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The E-Book Revolution: Different Music, Same Song...
by Moira Allen
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And there is no doubt that the world of the e-book itself has changed. Finally, thanks primarily to Kindle, there is a hand-held reader that book-lovers can embrace. Yes, I know there are other hand-helds out there, but there's no question that Kindle both started the pack and is leading the pack, with the highest market share of any e-reader and the highest volume of e-book sales.
What the Kindle has done, at long last, is make electronic texts "readable" for the average individual. When the "day of the e-book" was proclaimed over a decade ago, the problem was that you had to read them on your computer. Since the vast majority of "book lovers" like to curl up in a comfy chair, or sit on the deck, or read on the beach, or lie in a hammock, being chained to a computer screen to read the latest Clive Cussler just didn't cut it.
Now, with today's hand-helds, you can read in the hammock or on the beach or on a plane or up in a treehouse. And suddenly, hundreds of thousands of readers are buying e-books. I've already noticed that my DogEar Publishing POD title, Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, sells more electronic copies than print copies, and Amazon announced in May that they were selling more e-books than print. (I suspect these figures apply only to the sales of new books and not to the millions of used books sold in Amazon's "marketplace.")
So far, so good. That's the "new music" that we're hearing. There's a new way to read e-books that people actually like (including me), so people are buying and reading e-books. Unfortunately, that has led many pundits and self-proclaimed experts to jump, once again, on the "bright and shining future for all writers" bandwagon.
At last, we're told, the future of publishing is in the hands of writers. Or, at least, it will be in the hands of writers. Soon. Any day now. The day of the dinosaur publishing company, cranking out its antique "print" books, and turning away worthy writers by the score, is over. I've already read several articles that declare that, in another ten years (or less), print publishing will be a thing of the past. The age of the "independent publisher" -- the author/publisher -- is upon us. All you need to do is polish up your opus, get it formatted for Kindle, load it up on Amazon, and voila! Fame and fortune will be yours.
I hate to rain on these pundits' parades, but... we've heard it before. And it simply isn't true. It wasn't true ten years ago and it isn't true today, for the same reasons. Just because a platform exists doesn't mean it's going to "change the world" for independent writers, or wipe out those mean, nasty, greedy "corporate" publishers.
Yes, readers are embracing e-books, and buying them by the thousands. But what, exactly, are readers buying? Well... They're buying Clive Cussler, and Mary Higgins Clark, and Stephen King, and any of a thousand other authors, bestselling and mid-selling and barely-a-trickle selling, who are published by major publishers. Readers are buying the same books they bought in print, written by the same authors, published by the same publishers. Only the format has changed. And who's producing (and profiting from) the vast majority of e-books being sold today? Big publishers. Folks, the dinosaurs aren't going anywhere. They may change their skins, but they're definitely not dying off just so that us little indie-mammals can have a chance to take over the earth.
It is certainly true that the new advances in electronic publishing offer new opportunities to writers. It is true that it is now easier than ever before to get an e-book "published" and up for sale on Amazon and elsewhere. But nothing else has changed. If you don't have a good book, it's not going to sell. If you can't effectively promote and market your book, it's not going to sell. And if, as happened with the first wave of e-books, the market becomes flooded with bad self-published offerings, potential readers are going to learn to shy away from all "indie" offerings, because it will become too hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff. When that happens, only the corporate dinosaurs win.
Don't get me wrong. I think the "e-book revolution" is a great thing. I am delighted that more readers are finding me on Kindle -- because that means I have more readers! (I'm not so delighted that I make about half as much money from those sales...) I'm definitely planning to get more of my work out there on Kindle.
But don't mistake a new format for the "miracle cure" that will get your languishing book "published" at last. Don't imagine that if you post it, they will come. Nothing's going to make a bad self-published book a success, and only one thing will make a good self-published book successful: Lots and lots of hard work.
Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts VictorianVoices.net, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer's cat. She can be contacted at editors "at" writing-world.com.