Monday, September 15, 2014

Indie authors are like "herding cats."

I got a very considered response to yesterday's blog by P.J. Grath, who owns a store in Michigan.  All I have to say is that I agree with almost everything she says, even if she wrote it as a counter to what I wrote.  (She writes more clearly than me, too, darn her.)

How can both of us be right?

I think she's talking about the way things are, and I'm trying to imagine a future where we continue on doing what we do.

First of all, she relates how open she is to self-published books.  The irony here is -- I only buy from distributors.  So she's actually doing the thing I'm saying bookstores need to do, and I am not.  That's why I'm calling for a system where I can access indie books without the huge hassle of dealing with individual authors in person, who I have no idea how good they are, and who may have unrealistic notions of how bookselling works.

She has a really good point about wondering why any distributor would take on self-published authors.  "Like herding cats."

I suppose I had in mind a system where the author supplies the books and pays for storage.  Something simple where the risk is on the author, not the distributor.

She quite rightly mentions that most self-published books aren't very good, and can be poorly edited.

My scenario really depends on the idea that a certain number of very accomplished authors take the self-publishing route and stay there.  If it turns out that a large number authors who readers are looking for can only be found in ebook form, then bookstores lose out.  My thought is, if there are physical versions of these (future) in-demand books that bookstores can access then we can still serve those of us who want to read real books, and not on ereaders.

I'm also asserting that the current publishers have become so tight they are bound to miss authors that will have success going the indie route.  I believe that by consolidating into the Big Five corporate entities that there are less editors, less support, and less options, that they are dropping legitimate mid-list authors, and that they are focused on the next blockbuster.  I don't believe they are as open as they once where, I don't believe they give authors a chance to develop, and I don't believe they are open to books that are outside the current formulas.

Up until now, the publishers have been able to co-op successful indie writers.  So they can use the indie market almost as a farm-team.  But there are at least some indie writers who have calculated that they make more money not signing contracts.  Other authors have turned down the traditional publishers because they want to be independent, free to do as they please.

(The Stephen King experiment was early -- and I'm not sure he went about it in the right way.  Didn't he ask readers to send "whatever" they thought was fair?)

What I'm suggesting is that there will need to be a way for bookstores to easily access successful indie authors.  There is no real mechanism in place right now for that to happen.  It is a huge hassle to deal with individual authors, who don't know how things work. 

Imagine that the future Stephen Kings and James Pattersons, who the readers are clamoring to read, refuse to go through traditional routes.  What then?

I'm sure that someone will figure out a way.  Bookstores have proven to be pretty hardy.  I truly believe that there are enough readers of physical books to keep us going.  At the same time I think ebooks are going to continue to get bigger and that indie authors are going to emerge that simply can't be ignored.

So we need some way to bridge those two realities.

1 comment:

Duncan McGeary said...

As far as "professional" editors are concerned, that's a mixed bag. Some authors need more editing than others, and there are good editors out there (though you may have to pay for them).

But don't think traditional publishers provide the Maxfield Perkins type editing that PJ is talking about,except to the top authors. That for most beginning and even mid-list authors, there is no "working with" there is only acceptance or rejection.