The stigma is gone, but the road to nirvana is getting more crowded by the day. That’s the gist of Andrew Rice’s article, “The $0.99 Best Seller” in the December 10 issue of Time.
Rice visited a romance writer’s convention where Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, was the most popular speaker, and E.L. James, the best selling author of Fifty Shades of Grey was the symbol of success for many writers in attendance. Fifty Shades began as Twilight fan fiction before going viral as an ebook and finally landing a traditional Random House contract. According to Rice, “To Coker and his audience…Fifty Shades…looked like a harbinger of the future of publishing.”
Rice said there were 30 self-published ebooks on a recent list of Amazon top sellers and four self-published titles on the New York Times ebook best seller list. Self-published ebooks are growing at four times the rate of traditionally published titles, and Rice quotes analysts as saying the “big six” publishing houses may soon become three or two or even just one.
This doesn’t mean that it’s easy. I’m reminded of the California gold rush. Some who arrived at the gold fields early – the “48ers” – made substantial amounts of money while those who came later did not. Last year’s ebook celebrity, Amanda Hocking, took a traditional publishing contract when it was offered, saying marketing and promotion got in the way of her writing. I’ve reviewed books by several excellent indie authors – Jade Scott, Amy Rogers, and Barbara Kloss, and all of them spend huge amounts of time publicizing their work.
Andrew Rice says it’s not going to get any easier: “the chances of publishing that rare blockbuster grow more remote every day as more stories flood into the market, competing for a finite amount of reader attention.”
Yet for those indie authors I know, it’s not about getting rich or hitting the long shot best seller. At the core, it’s about finding an avenue to tell the stories that live inside them. The days when aspiring authors needed traditional publishing for validation and a way of getting their work into print are history, just like quill pens and Underwood typewriters. The stigma is gone, and good riddance.