I’m stoked about getting two of my recent titles listed among Barnes and Noble’s “Nook” ebook reader offerings. It’s great to see both Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall and The Re-Election Plot made available for download from B&N’s web pages.
I sense a tidal change in the publishing industry, arriving right here, right now. I’ve been toying with the idea of publishing books on my own, without a major publisher involved, and what’s just happened goes a long way toward convincing me it’s the right choice.
Smashwords, my ebook publisher, is essentially a public service organization dedicated to lowering the barriers to publishing for everyone who has an ambition to be an author. While one could argue that their standards are therefore too low and any piece of dreck can get published, that’s not what’s really important. What’s important is that a lot of independent voices and innovators have been neglected over the years by the publishing powers-that-be, simply because the author was unknown or the subject matter didn’t fit the preconceived notions of what those powers wanted to sell. But who’s to say what will entertain and enlighten readers? Must we leave the choice in the hands of a few powerful publishing corporations? Or should readers be able to decide on their own? You can guess my answer to those questions.
What’s happening is a good thing. Let me give you a case in point. My short story, The Re-Election Plot, has made the usual rounds of editors. I submitted it in paper form to the big publishing houses of mystery fiction where, in one house after the other, it was ignored for several months, briefly glanced at, and then perfunctorily rejected and sent back to me with a note that didn’t even bother to tell me why it was passed on. As with other manuscripts I’ve shopped around, it got to be a few YEARS later and still no sale (I wrote the story after seeing a U.S. election swayed by what in my opinion was a fake Osama bin Laden video tape, and a whole ‘nother election has occurred since then). The very last editor who read the piece, one at the very biggest and best publishing house for mystery, actually included an explanatory note. She said that the story was very entertaining, but the current issue had no room for it.
After all my efforts and years of delay, imagine what a downer that statement was. What she REALLY said, if you turn her statement upside down is, “There are too many other authors in line ahead of you, some with big names, so we’ve got no room for you.”
Forget “disheartening,” since I’m not really very prone to that. Consider, “entirely unacceptable,” as in, those other authors in line ahead of me are not necessarily better than me, they’re just known commodities to the editors and readers of that particular magazine. Why should I wait politely in line behind them? There’s nothing at all wrong with my writing, by the editor’s own admission.
So now I’ve gone and released The Re-Election Plot through Smashwords and it’s already, several WEEKS later, listed at Barnes and Noble for 99 cents a copy. People who’ve downloaded it have already gotten back to me and told me things like, “Couldn’t put it down.”
Why would I ever want to play the major publishers’ waiting game again? I’ve got a lot more stories and they’ll be coming out soon, via Smashwords.
By the way, I’m not really knocking the major publishers. They print some good stuff. But they’re giving me a “busy signal” when I’ve got a lot to say.