Half asleep this morning, I sat bleary eyed looking at my computer and a strange thing happened. It seems that for a certain amount of time everyone was talking about the same thing. Margaret Atwood at the Tools of Change for Publishing. (Hashtag #toccon.)
It sounds like it was really interesting. Apparently there was a slide show that included hand drawings. I’ve never gone to a writer’s convention, and I doubt I really ever plan on it, but that sounds like it was something to see and hear.
It seems one of the topics she touched on were self publishing, and as she’s an author who has been in the business for a very long time, I would have loved to hear her thoughts on it. The tweets going around are taken completely out of context and probably don’t help put her point of view into perspective at all. Some of the tweets (unattributed because they were all retweets of retweets anyway, everyone was quoting the same thing):
- “Do you want lots of ppl reading your book, or do you want a cheese sandwich?” @margaretatwood #toccon
- Margaret Atwood: The quality of literary output has always been questionable. #toccon
- “Only 10% of authors make their living writing full time,” per @margaretatwood “You have to work hard.” #toccon
- “E-devices are increasing reading, but not increasing author’s profits,” says @margaretatwood #toccon
- Atwood is pro-choice: “I want both options, ebook and paper.” Love her. #toccon
That first one- ouch! Though there was talk of an Atwood t-shirt with a cheese sandwich going on for a while between tweets. That would be awesome.
The next couple of ones make me curious about her point because it sounds like a general point that is often made about indie/self publishing. That there’s a lot of crap out there. Yes, it’s true. With anyone being able to publish, there is a lot of crap out there. That’s why book review sites are super important and other sites like Goodreads. Book bloggers probably will be our gate keepers. (See my friend Laura’s idealist post here, which I think is a great idea.)
And I’m okay with book bloggers being the gate keepers. Because they’re readers. Another blog I read made the point that when writers market, they usually hop onto twitter and market to other writers so they’re hitting up the same 300 people or so. And frankly, if I’m honest, other writers scare me in the same way other girls scare me. They’re just scary. (Sorry other writers who I haven’t met yet.) Writers are much pickier than readers and they read things much differently than a reader will.
On the e-devises increasing reader but not increasing profits, well I can only assume that’s coming from an author of the publishing world because e-devises are SO increasing profits– but only if you go it alone. Alone, you can make an e-book relatively cheaply (and it doesn’t have to look cheap contrary to popular belief), and you get 50% or more of the profits. But if you’re part of a publishing house, well they still shell out the exact same amount of money they would if they were producing a physical book, and so the profit a published author gets will be very small.
But there are things to consider with e-books. For one, I can’t buy e-books used. If I want an e-book by Margaret Atwood, I’m going to have to shell out to get it. (And I probably will.) Since I’m buying more e-books these days, that means my money will be going to her and her publishing house. In times past, if I wanted a book by Margaret Atwood, did I go to a major book store and buy it new? No way. I went to a used book store and bought it second hand, which meant she and her publishers were getting nothing from me.
As for the last point, yes, I want the choice too. That’s why I love the Print on Demand model of printing. If I loved a book enough, I would indeed buy the physical copy. (Two books I have considered buying a physical copy of just to flip through the pages? A.M. Hart’s Hungry for You and Joseph Robert Lewis’ Heirs of Mars.)
What’s my point here? Well, what do you lose by trying? This all comes back to the question of “why?” Why are you doing what you’re doing? Are you doing it because a famous author tells you this is the way it’s supposed to be done or are you doing it because you honestly feel you’ve found the right path for you? That’s what it should all come down to.
It’s a completely new era. Things are falling apart and rearranging themselves, so it’s a scary time for everyone, writers to be and writers who are, published and want-to-be-published. So the best thing to do is pick a road that fits and walk it the best you can.