Thursday, November 15, 2012

The State of the Industry: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour #17

Okay, we all know the publishing industry has been going through drastic changes these last few years. When I first started publishing on line in 1998, people were shocked to learn there were even places you could find stories to read on the computer. Never mind ebook readers and the entire change they've brought about a few years later. We are in a whole new world for publishers, authors and readers.

I love books. I adore books. But I also think books are about the words and not the package they come in. That doesn't mean I don't love a wonderful print book and some of my favorites are very expensive hard bounds, each of which are as much a work of art as a book to read. However, in the end, it is all about the words. Ebooks open up the possibility of reading books publishers have decided won't sell enough to be viable for them. Since my taste in books is rarely in line with what is on the shelves, that's not so bad. The revolution means choice. It also means the reader has gained a significant amount of control that used to be in the hands of the editors. They get to choose the books to read.

My husband, who is a die hard print person, recently picked up a bunch of Matt Helm ebooks just to read for the fun of it, and went through about 15 of them. Then, having gotten home, he was able to hit his paperback versions for a few more. He admitted to me he was having more trouble reading them in print than on the ebook. The ebook was far easier to handle, he loves the change in text size and the ease for changing pages. He could take a dozen books with him, and since these read very quickly, he didn't have to worry about running out.

This was something I never expected to hear from him. It was something I never expected to feel myself, but there it is -- I love ebooks. I still buy print, though. I don't care what package the story comes in as long as I enjoy what I read.

Ebooks are, obviously, the biggest change in the publishing world, both in their existence and the fact that anyone can publish one. This is not, contrary to a lot of lamentations, the end of civilization. It's not even the end of good books, despite all the cries to the contrary.

Go back and look at the other two big revolutions in book production and see what people were saying. The first came with the printing press; people deplored the replacement of handwritten manuscripts and how it was lowering the quality and making the books, and the printing of them, available to anyone rather than the elite. The second time this hue and cry of disaster arose was when paperbacks started hitting the market at low prices, rather than the expensive hard bounds, and the critics cried again about lower quality and the fall of civilization because they were making books available to anyone and the books were not what 'they' wanted to read. Science fiction? Pulp mysteries? It's the end of the world.

It's not. The pulp age of paperbacks presented a lot of books that were not great. We still managed to survive their publications. It was, however, also an age of daring and revolution in the writing world because it was viable, price wise, to try something new.

This is what we are going through now. I wince every time I see someone saying we need more gatekeepers to keep the poor material from publication. You can be your own gatekeeper. You are not required to read anything you don't think is up to your standards. If you want to make an impact, stop complaining about all the bad stuff, which will mostly disappear anyway, and start pointing out the material (print, ebook, whatever) that you think is worth reading. Be a force for improvement in the world of books.

The state of the industry is this: Right now, we are all the ones in charge. We can make the difference just in what we support and what we write. If you are an Indie author, then it is an exciting, heady time, but don't think the reader will mistake lazy writing for style. This isn't a time when anything goes and all will be accepted. You have authors vying for reader attention at every turn and you have to write a better book than most of them to get your readers. Honestly, that's not often as hard as it may sound because many, many Indie Authors don't take the time they should to produce a good book, which is more than a first draft. Be better than they are and learn grammar and all the rest of editing, and you'll be a step ahead of the others. Find your audience and even if it is a small group, cherish them. These people like your writing. That's a wondrous gift, you know.

If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

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