I can’t begin to tell you how often I hear from authors, concerned that (a) their publishers aren’t doing enough to market their books, or (b) much more commonly, they can’t find a publisher, period.
Sometimes of course the problem is that the author’s work just doesn’t deserve an audience, at least not in its present form. But there’s another, structural problem afoot — too many traditional publishers are wallowing in the past, while a grassroots publishing revolution passes them by.
If you’re an author these days, you have a stark choice: stick with the Czar, or join the revolutionaries and build something new.
Some pundits have taken to calling what’s going on in the publishing industry, “disruptive innovation,” led largely by self-publishing authors who are rapidly refining their publishing & marketing techniques, and finding new, often novel ways of engaging directly with their potential readers (aka “customers”).
Meanwhile, many traditional publishers, burdened by much higher operating costs, mired in old, 20th-centrury-ish ways of doing things, are staggering toward oblivion, taking their authors with them.
In “the old days” (as in 30 years ago, max), there was a scarcity of information in the world. If you wanted to know what was happening in the world in any depth, you read a newspaper or a magazine. If you wanted to be entertained, you read a book. The only way for an author to find an audience was through a publisher; the only way for a reader to find a book was to first find a bookstore.
My, how times have changed.
Today, hundreds of millions of folks read things untouched by the corporate hands of big publishers. Things like, for example, this blogpost. Those special places people back in the 19th and 20th centuries went to to find books — you know, bookstores? They’re disappearing faster than bison from the prairies. Replaced by whatever device you’re currently using to read this.
This is self-published content. Whether a post like this or a full-blown novel, this is content the big boys haven’t had a hand in shaping. And since all traditional media are in bed together, they conspire to collectively sneer at such content, or simply ignore it all together.
They remind me of whale oil merchants at the dawn of the petroleum era, or the orchestra on the stern of the Titanic.
So what will emerge from this chaos? Good question. No doubt new arbiters of taste will step forward, as self-publishing authors vie to ensure their works stand out in the crowd. This is good news for old publishing types (like me), who would rather lend a hand than stand in the doorway, helping ensure more and more self-published works have the same decent (or even, on occasion, excellent) editorial and design standards as works published by the large, traditional houses.
Top-down is dead. The new publishing mantra is bottom-up. So all you struggling, confused self-publishing authors out there, take heart — you’re the New Wave.
We’ve seen the Future, and it’s You.