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Monday, April 4, 2011

Clarification Of My Ebook, Self-Publishing Wave of the Digital Future Views

So, the digital future of ebooks.


The death of print and book stores and all.

So, where do I stand?

I've made no secret about my aversion to ebooks as a reader and buyer.  On one hand, Kindles and Nooks are a bit too expensive for a guy on a Catholic School salary anyway, and I simply have no desire to read a story on my laptop.  Hurts my eyes.  Ironically enough, if one of my favorite authors in the world came out with a story that was only ever going to be in ebook and I was desperate enough, I'd probably just print the sucker out.

Recently, a friend pointed me towards a free download of H. P. Lovecraft's work.  I responded in truthfulness, I'd rather pay for a print copy.  That's just how I am.   I hit my local used bookstore twice a week.   

I love my books.

Understand, my aversion to the digital revolution is an emotional one, not based in reality or common sense whatsoever.    I literally get depressed when I hear about book stores dying and how print's going away.  In my head, rationally, I know the importance of a writer exploring the future.  Recently, at the Horror-Drive In, Brian Keene was gracious enough to offer his insights about newbie writers getting on the digital train, and he pointed the way towards affordable, reasonable, and efficient ways to self-publish digitally.

So I get it.  Publish or perish, as they say in academic circles.  But I have such a hard time working my head around it.  To me, ebooks are not books.  They are electrons.  That's all they ever will be.

Am I being needlessly stubborn and nostalgic and backward?

You bet I am.

But I'm not against digital self-publishing.   It might be cool - if there's ever a demand - to self-publish a small digital collection of some of my shorts.  But right now, I've really got no audience, no one to sell to.   Maybe I don't understand the digital market very well, but therein lies my recent vexation with the whole thing:

Seems like there's several authors who are consistently beating the "self-publishing digitally" drum.  Over.  And over.  To the point of it being ridiculous.  And yes, we've all heard about the guy who walked away from half a mil from a traditional house to self-publish (Personally, all I can think when I think of THAT is our obsolete and leaking septic tank, crumbling foundation, fifty-years out of date wiring, and all my college loans).  And I don't disbelieve those folks.  I'm sure they CAN make money self-publishing.  I'm don't think they're lying, at all. 

But they seem to want all the rest of us to do it, too.  And if we don't, we're not being smart new writers.  That, and even though they all claim to love books just as much as the next guy, they seem to be rubbing their hands with an inordinate amount of glee over the death of book stores and traditional print in general.   "The lady doth protest too much", really.

A fact:  publishing is changing.  Can't get around that.   BUT...

A fact: no one can predict what's going to happen.  Who knows what the landscape will look like in ten years.

A fact: there are still thousands of authors apparently publishing with NY and doing just fine.  Unless they're all lying to us.  So there must still be good traditional publishers and editors out there.

A fact: I have no audience.

A fact: If I self-publish digitally tomorrow, I might make some pocket change.  But not nearly as much as our current self-publishing champions.  And not nearly enough to make abandoning traditional print worthwhile.

A FACT: I'm not against self-publishing digitally, even for myself.  I'm just tired of a select few whose circumstances are radically different from the "newbie author with no audience" telling us all we'll get rich self-publishing and make more than we'll ever make with traditional publishers and that we're stupid if we don't self publish right now.

Way I see it, unless you've established yourself, something "happens" to your career: a great blurb, an award, a Stoker (even though people like to trash it), or through years of writing and word of mouth, making any kind of money writing is fast becoming a much harder thing.  You can still do it.  But it's much harder these days.

Maybe that's a good thing.  I always thought I wanted to write for a living.  But now I'm not so sure.  I'll still want to write WELL, to write stories that stand and that people will love to read.   But hey: I know now I'll probably never be able to write fast enough and finish enough things to write for a living (Luckily, I'm a teacher, and for the most part, I still really like my job, so I don't feel the pressure TO write for a living).  And, I probably won't jump onto the digital wagon quick enough to make a good career at it.

But maybe that's best.  

Because then I'll just write things I love, and write simply because I NEED to (Which DOES NOT imply that people who right for a career or who digitally self-publish are heartless mercenaries who don't love to write.  Just so we're clear).

PS:  This week begins "Autism Awareness Month".  As you can see, our house is lit in blue as part of recognizing this.  Expect a post concerning this later in the week....


  1. Hard not to agree with you on this. Something that I just thought about, after reading the op-ed about the death of the book in the Boston Globe, is that as far as I know both music and art have had just as much, if not more, of a conversion to a digital art form than writing. Yet, in all honesty, not a lot has changed in either of them, just a new branch of the tree. As far as I know there wasn't as much an aversion or battle-lines drawn on either side. Artist just had more options to choose from. Yet for us, it is now like we have to say "Live Digital or Die." The whole thing just feels odd to me, and a bit self-perpetuating within the industry.

  2. And I probably should just ignore posts that read "New publishing trends" and all that - really, I wish I could MAKE myself just go in a hole and write and ignore the world. I'm getting better at it, but honestly I may very well just pull the plug from both Twitter and Facebook, just write and and read and ignore everything else...