Thursday, January 5, 2012


Recently I was reading Laura Ruby’s blog. Her novel, LILY’S GHOST, did very well when it came out six or seven years ago. But, as happens, it is now out of print. So she got her rights back and self-published the book (an e-book version) herself so the book lives on. That’s an example, I think, of how the new world of publishing can be a good thing for writers. I know there are other writers who are having success self-publishing after being traditionally published, too. They have an audience. I think this has happened in music. Many well-known musicians who aren’t “hot” enough for the big labels anymore do very well putting out their own songs or having a small recording company put them out.

Another example that I’ve seen discussed on-line in a few places is this situation: a first novel of a trilogy or series does pretty well but the publisher decides not to publish the second or third book because it didn’t do well enough for them. It may have less to do with the quality of the new manuscript than sales and perception of the potential sales at the publisher. Why shouldn’t the author publish the book if they still believe in it? The series probably already has some readers waiting for the next novel and it will be easier to publicize for this reason. Let the readers decide if it’s as good as the first book or other books in the series. So in this case, self e-publishing makes sense.

And I should add I’m for anything that gives writers more power and choices. E books definitely give writers more options. However, I think a lot of writers will self-publish and find disappointment. It’s hard, even with the backing of a publisher, for a book to get attention, get reviewed, and find readers. It will be even harder for new writers without any help.

And though we writers all complain about the lack of publisher support, publishers DO help every book. And they take care of all those little details and a lot of difficult non-writing work for the writer. I, for one, don’t want to devote my time to the whole publishing business. I want to devote my time to writing new stories.

I don’t really have any big insights. I just think it’s an interesting time. Though I’m aware of the Chinese curse, “May you be born in interesting times” I think all this change is kind of exciting. Will there be more good books out there? Hard to say. For example, someone who is good at sales and publicity has a great advantage in self-publishing over someone who isn’t. Their writing might not be very good but they get attention because they’re good salespeople while better work goes unnoticed. So someone skilled at selling sells their book well and gets noticed and someone who isn’t won’t. Fair? I suppose in a business sense yes but not an artistic one. A lot of good books will still go unnoticed.

At any rate, good or bad, changes are coming. There will be some opportunities in those changes, and some disappointments. We,as writers, just have to stay most focused on writing, on the thing we love.
Or so I think today.

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