Sunday, July 18, 2010

With Change Comes... Anger?

It's July 18, and I've sold more than 5000 ebooks on Kindle this month. At the current royalty rates, that's over nine thousand dollars.

I would think that this constitutes success, by almost anyone's definition.

And yet, around the internet, in person, and even in the comments section of my own blog, I see a lot of animosity toward the ebook future in general, and me in particular.

How odd.

Some people seem to be really pissed off that I'm making decent money without relying on the gatekeepers. They call me an outlier, an anomaly, an exception. They deride self-published ebooks, low ebook prices, and anything not endorsed by Big NY Publishing. They don't like what's happening with Kindle, and don't like me talking about how much money I'm making, and are bemoaning a future where other authors will do what I'm doing.

Change is always painful. It's difficult, and frightening. When a technology changes an industry, especially a media industry, a lot of people get hurt by it. Jobs are lost. Stores close. The carefully maintained balance of power shifts. None of this is easy, and it often isn't pleasant.

But the people who seem most vocal about this upcoming change are the ones who stand to be helped by it the most. The authors.

Granted, a bunch of anonymous agents or editors may be the ones posting their vitriol on my blog, but from the sounds of the comments it appears authors are the ones most disturbed by the current publishing climate.

Unless I'm reading this wrong, a lot of authors believe that the only worthwhile writing is the writing that has earned the stamp of approval by a NY Publishing House. If an author is selling a lot of self-published ebooks, that is only because the gullible public doesn't know any better. Soon, a flood of pure shit will saturate the ebook market (some say this has already happened) making it impossible for "real" authors to sell their books.

Sorry. You're wrong.

Not only will readers be able to separate the wheat from the chaff (as they've been doing since the first books were ever sold), but a free-for-all in the marketplace will allow, for the very first time, some writers to find success who never would have found it through the old, severely flawed system. New voices will stand out. New bestsellers will be born, not because of a giant marketing push, but because of pure word-of-mouth. An actual, honest to goodness renaissance is upon us.

Readers will be able to determine quality on their own. And if you hold so much disdain for the opinions of the unwashed masses, it makes me wonder whom you're actually writing for.

Me? I write escapist fiction for a wide audience. I do my best to appeal to the broadest spectrum I can. And trust me, that's a lot harder to do than it is to cater to your own personal muse without caring a whit about the reader's needs.

"But Joe," you may say. "If you leave it up to the readers to decide what is good, you're letting the inmates run the asylum. The only groups that can dictate what should and shouldn't be read are the professionals."

I think that's silly, but I'll play devil's advocate.

One persistent myth is: the only reason I'm selling original novels as ebooks is because a NY publisher wouldn't want them. This extends beyond my own work, to all self-pubbed authors. We're a bunch of hacks that the true professionals--the gatekeepers--would never touch.

Guess what? My agent just sold eleven of my self-published ebooks to a major audiobook publisher.

I believe this is a first.

I also believe it won't be the last time this happens.

I've had a lot of discussions lately about the future of the publishing industry. Will ebooks replace print? Will bookstores go out of business? Will agents still be necessary? Will NY publishing eventually collapse?

This is all very interesting, but only to people directly involved in the publishing world.

The readers don't care. They just want their books.

The writers shouldn't care, either. No matter what happens, writers will still be able to sell books to readers.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

And nothing at all to get angry about.

In fact, instead of being angry, you should be celebrating.

I am.