I try to keep abreast of the many author, agent, and publisher blogs out there that talk about new models in publishing, but I just don’t have as much time as I’d like. Which is why I appreciate it when friends send me links because they know of my interest in openness and publishing. One person who has done this faithfully for years is Jaime Theler. You can read her fantastic blog here.
The other day Jaime sent me a link to Nathan Bransford’s blog. I’ve been aware of Bransfords blog for a while, but don’t follow it every day. However, the link Jaime sent me shows that Bransford is in the camp of industry professionals who get it. From his post:
“The lack of commercial viability of 99% of the books written every year necessitates all this rejection. I can only take on the books I think I can sell to publishers, and aspiring authors receive this judgment in the form of a rejection letter. But the very nature of commercial viability in the publishing world is changing quickly with the transition to e-books, and I think it’s ultimately a change for the better.”
The key phrase in Branford’s post is the bit about the changing commercial viability. You see, no matter what agents and publishers tell you, they aren’t in the business of printing good books, they are in the business of making money. It’s a happy coincidence that usually it takes good books to make money, but not always. And sometimes good books can’t make enough money to cover the expenses. Those good books never make it into readers hands, unfortunately. But with e-books, all that changes.
Under the new model, an author can pay a few grand to get a book edited, formatted, and pay for cover work, ISBN, etc. Instead of having to sell thousands of $25 hardback books to be commercially viable, they can sell a few thousand books priced at $3. A book is ‘good, but unmarketable’, can now see the light of day. Both readers and authors should rejoice.
Continuing from Bransford’s post:
“Clay Shirky, author of HERE COMES EVERYBODY, notes that we’re moving from an era where we filtered and then published to one where we’ll publish and then filter. And no one would be happier than me to hand the filtering reins over to the reading public, who will surely be better at judging which books should rise to the top than the best guesses of a handful of publishing professionals.”
I think that very soon we’ll no longer see authors sending manuscripts to agents and publishers hoping for that 1 in a thousand acceptance letter. Instead, agents and publishers (if they’re smart) will be combing Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords, looking for what is selling. Authors will post their books online and then one day, out of the blue, they’ll get an e-mail from somebody in the industry who says something like, “Hey, we noticed your book is selling well. We’ve read it, it’s in good shape, and we’d like to print it.” The clear benefit is that the author will be in the driver’s seat, not the other way around.
The internet is the same way. As Bransford points out, nobody says, “You know what’s wrong with the internet…too many pages.” The more pages and books the merrier. The good stuff will bubble up, and those who really have the talent will find their way to a traditional publisher.