Time to kiss and make up?
About 18 months ago, I wrote a guest post for Morgen’s blog entitled ‘Are eBooks fracturing the writing family?’. I was moved to write it because the writing fraternity was, at the time, looking pretty divided over the new freedom to self-publish that the eBook revolution had created. There seemed to be a perception among some commercially published writers that almost all self-published eBooks were of a poor standard and their authors had been forced to take the self-publishing route because, frankly, no self-respecting publisher would touch their stuff in a month of Sundays.
There was even a debate over whether self-published eBookers were entitled to call themselves ‘authors’.
I won’t revisit the possible thinking behind these opinions that I discussed at the time. I’m more interested in what has happened since. And, I reckon, there’s been quite a lot.
For a start, there was Sockpuppetgate. It emerged, amid some depressing acrimony, that some self-published authors were apparently posting reviews under assumed names, praising their own work to the heavens and rubbishing some of their opposition. This was seeming evidence that, not only were self-publishers second-rate, but they could only get a good review by writing it themselves.
The row this sparked was unedifying and left me wondering what the reading public made of writers. But the story took a twist when it turned out that not all commercially published authors may be immune to this sharp practice. When that story broke, you could almost feel the shock waves. Perhaps the writing world wasn’t divided between squeaky-clean commercially published authors and less scrupulous eBookers after all. Perhaps the real division lay simply between those who used sockpuppets and those who didn’t?
That may or may not have made some folk think. I don’t know. But there have been two other stories, which for me have been even more interesting.
One had been the sight of some successful self-published eBookers getting picked up by agents and publishers. For those who take the eBook route, but still dream of the commercial two-book deal, I write this just after brilliant Mel Sharratt’s first e-novel, Taunting the Dead, realised richly deserved commercial publication.
Suddenly, good writers who would like a commercial deal because they see it as an endorsement of their talent, a few years ago, need not see self-publishing as the kiss of death to any ambitions of a writing career. On the contrary, I see writers who swore they would never self-publish taking the self-publishing plunge, rather than sit around waiting for commercial opportunity to knock – and there’s some quality stuff out there now, as a result.
What is more, as e-readers are acquired in increasing numbers, so more and more people are simply looking to find the next good read, however it is published – and there are plenty of tools and information sources out there to help the discerning reader decide whether or not to buy.
All these things have, I think, contributed to a subtle shift in the sands. Increasing numbers of good unpublished authors are seeing self-publishing as a credible alternative to the commercial route, and not as a booby prize. A good product, well marketed, can achieve good sales figures and a strong following. That’s why we really write, isn’t it? Above all else, we want our stuff to be read.
I’m not saying that all in the writing family has returned to harmonious sweetness and light, or that the scales have fallen from the eyes of all who dismissed self-published eBooks as rubbish. But I do think an increasing number at least recognise that things are no longer as simple as they thought.
Time to kiss and make up? Maybe not everyone is ready for that yet. But certainly, I don’t see many of the sort of comments I was detecting less than two years ago. If prejudice still exists (and I’m sure it hasn’t entirely disappeared), it’s at least being voiced a lot less. That should mean a lot to self-published writers, whose egos are as fragile as those of their most stellar commercial counterparts.
I’ve always thought the ‘eBook revolution’ should be called the ‘eBook evolution’. The landscape continues to change in exciting, unpredictable ways. In an industry where nothing much had changed for over a century, that has to be good news.
I certainly think so. Thank you, Dave.
Dave Sivers has been writing since primary school, and he spent much of his civil service career moonlighting as a freelance writer, to say nothing of spells as a bookmaker’s clerk and nightclub bouncer.
When he gave up the day job, he was able to devote more time to his writing, and he decided to take the plunge into eBooks in August 2011 with A Sorcerer Slain, a hybrid ‘crime fantasy’ featuring the personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel.
A second Dashiel mystery, Inquisitor Royal, has followed, as well as a small collection of short stories, Dark and Deep: Ten Coffee Break Crime Stories.
Dave published his first contemporary crime novel, The Scars Beneath the Soul, as a Kindle eBook in May 2013, and he has been delighted to see it feature in the top 30 in Amazon’s serial killers bestseller list.
The book, set in his corner of the Chilterns, introduces Detective Inspector Lizzie Archer and Detective Sergeant Dan Baines. He is currently working on a sequel.
Always an eclectic writer, Dave continues to write weekly columns for two local newspapers and is currently directing a Nativity musical for which he wrote the script and lyrics and co-wrote the music. He has earned publication and prizes for his short fiction.
Dave is an active member of the organising committee for BeaconLit, acting as panel moderator for its first festival in June this year (2013). He lives with his wife, Chris, in Buckinghamshire, England.
- And from this blog posts by: Caroline A Shearer, Dave Sivers, David Coles 1, David Coles 2, Fred Willard, Joseph V Sultana, Marlayna Glynn Brown, Nadia Jones, Paul Hurst 1, Paul Hurst 2, Tad Wojnicki, Terri Morgan.
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