Why Internet Publishing is Better (for authors)

by Mike Scantlebury - Date: 2007-01-01 - Word Count: 1748 Share This!

More reasons why internet publishing is better (for authors)

If you ask most busy authors, they will agree on one thing. They want to get published. They want a publisher. Trouble is, in our modern world, it depends what you mean by 'a publisher'.

For more than two hundred years, we in the West have got used to the idea of a picture in our heads of some person - usually a man - who will be sitting at a desk in an office, usually somewhere in a big city, poring over manuscripts submitted to him by aspiring authors. Then, through a process of selection and ranking, 'the best' will be selected for publication. 'The publisher' will get the book to the public and the author will get rich.

Trouble is, it doesn't happen. Usually.

One, the publisher doesn't select 'the best'. To do that, he would have to read all the submissions. No publisher has the time - or the inclination - to plough through a pile of manuscripts, many of which, let's face it, may be pretty dire, or even unreadable. So, if he has any money or history in the trade, the publisher will hire a bevy of young people, many straight from University, to take the uncongenial task of scrutinising submissions. Great, except that they still won't be able to choose the best either. Most of these youngsters will have a great track record in reading books, but those will usually have been ancient manuscripts, Victorian novels or Shakespeare plays. While they were busy studying literature at University, they won't have had much time to read popular fiction. Faced by a mountain of modern murder mysteries and chick lit romance, they won't have any standards to work by. They might assess your submission in terms of George Elliot, Joseph Conrad or - even - Martin Amis, but they will have no idea what people these days really enjoy reading.

The chances of your hot new novel getting through this roadblock are minimal.

So, second piece of bad news for authors, even though the publisher has set up (and pays for) this busy office, he tends not to rely on this questionable process of getting manuscripts from authors at all. Instead, he relies on his friends.

In the first place, this means agents.

Now, many big literary agencies get swamped with submissions too, so they use the same system as the one outlined above, the inexperienced recruits from academia. But agents are canny. They need to make money, so they also rely on another avenue. Their friends. Authors they already work with will tell them about people they've met at conventions. Other agents will tell them about people they don't have the time to take on. People who work in the agency will have cousins and old pals from college who have written novels. That's easily a big enough pool to find new books from.

Then all the agent has to do is ring his pal at the publishers. The publisher is happy because he has someone telling him that the selection process has been done (elsewhere) and a great new book was selected. The publisher tends to say yes. Bingo, a new author.

If you're a hopeful new writer, the question then has to be - you know anyone in the business? It's a lot safer bet than posting your new baby off to an address you got out of the 'Guide to Literary Agents', or whatever. And, after all, that's how most successfully published authors did it. (I said 'most'. You won't get that impression from the media, or publishers' web sites, or magazines about publishing. Instead, they emphasise the (occasional) lucky author who go picked off 'the slush pile', without mentioning how rare this is. It is, though. Very rare.)

Third, nobody, but nobody, will agree on what is 'good'. Every author who has every tried to sell a book will be able to tell you stories about the one publisher who said a book was 'too long' and the next publisher who said it was 'too short'. About the one agent who said the manuscript 'didn't have enough description' and the next one who said it was 'too flowery, overflowing with adjectives'. Some advisors will try and tell you this a good thing. They will say that faced with such diversity, any author has a good chance of finding a firm, somewhere or other, to take them on. You'd think so, wouldn't you? No, think about it. If you went to a garage and the man said your car was suffering from a blown gasket, and you weren't sure about that, so you took it to the next motor engineer and he told you that the motor had a problem with the tappets, which would you fix? Which would cure the problem? Which would get the car back on the road?

It's like that with publishers. You could take the advice about 'too many adjectives' and strip them out of your manuscript, but the agent you're currently dealing with might still turn it down. The next one you send it to might like florid descriptions. So, do you put the damn things back? What if that second person didn't like your dialogue? Would you spend as much time at changing that? Still, there's no guarantee. If the guy still turns it down, you've now got a manuscript with stripped down dialogue but overflowing language. Which combination is the next one going to want? Which one is going to get you published?

There is an alternative. You go to www.Lulu.com/ and load your manuscript onto their computer. No charge. People will be able to download a copy to read on their own computers at home or they can ask for - and pay for - a print-out of the thing that looks and feels like a real book. It is a real book. You can carry on hawking your wares around publishers and agents if you choose, but meanwhile there's a definitive version - the one you like, without tinkering and other people's amendments - available to readers, direct from the internet, (and you can pay to have the thing put into the Amazon list, so people can order it through an on-line bookshop, just like it was a real book). It is a real book.

Meanwhile, as an aspiring author, you can carry on your struggle - like we all do. You can continue writing to publishers, who won't have heard of you. You can try getting an agent, who will all have different ideas of what they want.

At the same time, you're a published author. You know that for a fact because your friends and neighbours, your lover and your dear old Aunt Ada, will all have copies of your new novel, bought from Lulu. You yourself ordered a few copies and persuaded your local bookshop to stock it, so you're on their shelves too. You're being interviewed on local radio and picked up by your local newspaper. You're beginning to get the recognition you deserve.

Of course, you're still getting rejection slips from publishers, just like we all do, and you'll be accumulating those comments we all get, like 'You'll never get anywhere' and 'Your books are not up to publishable standard'. Those friends, relatives and well-wishers who bought your book won't have heard those comments of course, and won't know how bad you are. They will be saying to you how much they enjoyed your work and how they didn't know there was so much talent in the neighbourhood. It will be gratifying. After a while, you might start wondering why you bother soliciting so much abuse from the 'official' publishing profession. You might even learn to kick the habit.

Because, after all, internet publishing is the way of the future. Back in the 18th century some printers spotted that these new-fangled 'novel' things were selling well and making money. They decided to commission their own. Then some guys saw what they were doing and wondered if they themselves could go out and find new books, arrange the printing and even distribution to bookshops. They would mean they would make a profit for themselves, without any of that tedious creative work. They called themselves publishers. For two hundred years they've dominated the world of books and dictated to the public what they can and can't read. A new generation of authors are soon going to appreciate that they don't need these dinosaurs. They can publish their own books and make them available on the internet. They will be writers but they'll also be publishers.

Publishers of their own work, of course. Which means that all they then have to do is resist the temptation to take on other authors who might be technophobes and aren't willing to learn the simple, straightforward process that Lulu provides. If they do that and sink to that level, they'll find themselves with the same bad old problems - a mountain of manuscripts they don't have time to read; a sliding view of what is 'good' and 'bad'; a need to make money and establish a reputation in the industry at the expense of authors........

If they can resist that temptation and stay authors first and publishers second, we will see a whole new way of doing things. It will be a better world, for authors. Authors will finally come to their senses and realise that hocking their future to people who merely arrange printing and distribution is not a good bargain. They do that, and have done that for two hundred years, because they are under an illusion.

Authors tend to think that 'all they need' is to get a publisher. They think that once they sign that contract their worries are over. They will have money in the bank and their novels in the bookshops. They get confused when it happens and they suddenly find that printing and distribution is all that's been done. There isn't any publicity budget, (usually), so they have to do that themselves. (Just as if they were an internet author.) And if the next book they write doesn't sell well, they will be dropped, almost as fast as they were signed up. Then they become an author with a past, someone who has been published, but not been successful. It's very hard to recover from that and get a new contract.

The answer? The internet. Write the book you want. See it up on the screen. Download it or see it printed out and delivered to your customers.

All under your control.

It's the way of the future. Best for authors.

Related Tags: books, authors, ebooks, novels, publishers, self publishing

Mike Scantlebury is an internet author. He lives in Manchester, England - famous for a football team and a moody singer called Morrisey. Mike mainly writes murder mysteries in his spare time. You can find them on Lulu.com/ He also has several web sites, many under his own name. Try http://www.mikescantlebury.biz/

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