Near my home, there is a house that’s still under construction. Although it has no fence yet, it does have a door at the garden’s edge, standing alone in the middle of the road, like a white version of Clarke’s monolith. As I passed by earlier today, I chuckled at the sight of a dog standing inside the fenceless garden, right behind the closed door, waiting for someone to open it so he can go out for a walk.
At that moment, I remembered my recent post on author rejection and why it’s not okay to romanticize it, and it occurred to me that this is exactly what’s happening with the publishing industry. Writers and authors are still courting agents and publishers, who have acted like gatekeepers for centuries. And yet, they ignore the simple fact that the gates are no longer surrounded by fences.
It used to be that publishers were the only way to ensure a book’s mass distribution; having their backing was the only way to reach an audience.
Not anymore. When Amazon decided to allow everyone to publish and distribute their works through Kindle Direct Publishing, it removed any fences and gatekeepers from publishing.
Why Don’t More People Self-publish?
If Amazon has made it so easy to self-publish, why don’t more people self-publish?
One of the reasons is that, to some, self-publishing is an admission of defeat. Writers are a notoriously insecure lot, so we need someone’s stamp of approval on our work, to validate it and reassure us that our work matters. That we matter.
But the public doesn’t care about that. It cares about our work. And if our work is any good, if we can build a community and talk with people in an honest and personal way, we can reach them; introduce our work to them; make them care about our characters, stories, and books.
Aren’t You A Publisher? So Why Do You Love Amazon?
It may seem odd for a publisher to support the Indie revolution. Yes, Azure Fire Publishing is a publisher. And yes, we love Amazon.
Why? To understand our point of view, let’s examine a few points:
- Traditional publishers won’t publish any kind of work they believe won’t be profitable.
- This makes them conservative when selecting titles to publish.
- Indie authors, on the other hand, have faith in their work and are inherently experimental.
- Amazon doesn’t care if every person in the world publishes their work on Kindle since it costs it next to nothing to do so.
- The sheer volume of Indie titles, combined with their low prices, allows readers to become more adventurous in their choices.
- At the same time, Indie authors have to go through a steep learning curve, that involves:
- honing their writing skills,
- learning the importance of marketing,
- appreciating the difficulties of publishing.
- Many Indie authors would jump at the opportunity to be traditionally published.
- Therefore, traditional publishers should use Amazon like the NBA uses college basketball to coach the best players.
A New Kind Of Publisher For A New Kind Of Author
In effect, Amazon could become a huge training center for new authors — an ambition we fully support through our writing challenges. Once authors have picked up the necessary skills and proven their profitability, many will be happy to sign on to the publishers’ terms, seeing it as a natural progression.
There will be those who have become so successful that they will prefer the freedom of keeping their own rights, but I believe that most authors will gradually be hybrid ones; self-publishing some of their work and publishing traditionally the rest. Even Hugh Howey, often considered to be the number one Indie friend, does that. It makes perfect sense for both writers and publishers. It even allows publishers to experiment a bit: if a title has been profitable on Amazon, it should be profitable on paper, too.
So, instead of looking at this in a short-term way, we feel that no one can’t put the genie back into the bottle. What we can do, is use it in a way that will allow everyone to get rich.
I, for one, love Amazon because it empowers everyone involved: readers get more choice, while authors are free to experiment with different genres and break the rules. It is only those publishers who cling to the old ways of thinking that need worry about it. In Tolkien’s words, “the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.”
And, it seems, baffled dogs behind non-existent fences.