eBooks: Opportunity or Disaster?

Much has been written recently about the demise of the printed book industry.  That is exactly what it became – an industry.  I have heard so many stories from fellow writers who were screwed by the traditional publishing industry that the new paradigm of eBook publishing seems like a dream come true/  Is it, or is the slow, lingering death of the traditional publishing industry spell doom for authors?

First of all, writers will write until the end of time.  We do not write to become famous or rich, although a lucky few do.  We will not abandon writing merely because Harper Collins or Random House files for bankruptcy (they will eventually).  Discouraging as the collapse of the traditional publishing houses may be to consider, the link with writers and writing has been thin at best.

I have been encouraged by stories from my writing friends of the new simplicity of reaching an audience through e-publishing.  Many, many “middlemen” have been cut out of the decision loop.  Agents with stacks of manuscripts to their ceilings, publishing house acquisition editors who have never accepted unsolicited manuscripts (read: we want the author to be famous before we consider the book), distributors who return crates of books unsold to publishers because not enough copies were sold in their stores.

For every successful, NY Times Best Seller author, perhaps 100 hangers-on exist in their “food chain” – a chain that will surely die in the next 10-20 years.  Certainly, these best-selling authors are happy enough to support this food chain as long the royalties flow in.  But the pressure for them to produce another best-seller every six months to feed the beast is not conducive to a thoughtful, well-written novel.  This is the chain of “middle-men” that Amazon and other direct publishers seek to bypass, with resultant increased revenues to both the author and their bottom line.

Is this right?  Is it wrong?  Neither – it is just different. And consistent with emerging e-book and e-reader trends.  it in fact is a trend that will not reverse.  So, as emerging writers we should embrace this trend and not fight it.  I don’t know if we will reach our intended audience or not – I am not smart enough to have figured out a fail-safe method of e-book promotion and marketing yet.  But someone will, and if our writing quality is good enough and our themes, characterizations, and story lines are strong enough, we will succeed and will receive the necessary promotion, interest, and reward.

In the new publishing paradigm as in the old, it still boils down to the quality and enjoyment of the reading experience.  Write on!

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2 Responses to eBooks: Opportunity or Disaster?

  1. Write on, indeed! Well said.

  2. Fran Cain says:

    David,
    We are watching in real time as we move from a corporate driven world to more of what I call cottage industry. I’m seeing it all around me. The pendulum is swinging!

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