Monday, June 13, 2011

The eBook Revolution and the New Writer - Part 1

And now an unsolicited Mythik editorial:

Let's dig deep into the ole' Mythik mailbag and see what we can find. Okay, here is a good letter. It's from Bart in Nacogdoches, Texas. Bart writes:

Dear Mr. Mythik,
I'm an Indy Author and I just published my first novel on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and a bunch of other places. It's been over a month, and I am still not on the best-seller lists. What am I doing wrong? Please help!
Bart -- Distressed in Nacogdoches  
First of all, Bart, enough with the "mister" stuff. We're pretty casual around here. Second, how should I know? You've been doing this longer than me. Third, you're in luck, because I do actually have a very simple answer to your question. Ready? Pay attention, because it goes by quick. You want to know what you are doing wrong? Okay, here's the answer:

Nothing. There ya go.

All right, I have to admit there is no Mythik mailbag, and nobody is sending letters (how very 20th century) to Mr. Mythik. But if they did, I would give them the same answer as I did to imaginary Bart.

I know what you're thinking. What do I know about this stuff, right? Why should I be talking about this? The reason I bring this up at all is because I've noticed a lot of things flying around the invisible airwaves of the internet about the eBook Revolution, and what I am terming the "New Writer" (which will soon become like "New Media" i.e. not "new" at all after a while.) There's tons of speculation and advice about ePublishing and even a few facts here and there. One fact you may have noticed is all those people who are suddenly toting around these anorexic Tricorder-like devices called Kindles, Nooks, iPads etc. And, much like cell phones in the late '90s, I don't think they are going away any time soon. As a speculative fiction writer, I love to, um, speculate on the real-life trends of our world of the future. So I give you my (no doubt, unasked for) 2 cents of opinion of ePublishing in two easy parts:

I will assume imaginary Bart isn't involved in some sort of eBook Get Rich Quick Scam. It goes without saying that people who use software to automatically self-publish thousands of spam and plagiarized books are bad apples that just irritate readers and add noise to the electronic bookshelves, making it hard to find the good stuff. This is why I prefer the term independent rather than self-published. I know, a label shouldn't matter, but here's why I make the distinction: Any yahoo with a computer can self-publish an eBook. Even if they aren't actually scamming or spamming, there's no guarantee they aren't just uploading random words. I've hit the "send sample" button and received a book with 20 blank pages (well not totally blank - some of them had a few dashes on them. Modern art, perhaps, or maybe a secret code, but it definitely didn't entice me to spend $2.99 to find out how it ended.)

I like the term independent, as used in independent film, because it just means it is produced outside of the Hollywood major studio system. It does not mean unprofessional. It doesn't necessarily always mean low budget either, although it usually is when compared to the average Hollywood movie. In the ePublishing world, I define independent as outside the much maligned big publishing system. It can be a first-time author on a shoe-string budget (or no budget,) or it could be an established writer with dozens of backlist books. I'll get into this a bit more in a future post, but here's my definition of an Indy Author:
"Someone who does all the things a "traditional" publisher would, only on a smaller scale. (And theoretically, faster, cheaper, and hopefully better. Not better because of some magical "Indy Spirit," but potentially better because of an attention to detail that should be possible when the artist has all the control and is willing to shoulder all of the responsibility.) They may do the artwork, editing, formatting, marketing etc. on their own, or hire professionals to do these tasks. The end result is professional and should be as good or better than traditional publishing companies. The reader should be unable to distinguish Indy from traditional based on format and presentation."
Notice, there is nothing in the definition about quality of story content. Hey Bart, your historical comedy-romance about the Black Plague may outsell J.K. Rowling and Stephen King combined, who knows. That's for the reader to decide. But if you get a 1-star review, then just deal with it. As long as what the reviewer complained about was lifeless characters, dull setting, and boring plot, you will be fine. If writing is your passion, you'll either adapt and make the necessary adjustments or decide that Black Plague comedy isn't that particular reviewer's cup of tea. Critics disagree all the time. Art is subjective, especially when people spend their hard earned money on it. But if the critics complain that your book is equivalent to a bad YouTube video shot on a cell phone in a dark room with unintelligible audio, you're in trouble.

So, let's also assume that Bart's book is not plagued (ha, get it?) by wordssmashedtogether  wit-h occ-asion-al hyp-hens in the wrong places or wŦŒird charaĦ■◗cters and all the other things (misspellings, atrocious grammar, etc.) hard working readers rightly complain about. Let's also assume that the book does have a potential audience somewhere out there. That brings us to Part-2.

Which will be continued next time :)

Go to Part-2


  1. I agree 100% with your definition of "Independent Publishing," Jon. Looking forward to part 2 of this post.

  2. Fascinating post. I'm eagerly awaiting part 2!

    Ellie Garratt

  3. I'm considering 'independent' for a series of novellas ... if I ever finish writing them. I'm learning tons from you and Lindsay. I'll give your stories a plug this Wednesday on my blog. Next time you release something, remind me and I'll give you a plug on that one, too. Now, because I've been so errantly absent-minded lately, I shall go buy your stories.

    lol lol my word verification is 'nucking'.

  4. Thanks, everybody :) Part 2 is in the queue and will be up soon.

    Thanks, M Pax! That's very kind of you. The freebie code at Smashwords is: GT74H

    ha, I hate those word verification things. I always seem to type in the wrong thing lol.

  5. Oooh, you had me hooked, now I'm hanging for part 2 :)
    PS - I'm a bit in love with Baxter.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  6. Thanks, Charmaine. Ha, Baxter has the effect on people. I love your blog name :)

    Part 2 is out. Hopefully won't disappoint ;)