So there’s a revolution afoot, with J.A. Konrath seemingly appointed the Robin Hood of the publishing world. Screw the publishers and self-publish via Kindle! Make six figures!
I’m happy for him. Really. My husband and I both read the Jack Daniels series and in my living room there are ten print books on the shelf—eight written by me, one signed Nora Roberts and my signed copy of Afraid by Jack Kilborn (Konrath). I’m a fan.
Here’s the thing, though—the drum he’s beating makes me nervous. His career path’s getting a lot of buzz and causing a lot of excitement in the writing community. Since he began sharing his Kindle numbers, I’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in the interest being shown Amazon’s self-digital-publishing platform.
But let’s put Konrath to the side because, while he seems to have become the poster boy for self-digital-publishing, he’s one author. He’s a professional writer with an established readership and a strong online presence.
Self-publishing digitally is an interesting option that’s very appealing in some ways. There are many authors who successfully and professionally self-publish their works, and programs such as Amazon’s can facilitate that. I’ve thought about it. It’s intriguing. But the thought of finding the time to write that book, plus finding (and paying for) a freelance editor I can trust and commissioning (and paying for) professional cover art is daunting. I see other professional authors choosing to release some, or even all, of their titles through self-digital-publishing in a professional way and I think that’s a very good thing.
What concerns me is the interest I’m seeing from writers who aren’t finding success with either traditional print publishers or with established digital publishers. It’s now way too easy to hit spellcheck, superimpose a title and author name on a free stock photo, run it all through the magic formatting machine and—voila—a book. A day or two later, it’s available for purchase. To hell with honing your craft until your work merits being published.
(And as I’m drafting this, I see the news report that Barnes & Noble has announced a self-publishing platform similar to Amazon’s.)
That worries me. When anybody and everybody can manufacture a product and there are no quality controls, what happens to the market for that product?
It’s already becoming difficult, when browsing Kindle books for example, to sort through the outrageous number of offerings searching for something that looks—for want of a better word—good. There exists already a sad amount of books with covers made with Microsoft Paint and error-riddled blurbs and eye-rolling excerpts.
Now, with a “revolution” shining a spotlight on the self-digital-publishing option, what’s the digital book market going to look like a year from now? My guess is that it’s going to be positively glutted with crap.
When I was inflicting this train of thought on my husband, he summed up my fear fairly succinctly: “Be a lot easier to say screw this digital crap and go to a bookstore. At least you know a publishing house bought it and it was edited by a professional.”
I think, if the day comes when digital bookstores are overrun by rejected first drafts, there’s going to be a backlash and frustrated readers could return to the “good old days” of print, when books were vetted by the slush pile and edited by professionals. It’s especially frustrating for authors who are published by digital publishers because it seems not a day goes by without somebody in the media or on the ‘net in general confusing digital publishing and digital self-publishing. If that backlash comes, will we be painted with the same brush? I hope not but, given the amount of confusion out there, it’s possible.
Digital self-publishing’s an intriguing alternative to traditional publishing and I think we’ll see more professional authors achieve success using the platform. But I can’t deny I worry about it, too. A lot.