“The global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams,” wrote Scott Turow, author and President of the Authors Guild., in an op-ed in the New York Times in April. E-books, pirated copies and changes to copyright laws will cause the “slow death of the American author.”
|Photo: Evan Long by Creative Commons|
The legendary legacyE-books are the driving force of publishing these days. Amazon reported that more than half of its sales are of e-books. And David Gaughran estimates that 25 percent of the e-book market is by independent authors.
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under a Creative Commons-Attribution license by way of Flickr
- Acquisitions editors and agents choose manuscripts to publish based on sellability, not on quality. Because they cannot tell the future any better than you or me, they use factors like whether an author has been published before to make decisions. Getting selected from the slush pile is due either to blind luck or — usually — connections within the industry.
- The quality of editing varies widely. Most copy-editors and proofreaders are right out of university and they’re so badly underpaid that most quickly seek more rewarding employment.
In reality, authors today do most of what publishers did 20 years ago: research, check facts, write, edit, copy-edit and proofread. Interior design or layout is capably handled by word processing apps. Howey and any number of other authors concur that most authors published by big companies have to do their own promotion. The days of book launch tours are long gone. Bix publishers only spend money to promote their sure-fire winners: their biggest sellers and celebrity authors.
The independent reality
|Hugh Howey, from his website.|
Hugh Howey, compares the self-published independent author to the independent musician. “We admire anyone who learns the grammar of chords and then strings these phrases together into music.” They begin by playing cover tunes, progress to busking and open-mic nights, get small gigs and hope to open for a big act or be discovered by a major label. “This is how artists are born. They are self-made.”
Proposing a new publishing modelWriters can, and do. perform all the functions of a commercial publisher. In other words, authors don’t need publishers.
|(Image found on Ted Landphair's America blog, originally from whiteafrican, Flickr Creative Commons) |
Many of you readers already know about the authors’ cooperative I belong to, Independent Authors International. With 13 members so far, it’s a consortium of writers who commit to supporting each other in development, production and promotion of each other’s work.