Connie Brockway is an established romance writer. She has been on bestseller lists (though I have the impression she’s not one of the authors who consistently stays there) and she has won the RITA twice, which is the romance equivalent of an Oscar. She has just announced that she is going to self-publish her next few novels as e-books.
I realise that now isn’t actually the advent of self-publishing. Many brave people have gone before, a few of them have made it really big, many of them haven’t. The thing about now is that self-publishing has become such a viable option that big-name writers are considering it. Jenny Crusie mentioned an interest in it recently as well.
It makes sense. Writers already do anywhere between 60 and 95 percent of their own marketing through social networks, blogs, websites etc. (This is particularly true of genre writers, I think, and genre fiction has embraced e-publishing with an enthusiasm yet to be matched by literary fiction.) Writing also has very low start-up costs – aside, of course, from the hours and hours you’re not paying yourself to write. Design programs are accessible and relatively easy to use.
One of Brockway’s most compelling reasons for her decision was that it will allow her to write the books she wants to write, the stories she’s passionate about, not just the stories her publisher feels will do well in the current market.
I think it’s a really exciting time for writers, and the possibility of earning 100% of the profit from your work, rather than 6-15% (ish, I did just pull those numbers out of the air, but they’re about right) is exciting.
So why did Brockway’s announcement fill me with a kind of dread?
The first, easiest explanation is this: I have wanted to be a writer since I was very little. That has always meant a book with my name on it and my words in it. Except now that I’ve grown up enough to be a writer, the book world is progressing beyond me into something else, so that the most viable or even likely option might be e-books.
The next is all there in my vague statement that “many brave people have gone before”; I don’t actually know the names of those people. It’s also in my educated guesstimates of statistics I should know. I have never wanted to go into business for myself. It doesn’t appeal to me. I follow aspects of the publishing market that interest me, I regularly read a couple of industry blogs, but I have no drive to educate myself to the extent I would need to be educated, or to network to the extent I would need to network.
I want to be the writer, and let someone else take care of the rest. Even if it means they make as much from my work as I do. I suspect this is a heels-in reaction to change, and that my thought will revolutionise. It’s that kind of “I know I’ll love the water once I’m in, but the anticipation of the icy shock is killing me right now” fear.
This all means that the likes of me, the reader who will most likely never publish anything more than a newsletter or a blog, have to learn how to use ebooks and all the rest. An odd development when Oxfam in Glasgow now has a most organised and appealing second-hand book shop to compete with most of them. There won’t be such a thing anymore; second hand ebooks probably don’t exist??
I don’t think we’ll ever run out of paper books to resell!