I’m pretty excited about this e publishing thing.
Maybe its because I’ve still got stars in my eyes. Or maybe it’s because, overnight, I have gone from being a frustrated writer to a published author (a title I heretofore denied myself because I’d reserved it for someone who had actually sold a book).
But an author I am. Or an indie author, as I now prefer to consider myself.
Oh, I know that many of you are rightly and justifiably skeptical. You’ll see, you’re thinking. Once the bloom of finally seeing your words set in a very flattering cut of Palatino fades, you’ll meet the same fate as every other aspiring author who has chosen the self-publishing route.
The path to publishing fame and fortune couldn’t possibly run straight through the heart of easily accessible, user-friendly Internet technologies and new fangled digital reading devices, you’ve no doubt decided.
Or could it?
All I know is that after banging my head against the walls of conventional publishing for the better part of a decade, I will soon be in the enviable position of having two professionally designed and formatted novels in the market. And with them, hopefully, a royalty stream that reaches beyond the charity of my family and friends.
Sure you can depict this as little more than a new form of vanity publishing -- as do those whose interest is served by the preservation of the status quo. Or you can look to the uneven quality of self-produced fiction and find glaring examples of shoddy work that barely deserves its ninety-nine cent price tag.
But to do so is to miss the point entirely. And perhaps that’s why I feel compelled to share my rather esoteric argument that the single most important outcome of the current e publishing revolution is that it will inevitably allow authors to reclaim their craft and to finally ... take back the book.
What do I mean by this? Simply, that for as long as there have been individuals compelled to attempt to capture their life experiences as literature or entertain us with their storytelling skills, there has been a shadow hand that has accompanied their efforts.
Literary agents and editors. Publishers and booksellers. Angels and demons. They’ve been with us every step of the way. They are the keepers of the keys to the publishing kingdom and, by default, they have been the arbiters of our literary taste.
By managing the apparatuses of production and distribution, they have controlled the destiny of everyone who has ever sat down to write a book. Bless the clever agents and brilliant editors. Curse the query skimmers that man the gates.
However, with the advent of electronic publishing, the future of the entire industry is now suddenly and violently in play. A glance at any recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly will confirm this.
Which is why I am willing to predict that from this tumultuous period will come an opportunity for greater artistic freedom and creative expression than at any time in the history of the printed word.
There will be an unprecedented demand for new writers, new voices and greater experimentation in the realms of both commercial and literary fiction. In short, a revolution that is long overdue.
I’d like to be clear. Mine is not an angry manifesto. I am simply stating that for much of the last half century, most of what has been written and published and passed off as literature has been significantly warped by market-driven forces.
I’m just wondering aloud whether so much formula fiction would exist without a self-validating feedback loop that rewarded familiar, easy reading over more potentially interesting work.
Similarly, I refuse to believe that there would be such steady, pounding demand for hyper violent thrillers and paranormal fantasy tales if giant booksellers, eager to maximize profits, didn’t presume and subsume our literary choices with mass-produced and distributed novels.
It would be shame if this outcome were the ultimate fate of e publishing, too -- that its promise is short-changed by cheap e-titles that exploit the aggregating power of the Internet to generate sales of substandard work. Or worse, that such work came to be viewed as the e publishing benchmark.
Trust me. I’m no literary snob. Sample my work and you can judge its merits for yourself. I just believe, emphatically, that the precious art form that is the novel can be so much more than it has recently been allowed to be.
By challenging my fellow indie authors to take back the book, I am simply inviting all stakeholders -- writers and readers alike -- to seize this opportunity to expect and demand more. To write originally, experiment more and explore the heretofore unexamined.
Personally, I intend to aim a little higher -- to try and seize the moment. Hopefully, by doing so, I will find and deserve an audience. That will be the final proof of my e publishing venture and the ultimate measure of my worth as an artist.
When I dream about taking back the book, I imagine the works of authors far more talented than I will ever be liberated to express themselves freely and without the necessity of having to hit one out of the park commercially – every time at the plate.
That, I believe, is one of the unanticipated, but glorious opportunities of this brave new world. Or, perhaps, it's the point entirely.
Bruce Walker is the author of the recently released novel, Jesters’ Dance. Visit him at www.rbucewalker.com