It is with anticipation, trepidation and excitement that I decided to go the ebook route big time (well, as big time as I can).
A good few years ago I got my first publishing contract with Gollancz (now Orion Publishing) with a sci-fi horror title ‘Fortress Manhattan’ that many years later has become a collectible ‘classic’. Then later I published an holistic guide to health, wealth and happiness with HarperCollins called ‘The 10-Minute Miracle’
Since then zilch. I have received staggeringly flattering rejections as well as the usual ‘we don’t feel we have the required passion to make this stand out in a crowded marketplace’.
My US agent (I am in the UK) seems to be equally amazed by the near misses while remaining supportive.
While I, and a million other writers around the world, were thundering out more books, more queries, listening to more gurus, devouring more ‘how-to make it as a novelist’ books, what began as a quirky, tainted and widely ridiculed format, the ebook, appears to have finally reached the point where it may well come of age.
Driven by technological developments, hundreds of thousands of writers suddenly feel liberated from the yolk of the traditional publishing deal, whilst accepting that publishers generally have the experience and distribution muscle to market bestsellers and other successful books in any field. The problem is the publishing model is slow and, in modern business terms, unwieldy and outdated.
But, agents and publishers will tell you that they have always been the gatekeepers of quality, sifting the dross from the worthwhile.
Will the explosion of self-published ebooks already have the seeds of its own downfall firmly sown within the very format and distribution channel that has liberated the writer? Will readers be simply overwhelmed by vast, virtual ampitheatres of book titles?
To quote industry expert Alan Rinzler: Despite all the excitement about self-publishing these days – and I’m a big proponent –many writers still dream of being published by a big house like St. Martin’s Press or a prestigious literary publisher like Algonquin or Bloomsbury.
“I want the pride of making a major-league team with superstars on the roster,” a writer client told me recently.
“I want a big advance and that distinctive imprint on the spine. I want to tell my family and friends that I’ve finally made it, that I’ll have that beautiful jacket, that gorgeous type design, and a whole staff of first-class editors, sales and marketing people who think I’m just great.”
It’s a goal worth pursuing for authors who have good connections or the patience to keep pursuing that key gatekeeper, the literary agent; for those who may have already self-published their book and achieved sales numbers that can make an agent or publisher sit up and take notice (10K or more); and for those who are building or already have a solid online platform.
The immediate downside of the self-publishing explosion is: how much marketing do I want to do? With emails, and tweeting and Facebooking and blogging, and contacting reviewers, uploading, downloading, tweaking, designing (I’ll pause for breath here) you need to do, will there ever be time to write anything else?
That’s one thing traditional publishers did give you – plenty of time!