Did You Just Call Me a Dinosaur?!?

I am an LDS author who announced last year I would embrace the new eBook phenomenon and self-publish 12 Books in 12 months (#11 is due for release June 1st)
With traditional publishing going the way of the dinosaur (if they won’t agree to a massive makeover) how does this affect you and your work?

Did I answer this question already? It seems familiar but it was still in my questions folder. So if this is a repeat, sorry.

First, good for you! I’m glad you’re meeting your goals.

Second, as I’ve said before, and I will now repeat, the biggest issue I have with self-publishing and cranking out those e-books is the lack of quality control—particularly in the areas of editing, book production, and targeted promotion and marketing.

It’s really hard for me to believe that someone can write and publish a book in one month, twelve months in a row, and have the end result be a quality reading experience. I’m willing to be wrong on that, but I seriously doubt that I am.

I don’t believe traditional publishing is going the way of the dinosaur, nor do I believe it needs a “massive” makeover. Yes, there are definitely things that need to change to keep up with technology and consumer expectations. But a savvy publisher is going to be doing this anyway, all the time. None of the big publishing houses are still doing business the way they did back in the early 1900s.

But to say that self-publishing and/or ebooks will put publishers out of business implies a basic lack of understanding of what a publisher does. A book is always going to need good editing. It’s always going to need someone to design and typeset a visually appealing product. It’s always going to need marketing to bookstores and to readers. It’s always going to need someone to make the initial monetary investment, create a solid budget, figure out how to recoup the cost, and track all the other numbers that determine the success of a book.

Most of the time, an author succeeds because they are good at writing; they have a talent for stringing words and phrases together to create a captivating story. This is an entirely different skill set than the one a publisher has. In fact, in most publishing houses, there are multiple people, each of which has ONE of the above mentioned skill sets—all of which are required to produce and market a book that will sell well.

It’s not that some authors can’t do it all. It’s that most of them aren’t highly skilled in every single aspect of producing a quality end product that will compete with products created by a team of people, each of which is (theoretically) highly skilled in what they do.

And for self-pubs and indies who say, “Well, I hire people to do what I’m not good at…”—then aren’t you, in effect, creating a publishing company?

Bottom line, how will it effect me and my work? It doesn’t. Not if I’m good at what I do.

6 thoughts on “Did You Just Call Me a Dinosaur?!?”

  1. LOVE this post!!

    In the past two years, of the 20 or so self-pubbed books I've read, I think one read like a traditionally published book would. The rest I felt like needed to lose a few thousand words, or could have used some good editing. Or, in the worst cases, I knew after chapter one why the book wasn't picked up.

    I don't think self-publishing is a bad way to go, but I think that more and more, every month, there are so many books that are self-published that more and more books are going to get lost in the mix.

    But that's just my opinion.
    No one likes the tediousness of traditional publishing, and how long everything takes. But there is a reason for it.

  2. I imagine there will be some hybrid of the two models – probably something like Amazon's new publishing venture.

    I recently returned to writing and have been reading various blogs as I write to help me hone my craft as well as to get the pulse of the literary world.

    The biggest draw to self-publishing is the author potentially can earn more per copy sold compared to the established publishing route.

    I agree – most of the self-pub stuff I've read is crap. Some is really good. From the readers perspective, this sucks. However, I spoke with an author of one of the mediocre books I read. His point is well taken. He never would have been published under the old model. In the self-pub model he earns a couple hundred dollars a month.

    The modern publishing world looks much like the fledgling internet world of the 90s – tons of content, much of it with no value.

    I think the future is probably a model where authors self-publish but use independent resources for editing and possibly marketing. Some entrepreneurial soul with a publishing background will take advantage of their experience and put themself in the position to broker such deals.

    But that's just my $.02

  3. I have to agree with the other commenters, that most self-pubbed stuff I've read (while I wouldn't call it "crap") is simply not up to snuff with traditionally published work (though to be fair, some publishers churn out some less-than stellar stuff too in the name of trend-chasing, it seems). I've read great stories that had big clunky info dumps or weird inconsistencies or awkward timelines.

    One recent book was a "character driven" story and went 38 consecutive pages without a single word of dialog. In a 160 page novel. Yikes.

    I personally think the frenzy will die down a bit and that self-pubbing is going to end up looking a lot like it did a few years back: a slush pile with a few jewels in it. There are talented writers and good stories and strong characters in that slush pile, to be sure! But they aren't realizing their potential because they are cutting corners, publishing quickly instead of editing, editing, editing, editing and working with a team designed to help them succeed.

    I could be wrong, too. But I agree with you, churning out a novel every month is unlikely to maintain excellent quality. I've read novels by traditionally published authors who churn out one a year and the quality is dishwater, at best!

  4. While several people have addressed the issues facing readers when they select the self-pubished ebook, there is a big one for those who consider going that direction: how are your readers going to find your book? With the vast numbers of people publishing this way, if you do not have the resources to get your book out there – odds of it being discovered are very slim. It is true that some out there are doing well, most languish. There are ways to get the word out, but face it – most do not have the wherewithal to succeed.

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