I was at a panel discussion last weekend on publishing and the writing industry and there were two experts there. One was from Harper Collins and the other was from a small, self-publishing company. At one point they had a brief interchange about their respective industries and it seemed as though it was about to get heated. The self-publishing expert was talking about how self-publishing is the future and the internet was changing everything. From what I gathered he believed that giants of the industry like Harper Collins were failing because they couldn’t acclimatize themselves to the new pace of the internet. The Harper Collins guy, on the other hand, seemed to think they could change with the times as well as maintaining the old standards of publishing.
I wanted to hear more about the burgeoning debate. It was interesting because it seems to be the carbon copy of the debate that is raging currently in the advertising industry.
The internet has changed everything, that much people can agree on. Gone are the days of Mad Men (or whatever the publishing company equivalent is), now we are connected, fast and hip (is hip even a cool word anymore?). The ad industry debate seems to centre around whether TV commercials are the ‘thing’ anymore, just like the publishing industry is asking if paper books are going to stick around or if e-books and self-publishing are the absolute future. The Harper Collins dude seemed to think paper books and big publishing is here to stay. Apparently he found a fact stating that people have better retention when reading on paper than on a screen, but he also admitted our brains were changing to match the pace of our technology and therefore our tastes and desires were changing.
So which is it? Will the Goliaths of the industry be crushed under the weight of the internet? Will paper books evaporate from our society to be replaced by their more convenient electronic counterparts? Will the structure of the publishing industry crumble leaving nothing but literary chaos?
I don’t know.
Things change, it’s inevitable. The giants of the industry will change or die. So the only question is, what’s my preference?
Fact: I don’t really read indie books (that I know of).
Not because I don’t want to, mostly because I just haven’t and frankly, I kind of like the idea of someone vetting the piece before it comes into my hands. Sure people in big publishing miss out on great works all the time because a lot of it’s about what will sell, but on the other hand you have a lot of people in big publishing who are very passionate about good writing. I like to know that a piece has been through a couple of sets of discerning eyes before I read it. That maybe a bit snobby I guess and perhaps it means I’m missing out on some awesome stuff, but there it is.
From what I can understand about self-publishing, it seems like it’s just as much of a crapshoot as big publishing. It’s all about self-promotion and, although you may have an absolutely fantastic book on your hands, if you can’t promote yourself on the internet as a self-publisher, you are likely to languish in obscurity while some sub-par book in the hands of a promo-guru rockets to the top sales on Amazon. So it’s basically the same shit, different pile (to be vulgar). Either you’re going through the laborious process of finding an agent and getting published, or you’re coughing up a bunch of dough and going through the laborious process of trying to self promote via twitter, FB & blogging.
So for my own journey, I’m going to try traditional. I like it. I like getting feedback from people who read thousands of manuscripts a year and reject most of them. I don’t like the idea of trying to layout my own book in some self publishing program and design cover art (I really really suck at drawing). I like the idea of having an agent with good connections trying to get me published (if I can actually get an agent in the first place). I don’t like the idea of shelling out my hard earned pennies to pay for printing and all the other costs associated with self publishing. I like tweeting and blogging, but I don’t want to have to do it like a maniac because that’s my only plan to get my book out there into people’s hands.
I don’t know the future, but I do know what path I want to take and for now, in this one small way, I guess I am a bit traditional after all.
This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of June! Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!