On the surface, self publishing sounds like a really bad idea. Despite denials to the contrary, it seems that one of the biggest fears in the back of people’s minds is that of supply and demand. With self publishing we have more and more books in the marketplace, but most people don’t seem to have very much time to read. They are on the internet, playing video games, watching television, listening to music, running errands, working, eating, sleeping, possibly having sex occasionally since the species must go on.
But when are they having time to read? It seems less and less often. Except in the cases of Harry Potter and such which became such a huge phenomenon even people who didn’t read decided to crack a book to see what the fuss was all about.
Into this world overflooded with distractions and little time for books, comes self publishing, which floods the marketplace with far more books than can be even a tiny bit successful. If it was hard to make a living writing fiction before, it’s even harder now.
And if you don’t think this is a threat to traditional commercial bottom-line driven publishing, then here is a bag of LOL for you to take and enjoy later when the joke hits you.
There seems to be an almost evangelical need to stigmatize self publishing and those who do it. It seems important to create as many strawmen arguments, largely about the lack of quality of self-published books as well as the “obvious stupidity” of those who do it.
Because the truth is, yeah, there are a lot of bad self-published books (which incidentally sell so poorly that they have no effect on the marketplace whatsoever), but…there are also a lot of good books self-published. Especially now, in the light of increasingly insurmountable odds toward traditional publication and lowered barriers for authors to go indie.
It seems now the only thing a writer has to get past is the stigma, which alternately lowers and raises based on the group of people you’re talking to.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of self-published books. Because I have a lot of self published friends. And maybe it’s who I associate with, but so far I haven’t read a bad book in the bunch. Certainly no worse than anything I read that comes through traditional publishing channels.
All I can think when I read these books is: “Ha! I know this person!” And increasingly my book buying and reading habits revolve around either knowing an author online and communicating directly with him/her, or having a book gushingly recommended to me either by someone I know and trust, or the book has so much buzz everywhere that I am forced to check it out to stop the yammering about it.
On my shelf trad-published books sit right next to self published books. (Which I suppose in its own way is a symbol of the kind of equality based on quality not publication method, that I eventually hope we achieve). In some cases I can’t even tell the difference by just looking at them. But what has become increasingly meaningful to me is…a large percentage of my books were written by my friends. Some of those friends are trad-published, some are indie authors, but either way, what matters to me is this feeling of a close-knit community where we are sharing our stories together.
And that in essence is what the new media is about. We are all essentially tired of “Press 3 if you’re ready to slash your wrists from all our stupid corporate menu options meant for our convenience rather than yours.”
We’re isolated and we’re tired of it. We want to connect with other people. Even though there is something still inherently isolating about online communication, it’s still better than nothing. It’s better than passively watching TV if we want to get our community fix. Books are personal. They are a conversation between author and reader. Into this world we’ve found ourselves in, what better entertainment option than a book?
It’s my argument that more people are reading, not less. More people than ever before are reading, they are just not reading as many books in print, but material they find on the internet. Which is why ebooks are so important. Even though I like to lay out in the sun with a paper book and just not interact with technology at all when I’m reading, it doesn’t mean that’s how everybody likes to read.
The fact that there are so many different electronic formats for reading, including your iPhone, is an indication to me that books have not become insignificant in our culture, but are important enough to move forward into increasingly more-relevant forms of technology.
In addition, as more and more people write books and self-publish them, whether those books are good or bad is immaterial, because when someone becomes invested enough in the written word to self produce their own book, you can bet many of them are more likely to start engaging more with the written word as a reader. Especially as they start to understand that if they want to improve their writing and gain readers for themselves, they have to pay it forward by cracking some books on their own.
So more writers and more self-published books isn’t something to fear. It means that fiction is still relevant as a form of social communication rather than just another form of widget production. As always, the cream will rise to the top, the rest will fall to the bottom, and interest and fascination with the written word continues to grow.
To quote Martha Stewart, “That’s a good thing.”