For the last several months I've been reading about poor quality eBooks put out by major publishers. A lot of bestselling authors are complaining. How hard is it for industry professionals to learn or God forbid hire someone to proof and format an eBook? Why is it that top selling authors are fielding complaints from their readers that their eBooks are full of typos and formatting mistakes? My girlfriend and I formatted my book for Smashwords in about an hour, same for Amazon. We made it into Smashwords' premium catalogue on the first try, so someone please tell me why the big 6 can't do it. Could it be that they're doing it intentionally? Could it be that they want eBooks to appear of lesser quality? Could it be that they're worried that eBooks will become the preferred format for readers and thereby make their jobs obsolete? The answer is yes.
Imagine you got a call from a big publisher and they want to make your dream come true and publish your book. A year later you go online to check it out and it looks like a fourth grader edited it. Now imagine you’re a bestselling author who's been banging out the hits for decades and your eBooks look like you don't even know basic grammar. Too bad, you signed the contract. You get no say in how your book is distributed. SOL.
In the next few months, the transition from traditional publishing to digital is going to get more and more precarious for the big 6. By fudging with the numbers of author royalties, as well as trying to make eBooks appear inferior, they have hastened their own demise. How long will it take until traditional publishing becomes what self-publishing used to be: a colossal waste of time and money, career suicide, and a sure bet you'll never see a penny? I'm betting it's going to be months instead of years. I'll make a prediction that traditionally published print books, even though they still get (so they say) 80% of readers, will represent less than half of the readership by the end of 2011. A bold statement, you say? At the Digital Book World conference in January, industry analysts speculated that eBook sales would increase to 50% of publishing revenues within five years. Then why do I say less than a year? First, because they haven't yet figured out (or they are intentionally ignoring) self-published sales. On the Amazon bestseller list, 49 out of 100 are from self-published authors. These numbers are ignored by the APA (American Publishing Association) for now, but pretty soon someone's going to figure out how to track self-pubbers and it's going to shock the shit out of everyone.
Secondly, blogs like this one. Writers sharing horror stories are going to scare would-be authors right into the arms of Mark Coker. Best-selling authors are already jumping ship. Others will follow suit.
When Dave Wolverton says you'd be better off doing it yourself, and everyone agrees with him, it's only a matter of time before traditional publishing will seem silly. Some writers are advising to pursue both avenues, traditional and self-publishing, but that's difficult when rumors are circulating that agents who want to be publishers are putting clauses in contracts that take away author erights. Why do they want these rights so badly? Because self-publishing these days is sending agents and publishers the way of the dinosaur.
I started out this blog by encouraging authors to take the leap into self-publishing, but it might not be a leap much longer. It may be the only game in town.
What do you think?