Something new is happening to literature. Anyone can get published without upfront costs. Before, authors were limited to either going with traditional, POD, or vanity presses. Now anyone can upload their work to a variety of on-line venues such as Kindle, the Nook, Smashwords, and many more with little to no upfront costs.
So what do we need publishing houses for?
I know people fed up with traditional presses, citing receiving many rejections over what they deem is quality writing, or admonishing the long period of waiting between acceptance and getting their books on the bookshelf. Plus I’ve heard grumbling over agent and publishing fees that “might have” been theirs had they avoided going the long route of submitting. After all, they argue, we’re doing all the marketing ourselves anyway.
So what is a writer to do?
Here’s my take. E-publishing is definitely a valid way to go. But it’s similar to an agent or editor slush pile. Someone has to find it to read it, and if it isn’t well done, the reader will put down the book and not bother reading anything else you write. Ever. (Although an agent or editor might give you a second chance someday.)
In all honesty, too many e-book writers put out material that isn’t very good. Traditional publishing houses have knowledgeable editors. Editors that can turn a good book into a great book. If you have a long way to go with writing, they will turn you down. This may mean you aren’t ready to share your work with the world yet. It could be a pretty decent benchmark of where you stand as a writer.
But they also may turn you down if they feel you won’t make them enough money. After all, publishing is a business. Physical books cost money to make. And your editor needs to be paid for his or her time and service.
So it may have nothing to do with skill as much as marketability. This is why I’m happy e-books are out there and anyone can publish through them. But this may change publishing as we know it.
As readers, we’ll have to muddle through the bad writing to find the well done books. Eventually people may become wary of self-published work and search for books published by established, well-known imprints.
Or, readers may tolerate poor writing. Perhaps not even realize the craftsmanship is missing. Will this “dumb down” America? Will our standards of literature change?
Only time will tell. But until then, I applaud the efforts of those e-publishing, but respect those sticking to traditional publishing as well.