This is not intended to be about my fiction. You can read it that way, if you like, but this is supposed to be more general. I’m taking a few shortcuts, because this is a blog post and not a novella.
Once upon a time, there were the big six publishers. They are the big five now. There also existed a group of smaller publishers.
Writers were required to submit manuscripts to literary agents and try to get someone to represent them. The agent shopped the manuscript around with the big six. If they failed to pique someone’s interest they went to the smaller publishers.
For an author it was a matter of appeasing the various gatekeepers along the path. An agent might require a rewrite, an editor might require another, and on down the line as long as it took. Many times the story actually changed from the author’s original vision.
Once the deal was struck, the manuscript was sold. This means the author had no more right to it, or to the characters in the story. They got paid an advance which was theirs to keep. A royalty was established, and each book sold was credited a small amount until the royalty was “earned out.” Then, and only then, the author might earn royalties for subsequent sales.
It sounds like a reasonable deal in some ways. Consider that many advances today are $1500 or less, and royalties float around 17%. Remember the author has to pay the agent out of his slice. The point is, very few writers were getting rich.
Along came Amazon with a way of selling electronic books. They also invented a device to make it easy. Consider they are paying 35% royalties, or 70% under the KDP program. Hold this thought for a moment.
People love paper books. I do too, and own many collectable ones myself. The newest generations have taken to ebooks with gusto. Hold this thought for a second too.
Most books out there are entertainment. We read them and move on to the next one. I expect nothing greater for my own stories. Producing hard bound books with gilt edges is not worth the cost.
Gatekeepers are good / gatekeepers are bad. The gatekeepers prevent a lot of bad fiction from being circulated. On the other hand, they are interested in a bottom line, and push what’s popular right now. Think of it like the influx of reality television. People want it, and the networks deliver. What program didn’t get a slot, because Hillbilly Hand Fishing sounded good?
I may have fallen into this myself. When I wrote a story about a robot that was built in a concept lab, the world wanted sparkly vampires and red rooms of pain. I, and many like me, write what I would want to read. I’m not going to write about sparkly zombies in a pink room of pain just to get picked.
I believe readers want what they want too. Many enjoyed the books I’m poking fun at. That other group that wanted robotics was left out of the market. Amazon changed all this. Independent authors are writing the kinds of books you might be looking for. (Westerns, historical pieces, horror where the vampires kill you.)
So here I am, self publishing. I own my characters and my books. If sales demanded a reappearance of Lisa Burton, the robot, I could deliver. If I’d sold her to a publisher, I couldn’t.
The younger generation always replaces the older generation. It can’t be stopped. I can see a possibility where paper books become a boutique item only.
What about that crappy fiction? Amazon let’s you read the first few chapters for free. You can read in a bookstore, and you can do the same at the Amazon store. If you’re not into the book, move on to the next one.
People complain about buying a Kindle just so they can read ebooks. I have two arguments in reply. First the newer Kindles are more than ebook readers. Many will rival an iPad for usability. Second, you don’t need a Kindle to read ebooks.
There is a Kindle app for almost every electronic gadget in existence. You can read an ebook on your PC during your lunch break. I’m going to provide you with a link: Kindle Apps. You probably already own the suitable gadget.
My challenge to you is to get the app and give an ebook a chance. You aren’t limited to self published authors either. If you really want to read something by Cheri Priest, you can. I have, along with Jim Butcher, Stephen King, and others.
Give an ebook a chance. Put the app on your Droid or iPhone. An author somewhere will thank you. Your book is portable, available while waiting in line, and works well during long layovers. (As I recently learned.)
Maybe after you’ve read a mainstream book or two, you’ll give an independent author a chance. Will you rise to my challenge?