I am ill today, but I know it has been a while since I have posted. I am determined to soldier on, but my head feels like a balloon filled with liquid granite, so forgive me if I ramble.
There seems to be a disconnect in the world of novels and novelists. There is wailing, and yea, there is gnashing of teeth. Novelists are lost in a gray, misty plain without signposts. Wars are being discussed, and tradesmen – both learn’ed and foolish – call to the heavens as the watch their world tumble into the mighty abyss.
What could ever cause such a consternation? Just this:
I’m sure everyone knows about the Kindle by now. It’s a simple E-reader. Say what you want about dropping it into the bath, or how Amazon is evil for losing money on each reader in order to sell ebooks. What it comes down to is that it takes this:
And makes it weight as much as this:
There are people who love Kindle, and all the other E-readers. Regardless of all other concerns, E-readers make buying books convenient. Rule #1 about selling anything: You will sell a metric ton more of anything if it is easy to purchase. Think about most fast food combos can easily reach $7 nowadays, and for a few bucks more you could have inexpensive steak at any chain steak place you care to name. Steak, rather than… It is amazing what speed and a drive through will do.
Now all that aside, it is the electronic age which is pounding on the gates of the publishing houses like a horde of Visigoths. For years the large publishing houses have held a lock on quality, distribution, and publicity. Now, the internet has come along, rising up the rest of us to the level of the big NYC publishers. Suddenly, paper quality, trade POD printing vs. mass market printing, and distribution are equal for all authors. And so, places like Amazon -who do not care which books sell, only that books sell- will list books according to the wishes of the buyer, not the publishers (which is all too common in today’s brick and mortar chain stores).
So: everybody is freaking out, er… gnashing teeth. Suddenly, the only thing that a big name publisher can give is publicity, and agents and publicists do the same job for a far lower percentage. The last thing that a publisher can give is quality. As any bibliophile can attest, most of the larger publishers have cut quality control to save money, resulting in lower quality products. Add to it that most small publishers are much more likely to sell a novel that did not need to be printed, housed, shipped, or inventoried much more cheaply – and that large name publishers are still trying to get retail for a book they only put a fraction of the cost into, and you can see that yonder big ship is going to meet an overgrown ice cube.
So, what comes of all this? The barbarians are at the gates. The gate keepers are being given the end-run, and they don’t like it. Even more, though the big publishers have been knocked off their plinth, vanity press does not have a great track record for high product value either. Right now smaller, more agile publishers have the advantage. Ultimately, the winners will be the readers. We do not have clay tablets, or scrolls. Gutenberg changed all that. Books may have changed, but the content flows ever onward.
Fear not, readers. There will be stories.
And in that vein: