This conversation arises due to the extensive changes that have rocked the publishing world in the last few years. In the past, each publisher had a couple stars and a mid-list. But these days, mid-list writers are an endangered species. Publishers neither have the money nor the confidence in writers to publish a bunch of books that might not make much money.
That means that unless you’re one of the blockbuster boys it’s real hard to make writing fiction a career. At the same time, one can’t help but notice that the writers getting nice contracts seem to be people who are already names - actors, celebrities, big-name chefs, etc. Fiction authors who do land contracts seem to be getting smaller and smaller advances. We look over at people like Joe Konrath making $150,000/month with e-books and wonder if that’s a workable alternative.
I have nothing but respect for Mr. Konrath, but anyone who tells you they know the future of publishing is kidding himself. BUT, since nobody really knows what the industry will look like in a couple years, isn’t this the perfect time to try new things?
Also, with so many big names stepping into self-publishing it is no longer the mark of the desperate wannabe. More and more successful e-book authors are getting contracts with mainstream publishers. Even agents (maybe the most conservative people in the business) are starting to see e-books as valuable entrees into the publishing world. True, not every e-book is worth buying and you might get tarred with that same brush. But is every printed book worth buying? I think not, but they are a bigger financial gamble for the buyer than an e-book at $2.99 or even 99 cents.
Of course, it’s not all that simple. Not everybody WANTS to learn book design, how to choose covers, the ISBN process, hunt for distribution and be a publicist. Let’s face it: a lot of us just want to write! If that’s you, maybe self publishing is not for you. On the other hand, learning the ins and outs of the business has certainly given me a better perspective on what to write and what readers want. And, frankly, it has gotten me more engaged in my work.
More pros and cons from me next week, but first, I want to hear what YOU think?