in 1990, especially in the last few years. I’ve written quite a bit about what this means for authors in my book, Book Promoting 101, and the blog by the same name, but today I’m focusing on what all these changes mean to readers.
Many bookstore chains are closing all together or closing certain locations. Online book sales are out pacing brick-and-motor sells, and now ebooks seem to be taking over. Two sides seem to be developing: people who want the old system and complain about the changes, and people who cheer for the way the industry is changing. There’s been a conversation about whether books will die out or not, but that seems to have faded in the last couple of years. I think you and I both know books are going stronger than ever, and they’re easier to find, buy and download to your ereader, and usually for much less money. Instant, cheaper, and more variety. Even paperbacks are easy to find online, and many of us prefer to browse books from home. The real publishing revolution is actually a reader revolution.
Readers want great books, and they want small niche books that large, traditional publishers would never publish. It’s a huge risk for publishers to buy and publish a steam punk novel or other small but growing niche book. However, the steam punk author wants to be published even if there aren’t a million readers for their type of book. With Kindle, Nook, and the other digital publishing platforms, authors with even a tiny audience can publish and connect with readers. So now readers have many more choices and can sample a new author to see if the writing is engaging and high quality.
Many traditional publishers and agents say we need them to vet books. I actually read an agent’s blog a few months ago that said readers can’t pick good books. Basically, we’ll all be reading trash and not know it. I was insulted beyond belief. I can’t pick a good book? This really seems to be the heart of the debate in publishing – can all the indie authors that are going big really produce high quality, well written books just like traditional publishers? The truth is, readers already pick the good books, no matter how they’re published. We’ve always voted with our dollars. Some brave editors and agents now admit that they don’t know which books will be bestsellers. 10% of traditionally published books make money, and they pay for the other 90%. It’s a betting game. (Info from The Career Novelist by agent Donald Maass and other agent blogs.) Well, now authors are making that bet with their own book, and readers seem to love it. Readers rate, review and talk about good books and spread the word.
The revolution has brought down book prices, which helps readers and indie authors. We don’t have to pay for an office, staff and large print runs. Just the other day, I spotted two indie authors in the top 20 books on Kindle with 99 cent novels. It’s finally a level playing field for authors, at least in ebooks. Any author can write a great book, have it edited and proofed, professionally formatted, and get a great cover. Sure, some people take short cuts but readers can quickly tell.
I’m all for the changes in publishing, and there’s even more good news. Ten years ago, people waited for paperback books for $9.99. If they loved an author, readers could visit the author’s website and maybe meet them at a book signing. Now, however, you can get ebooks for as low as 99 cents and interact with authors through Facebook, twitter, blogs, Goodreads and many more book sites. Connecting with readers is the biggest reward for me as a writer. You can read my blog, about me and my books at www.writerkristenjames.com. There’s links on the side to my Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
by Kristen James