Sunday, May 30, 2010

The "vast sea"

Libby Hellmann worries about whether authors with backlists will be able to be found amidst the coming flood of indies:

"The floodgates are about to open, and the ebook market is going to be a vast sea of self-published work.

"Theoretically, we midlist authors who have been previously published should have an advantage. We have been vetted. We have been edited. Publishers stand behind us. But how are we going to get that message out?"

Personally, I think that in general (not always, mind you, but in general) the best products, whether previously pubbed or "pure" indie, will rise to the top. I would agree that previously published authors in general have something of an advantage. J.A. Konrath's dismissals of the relevance of "platform" notwithstanding, name recognition should give the previously pubbed a bit of a leg up. And if you have name recognition, do you need to get that message out? Won't at least some readers already know your work and its quality?

"What kind of filters will be in place to differentiate our work from work that hasn’t been vetted?"

Do we need filters? Really? I think it's kind of cool for everyone to have to get in there and scramble, personally. If an indie outwrites or outpromotes or out-graphics a previously pubbed author, well, they deserve the sales, don't they? And again, if you're previously pubbed you already have something of an advantage, especially if you still have well-known books on the market. I don't know why any differentiation is necessary.

" seems to me that a significant chunk of Kindlers and ebookers are younger, hipper, i-Phone-ish readers whose attention spans are –um— just a tad imperfect."

I disagree with that. Most Kindle readers are pretty heavy-duty readers. That may change as the iPad gains a bigger market share, since the iPad is designed to be used for a lot of things other than reading. But right now, if you own a Kindle, it's because you really, really like to read, I think.

"You’ve no doubt heard the six-figure income Joe’s on tap to reap from publishing his books on Kindle. But Joe is an anomaly."

Granted. If anyone else is positioned to make six figures from Kindling in a year, I haven't heard about it. I hope more indie authors will get there, but yes, it's a mistake to get into indie publishing thinking it's guaranteed money. But for your backlist, it does make a lot of sense. It's not making any money sitting there on your hard drive, is it? And now is a good time to do it, I think, before those "floodgates" are all the way open. Indie publishing is clearly becoming a more popular option, and it is going to get harder for any of us to get noticed, I suspect.


  1. I agree with you, Ellen, the best books will rise to the top while the poorly written ones sink. I don't think anyone should feel threatened by indie authors. There's room enough for everyone. :o)

  2. Great post.

    I think one way authors will continue to get noticed--and perhaps increasingly so--is through online communities centered around the types of books they write. In that sense, readers (who are--or should be--the customers in a digital world) will partly take on the role of gatekeepers via word-of-mouth. Like Victorine said, good storytelling will do much of the heavy lifting.

    Personally, I'm excited to see what types of stories will emerge from alternate publishing models. Just today, in fact, I was contacted by an author who wrote a steampunk romance and is pursuing the self-publishing route (in this author's case, she's had a few other books released by digital publishers). I might not have heard about it until later if she hadn't contacted me. This way, I can act on the information much sooner.

    Ellen, I also told her about your Kindle books. I want to highlight more experimental SFR publishing projects at TGE. The basic takeaway for authors of niche genres is that bloggers are your friend! Don't be shy about letting them know about your books, especially if said blogs are specifically geared toward them.

  3. Totally agree with your final paragraph, Ellen, which is why I'm jumping in. It's just a pity I didn't think about learning how to swim first.