ePublishing: a bubble bound to burst?
This article about the epublishing bubble takes a largely pessimistic view; I think the author is also mostly right although he’s missed a few points. (Previously published in Dark Matter issue 7.)
On the negative side, the cutting of costs across paper and electronic publishing means that, even in big publishing houses, editing standards have been lowered. I recently started reading an advance reading copy of a book. The entire human race was anatomically incorrect; the author appears to have misinterpreted Wikipedia pics and not gone further afield for research. I’ve studied a bit of psychology and was forced to memorise all the areas of the brain and their functions, so maybe I’m being pedantic. However, there were significant other problems with the book making me wonder if an editor read it at all or just decided, because it’s a previously award-winning author, that the book is fine. For example, girl goes outside and talks to boy in front yard. Then they’re in a room with a floor. Then girl goes to front door to go inside to get something, then boy is near a path. There were other issues with inconsistency, including the girl knowing something and then being really upset when she was told the same fact and so forth.
A lot of self-published authors don’t have their work edited independently. I can tell you from experience that I cannot fully edit my own work. If I write something for DMF, for the next week or two at least, I’m too close to my own work to pick up on a lot of errors or room for improvement. Leave it a few months or, better still, a year or two, and it’s a whole different story: my fingers itch to rewrite significantly. Luckily I have a quite literate partner who proof reads and edits for me, but he has a day job and limited time to contribute; how many self-published authors are in a similar or worse position? Thus literature with a small ‘l’ declines.
This decline in standards will, in the end, be the long-term source of difficulties for the publishing industry. Prices go up and down, but in the end people will pay for something they desire, whether it is paper or electronic. Books via the publishing industry must compete with TV, movies and the internet for our time and money. To garner a following, especially if there’s a price tag attached, standards must be high.
Ewan Morrison, author of the linked article, completely omits to mention the opportunity epublishing provides to those who seek a voice, an opportunity to be published, who do the work for the love of creation, and do not have expectations of significant financial rewards. Traditional paper publishing is just too damn costly for most potential self-publishers, but epublishing gives everyone an opportunity to create and to be heard.
While I’m sure there are many creators out there who would appreciate financial rewards, many create in the knowledge that they’ll probably always need a day job, but they do it for the love of writing or drawing. When interviewing people, I tend to ask about day jobs because it is so common for creators to need a day job. Aspiring creators can learn that holding a day job is not something to be ashamed of, but is almost a badge of honour: ‘I created this through determination and sacrifice while working a day job AS WELL!’
Vincent Van Gogh only sold a few paintings while alive, and all or most of them to his brother. Van Gogh did not make a living out of painting. Most artists and writers, even the fairly successful ones, do not make a living out of their art because we live in a culture that, generally, does not value art and culture outside of a rich man’s trophy cabinet. So hold your heads up high while keeping your feet on the ground. Value your day job and work your butt off creating; that way you’ll be able to eat as well as have the satisfaction of creation.