By now many of you will have seen this article.
The responses I’ve read all seem to lie along two lines. Either that Amazon is a much needed breath of fresh air, coming along to shake things up that badly needed shaking, or that monopolies are frigging terrifying and get out of my bookstore, Jeff Bezos.
My take is neither of those. Or, it’s both of those. Plus.
I think that Amazon has been positively e-volutionary when it comes to indie authors, taking a stigmatized land of vanity presses and turning it into a place where authors may *prefer* to go because they do better there. Indie publishing has also made way for gems that got missed, for whatever reason, by traditional houses.
What I find curious, though, is that Amazon’s print arms, Encore, etc. are starting out to run in much the same way as the big 6. There are inflated advances (such as Penny Marshall’s $800K–Stephen King once apologized for upping demands for a multi-million dollar advance from Scribner, saying that advances were meant to give a writer time and space to write, not to balloon the coffers of an already wealthy person). And delayed responses to agents who submit. Sounds a lot like business as usual.
I hope that Amazon can continue to make real changes where they need to be made, and not simply aim to achieve a monopoly. Monopolies are indeed scary and frankly, I think that there are things being done right and I don’t want any babies thrown out with bath water.
What things are being done right?
Independent bookstores and chains. I have attended events recently at the 86th Street Barnes & Noble that have blown my mind. I’ve met an author long revered and took my daughter to see an actress who in some not tiny way has changed her life. This Friday there’s an event with a master of screenwriting that allows hopeful screenwriters an opportunity to get their scripts read. I also discovered two chains during our recent cross country travels that I wish we had here.
And let’s not forget those publishers that *are* doing right by their authors. Amanda Hocking left indie publishing to sign with St. Martins. My own experience, and it’s early days yet, has been more thrilling than I ever could’ve imagined. These people know how to do things right. Not everything, and it doesn’t work for everyone. But when it does work…wow.
Just as the only rule for writing is that there are no rules, I believe that the only sure prediction is there are no sure predictions. In the future I wonder if the major publishers will bring out more of the bestselling authors–the top 10% of their lists, which historically has carried the rest–while midlist authors or authors with quirky, hard-to-fit books may decide to go the indie route. Or perhaps there will be a mix in both categories.
Author Parnell Hall sings it best. Wave your e reader, get your book signed. Choice. Isn’t that what America is all about?