The publishing world has gone into a tailspin. Publishers have grabbed at the parachutes and are throwing authors from the plane to lighten the load, trying to make sure they have enough fuel to…what?
They don’t know. That they want to survive is obvious, but can they? Is there a landing strip, a clear bit of forest, or even an island they can aim at? No. There is not.
Electronic publishing has changed the world of the word forever, whether for good or ill, it will never be as it was. The last generation of “great authors” who we will ALL know and be able to talk about is already upon us and fading.
Never again can I foresee a future wherein we will hold discussions about an author’s collective works and the overall contribution made by them. We will always talk about Shakespeare and Poe, Lovecraft and Verne, and Heinlein and Norton, as long as there is still a discussion to be had about influence and origins of stories and writing. There are many authors writing now who we will still talk about for a long time to come. But will there be any new authors who are anything more than a flash in the pan? A one-hit wonder with a best seller that gets turned into a movie and then is lost forever to pop-culture?
Originally, I was going to make a contrast here that would make a poignant point (I love trying to say that out loud), but instead my research took me down a different path that will make the same point, just not as strikingly so. There are authors who were very prolific. Barbara Cartland had over 732 published works, with more manuscripts being released to electronic form. Corín Tellado had over 4,000.
At first, I intended to point out that every blogger and fan fiction author out there can now publish their works easily. Too easily. Even the ones that are borderline theft of copyright, or, sadly, outright plagiarism. And you won’t know until you buy their latest piece of swill that you already read this story, by a different author, but the names were changed.
Then I realized just how many works some people had already done. That kind of put a hole in my argument. Issac Asimov had 506 published works. (Okay, where did this info come from? From the ever popular, yet oft unreliable Wikipedia. I love it, and I hate it. I admit I did not take the time to double check these numbers myself.)
The old publishing ways did serve a purpose. They were not perfect, not by any means, but they were a guard at the gate. The gate has been breached. There is a flood of crap beginning to spew forth, threatening to overtake all of that which was good, as well as that which was not so good.
Did Barbara Cartland, Corín Tellado, and Issac Asimov deserve to have so many works published? Arguably. They may not have been the best writers, or if you are a fan maybe they were, but they did go through a screening process, and they were not found wanting. If they had not been ‘good enough’ they would not have gotten published.
I can self-publish now. It costs me only a little time. All I need is a story, a computer, an internet connection…and that is about it. Who will screen the authors now? Who will prevent me from writing a really crappy work everyday for the rest of my life and putting it up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble to see if it will sell? Who can stop me from absolutely flooding the market with stuff no one wants to read?
The answer is: you.
Conversely, if you read my stuff, and you like it, and you hope to see more someday, who can make that happen?
Again, the answer is: you.
You have the power to control my destiny and that of every author out there. Please use it wisely and be fair.
Go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or wherever else you like to buy your books, or talk about them, and review us. Tell other people. Tell other people to tell other people. This will make or break an author, so use the power wisely.
If you read something that is all right, but you didn’t like it, don’t bash the author, don’t bash the book. Give it a fair rating of three stars and a ‘meh, all right, but not for me’. Maybe someone else will like it. If you one-star it and walk away, you may deter the people who would have liked it, even when you knew it wasn’t bad. (Also, and this is important, never bash the author or his book because the place you bought it from screwed up the order or the download. Make sure that goes in the place where you rate that company. There is no way the author has any control over that.)
If the story is horribly bad, or a blatant rip-off, or they stole your money with a six word story spread over 300 pages without telling you it was only six words long, then make sure people know. Put it in the review, take time to let people know why they should not buy this book. That will put the real ‘hacks’ and scammers out of business. There is not enough money to be made at this to keep trying if people know you write crap or are intentionally misleading them.
Flip side: If you like the author, like their works, and want to see more, it is up to you to make sure they make enough money to keep trying. Give them a good review. Go put the review on the other web-site, too. Tell your friends so they go buy the book. Talk about it on your blog. But don’t over do it. Don’t make yourself look like you were hired to do it. Don’t compare it to the Bible and show people you are too crazy to give a good review. That is as damning to the author’s work as a bad review.
The future of writing, as entertainment, and as an art form, is in your hands. And it is kind of like the environment and political landscape of today -if you let apathy overcome you, and you do nothing, you will lose what you love.
On a final note. Amazon has been experimenting with ‘sharing’ on the Kindle. I am sure others will follow suit. Most authors I know, have no problem with that. We are just like you. We want to loan our favorite books to our best friends. What we don’t do is steal the book in the first place. If you buy a pirated copy, only the pirate got paid. The author will eventually give up writing and go back to working a ‘real’ job. The pirate will just find someone else to steal from and keep making money.
Some people like to argue “Dean Koontz will never notice if I didn’t pay for his book.” Well, you’re right. He won’t. But if you and 200,000 people all don’t pay for his latest book, or if a pirate gets all the money. He may just retire and you’ll never see another Dean Koontz book again. (Just an example. I have not met Mr. Koontz -yet. I have my eye on you Mr. Koontz.)
If you end up with a free pirated copy of someone’s work, remember they made no money from it. Truth is, we want you to read it anyway. But, when you get done, don’t pass it on. Don’t support the pirate again. If you liked it, go give it a good review. Buy a copy to show you want us to write more. Tell your friends to go buy one. Make sure that the authors who you like can afford to keep entertaining you, because that is what we really live for.