Monday, April 19, 2010

The Democratization of Publishing

I know we've been discussing the coming e-pocalypse (or possible e-velation) over the past several months, fair readers, and so I present to you the following poll:

Edit: Also, please forgive the typo in the above poll. This is what happens when you stay up late to blog.


  1. I think there will be a short period of time where a small number of Authors will make a killing with eBooks. Some mid-list authors will make a name for themselves. Then some big names will start to get into the game of direct to eBook format publishing, but there still will need to be gatekeepers of some kind. Some way to filter out all the crap and get the good stuff into the hands of readers. Publishers will need to become much more market-savvy. The ones that survive will be the ones that learn how to get their authors to stand out in the tidal-wave of authors who self-publish. It will be more akin to Search Engine Optimization/Marketing companies of today. Authors will need publishers, but not publishers as they are structured today.

  2. Capitalism dictates publication--it doesn't matter if you publish something electronically or not, you're not going to get people to purchase (or read) your work without the push from larger, traditional publishers.

  3. Yes, but that is not necessarily a good thing if "democratization" means that any and every aspiring writer can put his-her work out there. I like knowing that an agent-publisher-editor has vetted a work and deemed it worthy of publishing.

  4. Writing/Publishing will become like most other artistic endeavors in this technological age. Anyone and everyone will be able to "put their work out there". There will be a flood in the next year or two, but the cream will eventually rise to the top, regardless of whether it was produced traditionally or self published. I do believe there are many worthwhile authors and stories out there that aren't getting looked at because the traditional mechanism is too cumbersome and slow to react.

  5. Yes. In the age of the internet there is a market for everything. The key will be the very active book blogging community. I don't think traditional publishers will ever disappear or that self-publishing will take over, but there will be a small shift.

    The shift will result from popular blogs. Let's say that an individual who is attempting to have a book published has an extremely popular blog. If he/she decides to self-publish (and has assured the readers that there has been an editorial process) I think the readers of the blog will quickly become the author's biggest fans. As they read and review the author's book on their personal blogs word will spread.

    Few will become wealthy from this model but I believe they will find an audience.

  6. No. You've been able to read self-published trash in electronic format since the dawn of the internet. Just because more people read electronically doesn't mean that they will suddenly be more accepting of trash. However, I do think we'll find more diamonds in rough.

  7. Publishing probably will follow the music industry's model. The big players will still be there, but the small folks and the independent writers will have more of a shot at finding an audience.

    That said, there are going to be a LOT of substandard books published. I think that buzz, reader reviews, and word-of-mouth will separate the so-so from the fantastic.

  8. I think publishing's MO will break and be rebuilt by the same industry and some new thinkers. I don't think democratization is possible in anything larger than the kind of communities that already exist. Small niche for people looking for indie work.

  9. No. It might be easier for Joe Nobody to get his book in front of readers, but it's still going to be tough to make them notice it, much less pick it up.

    Getting a big audience will still require a stamp of approval from a gatekeeper: lots of reviews, placement in stores that don't accept everyone, or acceptance by a publishing company.

  10. No. Because when everyone and their pet goldfish has written a book the problem remains, how do you get the attention of the reader.

    The sales department will become the all powerful part of the industry causing fear and envy in the then forgotten editorial department.

    Or the big name authors continue to get most of the readers and the mid-list grows unbelievably larger.

  11. Prepare yourself for an advertising blitz the likes of no others!

  12. Yes, because an indie author who self publishes can take home 85% of his rrp, and thus can set his books at $99 or $1.99.

    With the big publishers having so many people to pay they will have to way overcharge for e-books, and I really can't see people paying the cash for it.

    Plus, once the indies catch on, the authors who are already with the big publishers will realize that indie publishing will result in less aggravation and net them more profits. I see people leaving when their contracts end, and taking their audiences with them.

  13. Yes, but with all the problems and as others have said, the major authors and publishers will have new ways to take a big share of the market. Publicists will benefit more than authors.

    I've noticed more books advertised (in ads and websites) where I have to really search to find the publisher's name. (And they are not all small publishers.) Any idea why?

  14. I'm one of those hearty souls who were ebook pioneers, and I've been watching this business grow and change for over a dozen years.

    When epublishing really started developing in the late 1990s, many of us believed that epublishing could be the way around the bottleneck created by the conglomerate publishers and distributors to the consumer.

    We discovered that readers simply wouldn't buy their ebooks at the publisher. They preferred the one stop shopping of places like Fictionwise.

    For every book most of us sold at our publisher's website, we sold hundreds through the distributors, and this has remained true.

    As long as the majority of books are sold via conglomerate-controlled vendors, democratization will be hard to achieve.

    Books not branded by the big publishers or major writers also have a hard time grabbing the attention of the reader, and they are currently being buried under a sea of backlist migrating to the digital storefronts.

    Sure, anyone can put their book out there, but finding readers is an almost impossible task.

  15. Amber, if the author pays for the ad, she puts her own information on the ad, not the publisher's.

  16. Tough question.
    I'm no expert, but I think it'll end up with the majority of ePub books never being sold, except for those that are marketed heavily by the author and who catch a lucky break. In the end, it'll be similar to trying to market yourself to an agent: the book that makes money is the book whose author is good at both writing AND marketing. The only difference is that an ePub author won't have to wait for their marketing skills to pay off before their friends and family can pick up a copy of their book.

  17. A qualified no. Sure, everyone who thinks he's an author can get something published through Amazon's Kindle program. The noise ratio of all that content will be deafening, though. People will look for brands they know and trust, publishing houses they're familiar with already, authors they already read. Indy authors will have to still rely on word of mouth just as they do now, and with Amazon's reader reviews and online review blogs, people may be able to sort the chaff from the wheat.

    In the end, the same people will still be making the money.

  18. For a brief while? Perhaps. Not for long.

  19. I think it will democratize publishing in the technical sense that everyone will be able to publish their work.

    I agree with others who have said that it will create a lot of noise, though. If everyone gets in on it, it will become more difficult for any one author to catch the public's attention and make a name or a career. Probably only a few will succeed on their own. People will still look to the brands of the publishing houses for quality, and it will be those authors who do best, or at least have a real shot at doing best--much like in our print publishing landscape today. Everyone will be able to get their work out there, but few will be able to get their work read.

  20. I think the state of publising mirrors the state of everything else in our world ... I was fascinated by Robert's comments above:

    "Then some big names will start to get into the game of direct to eBook format publishing, but there still will need to be gatekeepers of some kind. Some way to filter out all the crap and get the good stuff into the hands of readers."

    Unfortunately, it reminds me of the "cable" debate.

    When HBO started and many other cable channels as well, the movies were great. First run movies, titles that ran for a month.

    Now the cable channels are owned by the networks who in turn are owned by another conglomerate and the big fishies eat the little fishies ...

    Whoever can benefit financially from the flavor of the month, should do it while the field is still level. Do it and run to the bank.

    Because sooner or later the big fishies will come up from behind you like Jaws and da dum da dum ... Lunch!

  21. I voted no. The way I see it, the ebook is the book adapting to new technology. It's a reformation, but not a revolution. Some say that the internet has made the written word more democratic, and in some ways they're right. However, it's often websites with the greatest amount of ad content and those that know how to promote themselves that occupy the first five or ten spots on a Google search.

    It seems to me that internet content accidentally going viral is a lot like a debut author's bestselling book. Both situations are rare, but when they happen they get a lot of press, which makes it seem as if these phenomena happen more often than they really do.

    Perhaps it could be easier to get published as an ebook, but published does not equal popular, or even read. Getting people to read an ebook likely takes the same strategy, marketing, timing, good judgment, and luck that it takes to get people to read ink-and-paper media.

  22. No because things will still be the same. The competition will still be there, the editors will still run the show, and readers will still have far too many choices to wade through.

  23. No. I just keep thinking of all the jobs lost if this happens. I mean how will you pay people when your book is selling less than a dollar digitally?

  24. No, but it will/has made some changes to the industry.

    As more and more readers take to ebooks, we will (already have) seen a rise in smaller, electronic-only publishers. With more gatekeepers (and somewhat smaller overheads) more "publisher approved" books will be published, and will have enough 'credit' to be reviewed by at least the blog reviewers and possibly more traditional reviewers.

    However, the mass of self-published "non-approved" authors (electronic or physical) will still be largely ignored. Only the rarest of rare unknowns will sell more than a hundred or two copies of their self-published novels.

    Authors who have already made their names, but have slid off the bottom of the midlist, and can no longer get past the bean counters of the publishing firms will join authors' cooperatives or straight self-publish, and will be able to continue a (perhaps lessened) publishing career where previously they may never have been able to climb back into availability.