Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll

It was the best of times; it was the worse of times. It was an age of ebooks, it was an age of authors who thought ebooks were flash in the pan, it was the epoch of disbelief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was a season of electronic ink, it was a season of diminishing print publishing returns, it was the spring of hope for some, it was the winter of despair for others, it was the winter of despair for those who didn't get it, those who chose e-books would make a fortune, others felt print was everything, some quit because they felt they had nothing before them, in short, the period was, so far, like any other period, the noisiest blogs and social networks blathered it would all come to pass, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

These should be the best of times for authors. But are they? Is it the fear that keeps some on the "find an agent so I can find a print publisher so I can be really published" path of narrow choices? Does the lure of the advance and bragging rights make wet print more desirable than electronic ink? Is the dream of being published more desirable than actually being published? Does a work that is judged by readers directly, bypassing all excuses for failure, cause anxiety? Is rejection used as a safety valve against having to face the real reading public? Is the best of times actually the worst of times for some authors?

I ask these questions because beside the fear of discovery, I also feel there is still the belief that being published electronically is for losers, that ebook publishing is a venue best placed in reserve, like a savings account, against failure to become print published. What happened to the voices that said, "If you will only help me get published, I know we can make a fortune together. Readers will love my book." Now that the chance is here to find out how well that book will be received by readers, I see those who have been lamenting this point, shrinking away from this golden opportunity.

In reality, is it that some fear going straight to the reader? Do some think it's much better to find one agent and one editor and one publisher who all love their work, rather than get the feedback of the masses who will actually pay money for a work? That trio of publishing professionals does make a nice buffer between the writer and the real world of readers. There has always been an invisible wall between authors and their readers. The editor, the publisher, the distributor and the bookstore clerks all blocked direct engagement. Now these walls have been removed and writers are on the stage by themselves, naked, before their reading public. Is it stage fright that's making these the scariest of times? The excuses I'm hearing for not getting out there make me wonder.

1 comment:

Sarah P. said...

This is a great topic. And, as someone who just published her first book, digitally, I can see both sides of the argument.
Many of my friends, while wildly excited for me, are asking what bookstores carry my book and can I send them an autographed copy which leads to a somewhat embarrassed reply of, "It's an ebook, only digital, you can't buy a hardcover. There's nothing I can sign for you."
I think a lot of the hesitation stems from the deeply rooted authors dream of holding that first copy of their book in their hands, turning the pages, smelling the ink and feeling the weight of all those hours of work in their hands. No one dreams of seeing their work on a computer screen or ereader. (maybe they're starting to, but it's not much different than seeing it as you create it.) For me, taking the dive into ebooks was to let go of the vision of holding that book in my hands, doing book signings, trying to peddle copies of the book at local bookstores, etc.
In my case, letting go of that warm and fuzzy ideal led me to select my own illustrator and submit my picture book in the first MeeGenius Author Contest. Considering that my book won the Grand Prize, there's a lot to be said for trying something 'new'.
Great post. Thanks for putting this topic out there.