Sunday, January 09, 2011

The future of publishing

I have a question or two to ask today. Firstly, what do you think of the current climate in publishing? It seems to be going through a radical change, what with the current glut of ebooks. So have physical books had their day? Also, what does the future hold? Do you like reading on ereaders or does paper still win the day? It will be interesting to see how bookshops and publishers fare when so many people have decided to go the indie route. Of course not everything that has been published this way is any good, and it's surprising how many people champion authors that really need to learn how to write properly. They know the basics, but so much of the work I read is comparable to a first draft, and not something that should be out there for everyone to read before it's been through multiple edits, ideally by someone with a keen eye. So with the potential for so much bad/poor writing to flood the market, will readers’ expectations drop? Will they learn to accept what is on offer, or will they become more discerning in what they read? I know I’ve skimmed through numerous samples available to download for free, and read some terrible writing that people, probably friends and relatives of the author are praising to the skies. In my opinion this does a disservice to the author(s) who probably thinks he/she is better than they are and it does a disservice to the reader prepared to shell out their hard earned money on something that shouldn't have been published until it was ready. Constructive criticism would do some of them the world of good, as long as they were prepared to listen. What do other people think?


Belinda said...

I agree about the self-pubbing route, but I half-blame the industry. It's hard to get that first break. For fledgling writers, it's tempting to listen to the JA Konraths and now the Amanda Hockings of the world.

It's easier to say you're "good enough" or even worse, delude yourself into thinking you're already "the greatest" and self-pub for quick cash rather than to take the rejection for months or even years. It's hard to own up to needing rework.

I am TEMPTED to self pub my novel because I'm not getting agent interest. I partially blame that I write horror, I partially blame the inherent unsavoriness of my some of my characters (it's horror), I partially wonder what, other than saleability, is keeping me from even getting even a partial request.

I believe that I will self-pub my novel and start over again with the next one because I think that my story is good. I plan to hire a "keen eye" to take a look first because I don't want the negative editorial comments that Hocking got on Amazon.

I know not everyone can afford to do that but if you can't, there are free ways. I just don't find them always helpful.

As for expectations, I expect a well-written, well-constructed, properly edited story 100% of the time.

I'm an avid e-reader and an advocate of cutting out the industry blood-sucking that has bled lesser known authors, financially, for years.

That being said, I won't support lazy writing. Kudos to those that point it out.

Shaun said...

I know what you mean, Belinda as it is very disheartening when you can't get a break. Been there done that for years. It's even worse when you see people that you don't feel write that well get their break. But such is life. I think it would be naive of people to enter writing thinking they will make a career of it. First and foremost, you have to write because you enjoy doing it - love doing it even though sometimes it seems like torture to get the right words out. With that in mind, you have to ignore the success that other people have. It's not a race and some things take time. A lot of time. But anything else that happens as a result, such as being published, is icing on the cake.

Phil N. Schipper said...

The problem, in my opinion, is that you end with a contradiction. Make publishing too easy, and the market is flooded with bad writing. Make it too hard, and good writers get left out.

Unfortunately, of course, both things happen. Why? Because publishing is no longer about what is good. It's about who is able to get published. Praise isn't about what's good either--it's about knowing how to get praise from people.

The bottom line is that only real readers can tell you what's worth getting out there, and it's just too difficult to use that fact to any advantage. After all, as you said before, a small number of very loudmouthed people overestimating something's worth, whatever the reason, can make a little too much of a difference.

Shaun said...

Phil, I also think it does a disservice when I see other authors praising work that I look at and can see straight away that it's not written very well (I'm not an expert, but I understand basic grammar etc). Either these authors are friends of the person they're praising, or they can't see for themselves that the work in question has problems, which must say something about them too :/

Nicolette said...

Self-publishing is the only route for some authors who are desparate to get into print, especially when it seems that publishers only seem to print books by 'celebrities' who probably haven't even written the damned thing anyway.

For me, however, I prefer the traditional route and have been published this way many times.

Yes, there is a glut of bad writing out there, but what can we do? With the internet, there are just so many easy ways for people to publish their work. It's up to readers to discern who they are willing to shell out their hard-earned cash for.

Shaun said...

Yes, it's a dilemma, Nicolette. On the one hand, there's never been so many opportunities for authors to get their work in front of readers, but on the other there's never been so much rubbish made so feeely available (with the release of Dead Man's Eye, I've now tried both the direct approach and been through the slush pile with my novels. By releasing DME this way, it allowed me to see how easy it actually is to publish yourself. I'm also using it as a way to attract readers to my newsletter). On another point, ebooks will never give the author the satisfaction of seeing their book on the shelf, which is still a great feeling:!/photo.php?fbid=10150351331805389&set=a.10150337938900389.595192.665480388

Daniel I. Russell said...

A lot of sense being talked here.

I too have dabbled in Smashwords, mainly to get the name out there a little bit more and to place an advert in the back of both the ebooks for my traditionally published novel. It is scarily easy to get published, and there are writers on there who are immediately self publishing EVERYTHING they write!

Things are in a massive upheaval at the moment, and for me, the main signs have been the Leisure insanity and the uncertainty over Borders on the high street.

I guess we just have to roll with the punches and try and keep our heads above water until things settle down.

I do think that for legit writers who want to go down the traditional route, this is the worst possible time to pursue that career! But I see it as a test of character. If you really want to do this, and I mean REALLY want to do this, you'll dig your heels in and ride out the bad times.

Hell, I'm sure between us, Shaun and I could decorate a semi detached with rejection letters, right buddy? :-)

Shaun said...

Semi detached. I could fill a detached on my own. Lol

But it will be interesting to see where the future of publishing ends up. Will any of the major publishers switch to ebook only models? The digital age has changed many things, such as music and film, so publishing will be no different.

Lee Thompson said...

I agree that it's there is far too much garbage out there on the self-publishing scene. A lot of bloggers think they're storytellers because they blog every day.

I'm picky with what I read and that won't change. I like being paid for my work and seeing it in print, too, so don't see myself putting much up for digital unless my publisher does it alongside print versions.

I think there's pride and satisfaction in taking the time and effort to polish a story. I have no time for garbage--not only is life short, we only get one day at a time.

Nicolette said...

Of course there's also the idea amongst some, that if you do self-publish, you might get 'spotted' by a publisher and taken on. This has happened, but I think it's rare, like having the advances of JK Rowling!

Regarding ebooks, it said in Writing Magazine this month, that "The majority of Great Britain has yet to download an ebook and say they are unlikely to do so in the next six months, according to a survey" (Graeme Neill, The Bookseller)

Not sure if that's quite true. I know loads of people who download ebooks. Facebook is full of them.

Shaun said...

I think the main thing is the access people now have to said work. In the old days, I recall stapled together 'fan' rags which were the equivalent of some of todays indie scene, but which were harder to find as you had to be able to find them. Now anyone with a computer has more chance of stumbling across the sites that offer story downloads etc, so chances are some people will be successful. Of course they are far outweighed by the ones who didn't succeed, but people are more inclined to write about their success than their failure, so the stories people see will only be the good ones.

MontiLee Stormer said...

Ideally, "the stories people see will only be the good ones", but in reality, it's the stories the author thinks are good. I've come across free downloads or novels in progress on blog posts that are, simply put, steaming piles I'd never consider throwing a few dollars towards, not even in pity.

I understand that the industry is changing, but jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon because you're not getting a fast or postive enough response seems shortsighted.

For me, this boils down to "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" and I'm going to collect my thoughts on a blog post pretty shortly.

Shaun said...

'just because you can, doesn't mean you should' sums it up nicely. There are always exceptions to the rule, and some people are doing amazingly well. Amanda Hocking has just reported she had sales of 100,000 last month, which is amazing. My own foray into the market with Dead Man's Eye is testing the waters somewhat as I don't think I could comment on something without trying it. My story is free to people who sign up to my newsletter, or it is available to purchase. The story has been read by a number of people and edited before I released it, but I still have revervations. Perhaps that's just my natural 'glass half empty' outlook. But at the end of the day, I'm sure some kind soul will tell me whether it's crap or not. All of that is subjective though, but the problem I see with many writers is that they haven't gotten the basics down. I think I'm OK with them. The rest comes down to story, characters, plot etc.