I think writers everywhere think they have one good story in them. Like at some point in their lives the stars will align, they will characterize their protagonist in their sleep, and wake up to write the next bestseller. I had always thought this, but I recently got an internship with a successful author to around 30 books. I hadn’t heard of any of them before working with him, nor had I heard of him. It was clear to this forty-something successful-in-an-age-passed publisher and marketing/advertising guru that he needed to convert all of his books to e-reader/tablet format, or be forgotten – sink or swim.
We had a discussion that surrounded the nature of novel publishing, and the ever-manipulated audience’s attention span. It’s clear that with the rising popularity of Kobo’s and Kindle’s, book stores will soon go the way of DVD hires. It’s a grim revelation, especially if you think you’ve got a good premise for a novel. I’ve only been working for Paul G Roberts for two weeks, but I’ve already learned of two pretty important shifts in the market for bookselling in the coming years.
The upside: Online publishers won’t take as much money from you as old-school publishers did. They don’t take a 50% cut like they used to. Printing doesn’t cost your left arm (as long as you’re just dealing with text). Amazon will take anything you’ve got as long as you have an ISBN to go with it. Print-on-demand books are the future for those of you who still like the smell of fresh glossy paper (like me); they just won’t exist until you click ‘confirm payment’. Then some machine somewhere spits it out and it’s sent to your door. The rest of you who just read for enjoyment and consume books like water, Kindle’s and Kobo’s have it covered – you don’t need it in paper-form, so it looks like e-books are where it’s all headed.
The downside: just about every man and his dog has a novel that you can buy. The age of Dan Brown, Tim Winton, J.K Rowling, Stephen King, and Danielle Steel has passed. There are fewer and fewer novelists who can attain mainstream success and the rest are left to being allotted into their respective genres in the labyrinth of the internet. I look at it like crowd-surfing. If you do something crazy and different than the rest, you might get noticed enough to be allowed to sit above the pack. The people below are the writers trying to get out of the pit and into the open air – but the crowd is growing larger by the second, and so lowers the chance of future literary celebrities.
I personally think it’s a very sad turn of events for the literary lovers of the world. The evolution of e-books has opened the flood-gates to less impressive writers to have their less-than-impressive writing published, and as a result the diamonds remain lost in the rough. Now it seems that very few people care for the literary prowess of the authors they are reading, and the real success lies in the story. Can it be a trilogy? Can it be converted into a movie? It seems to me that if you can completely create a new world, you can create success for yourself. Think about the colossal success of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Lord of The Rings. They aren’t just incredible characters; their stories are incredible due to the unimaginable worlds they live in. So regardless of how excellent your writing is, or how relatable your character can be, the true success seems to stem from how far from reality you can get. But I’ve heard from so many authors that you shouldn’t overthink it. Write first, worry later. Otherwise your work isn’t even worth anything to you – and that is one of my greatest fears for literature.