March 3, 2010

The Paradigm is Shifting

The true indicator of change will be when the first big brand name fiction writer bypasses traditional publishing—that is when the Perfect Storm will have arrived. ~ Bob Mayer

I think what Bob said in this article is pretty much what I've been thinking for, well, a while now. If you pay any attention at all to publishing and this pesky new invention called the Internet, you might already have an idea of how many changes there have been inside the industry. To say publishing is being reinvented seems a gross understatement.

While signing a contract with a major publishing house is still considered the Holy Grail of wannabe writers everywhere, myself included, there are other viable options to consider. In trying to remember all the different delivery methods I've experimented with as a reader, I've come up with a brief list of my favorite Internet-spawned venues.

Blogs.
I read a lot of blogs. On any given day my RSS feed contains over 150 unread posts and the majority of them are written by writers who post snippets, offer free reads, or hosts contests in which they're giving away books (sometimes their own).

And, in many instances, I've been inspired to leave the screen behind and actually purchase the tangible product. The influences come in a variety of forms, too. Everything from a good book recommendation, a tantalizing snippet, or a free partial delivered via PDF, has motivated me. I've become a fan of writers I'd never have otherwise stumbled across.

Of course, there are risks here for the wannabe writer. Posting too much of your story can be problematic if you do end up getting a major house interested. First publishing rights mean a lot to the gatekeepers.

So, while it's a good platform for building a following, it's probably not the ideal place for wannabe writers to showcase their skills.

E-zines.
If you're a short story reader/writer, this is an interesting market.

Some E-zines pay, some don't. According to those already published in the field, the serious writer should only consider selling to the paying market. (I think the idea here is that if they can pay, they must have paying customers. Membership or subscription dues must be collected in order for the E-zine to be solvent enough to pay for its authors.) '

On the other hand, there's this idea that getting your name out there is worth the pro-bono short story.

E-books.
This one is huge. E-books started out as rather shaky and unimpressive venture. However, they have developed into a real market, real enough that the major publishing houses have started to include e-books in their contract agreements. With the Kindle and other readers hitting the market, there was a demand for a larger variety of titles than the small independent e-book publishers could provide.

But, let's be clear, those independent e-book publishers are a market unto themselves. They make money. They make their author's money, which lends an aura of respectability to those author's who choose to release their book in electronic format with only the slightest possibility of seeing their book in print. Because, yes, many e-publishers are now releasing some of their stock in printed form.

Of course, there's still a bit of a stigma, but where is that coming from? The readers? Perhaps. Perhaps not. After all, if you own a Kindle and you're shopping through Amazon, you could very potentially end up with a title that wasn't released by one of the traditional publishers. Maybe the chance of this happening right now by accident or happenstance is relatively slim right now, but it could happen.

And what if Stephen King or Nora Roberts or Neil Gaiman decide to circumvent their publishers? People don't search for books based on their imprints. They search for a book by the author and by the title. If any of the big names ever decide to take a step away from the publishing houses and do things on their own, I believe they would succeed with an online audience.

Would that be enough, though? Probably not. While more and more people are shopping online, there are those who still don't own a computer or hold firm to their beliefs that the Internet is one big identity theft gambit, not to mention full of nothing but porn.

But, back to my point about the big names stepping away from their publishing houses...people will seek out their favorite authors because they're fans. And they'll buy from whatever venue they need to in order to get their fix.

Free podcast fiction.

In my opinion, this is one of the more intriguing choices in building your writer's platform. The first time I ran across an author who was offering up their entire novel for free, I thought I'd hit the jackpot.

In some cases, so did the authors. Some of them even ended up getting their free novels published at a later date through small presses or, in a couple of instances, through the major publishing houses themselves. Why would they ignore the whole "first publication rights" issue here? Let's put aside the fact that the stories were entertaining and focus on the fact that the podcasters had followers. Lots and lots of followers. They were about as safe a bet as the houses could make.

Self-Publishing Sites

I admit it. I look at them. I browse their titles, admire their cover art, and read the sample chapters, if they have them available. But I haven't bought any yet. Mostly because I'm afraid of what might be inside the pretty outer wrappings.

I want to think that these are the authors who have talent, but are sick and tired of playing the "shopping around" game. I want them to be worthy of the slightly higher prices, although my fear that they're not has kept me from giving any of them a fair shot.

Still, they're an option, especially for the writer who really doesn't care about feeling legitimized by the system. They're an option for the writer who just wants to hold their book in their hands regardless of who may or may not read it.

Here in the Clouds, though, I'm holding out for the Holy Grail, but I'm also watching these other trends and weighing my options.