Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Wanted: A New Publishing Model

The world is changing, and the publishing world perhaps faster than most other businesses. No one seems to be questioning the emergence of the ebook revolution (unlike global warming). It is now accepted that ebooks are providing an appealing purchasing option (and environmental sustainability) that is proving hugely attractive, both to young people (on techno-life support) and older people (who can either change the size of the font or listen to the book read to them).

The ease with which one can now ePublish a book, often without any financial investment whatsoever, has meant that anyone can throw up a book without honing their craft, or having their book suitably edited. Buoyed by the success of a few leading individuals, people are throwing together series’ that will hopefully build a following and declaring themselves authors.

 The problem with this ePublishing is that it is difficult to distinguish between those who have worked hard to create a good novel learning and respecting all the legitimate components and those who have not. Many books are riddled with spelling and grammar errors, plot issues, or flaws in character development. In fact, according to Penny C. Sansevieri (Get Published Now), only 1% of independent books published reach the industry editorial standards.

This model serves no one: not the reader, the serious author, or the fly-by-nighters. The reader, even when paying only $0.99 or $2.99, can feel that their money and time have been wasted. The genuine craftsman/craftswoman can’t get him/herself noticed among the mass of ebooks, and the fly-by-nighters get frustrated because they fail to build a following and rake in the royalties.

It is a lose:lose model when it should be exactly the opposite.

Most of those writers involved are not interested (or not good enough) to be picked up by agents and conventional publishers. The time span (often 18 months in production), the lack of marketing help, and the inevitable withdrawal of books that don’t reach performance level in a few short months, doesn’t make the conventional model any the more appealing. John Locke, in his must-read book, lays it out succinctly.

JOhn Locke

John Locke

We, the authors, need to set our own boundaries and standards, to ensure that readers retain faith in the model and are willing to invest their time and money in a new author.

 One way that this can be achieved is through author coops. Authors can join together within genres, edit each other’s work, and market within their niche as a group. Each coop establishes it’s level of craft and marketing. Perhaps the group tithes a percentage of their earnings towards marketing as a group.

If there is a holy trinity of website, blog and twitter as Locke advocates, how much more effective would this be if five authors were expanding this platform in a coordinated fashion?

It would be a tragedy if the ebook revolution faltered because of lack of quality. The technology is good for all readers (except those who read in the bathtub), for the planet, and may well force the conventional publishing world to change their own way of doing business.

Anyone out there writing political fiction and interested?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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8 thoughts on “Wanted: A New Publishing Model

  1. Alon, were political fiction my genre, I’d be onto to a collaboration with you in a heartbeat. Your idea of a coordinated platform for a tight group of like-minded, like-quality writers is a good one. I believe there is more good writing today than ever before. However, there is so much more crap that most new writers will never find their audience. AL

    • Alon-
      Great subject! It’s fantastic how e-publishing has somewhat leveled the playing field for writers that may not have been afforded the opportunity to attain their goal. As you pointed out, the downside is lowering the barriers for all which includes the not so dedicated to the craft.

      The idea of creating a “Boutique Association of Like-Genre Writers” could create a lot of marketing synergy. Good thinking. Observing how the CWC works, a smaller group focused on results may be a good way to go. There’s a lot of untapped social media concepts that would be beneficial to writers wanting to self publish and distribute via e-publishing.

      You’re getting a lot of click-throughs from Twitter on this article. Good job using Twitter!
      -Roger.

  2. ashtonfourie on said:

    You reminded me of an idea I had some time ago: http://ashtonfourie.com/publish/?p=22
    It’s about creating groups of “book makers” and sharing the risk – as well as including the readerbase from a very early stage.

  3. I carry on listening to the reports speak about receiving boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the top site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i find some?

  4. Pingback: Happy 60th Birthday to City Lights Bookstore | Left Coast Voices

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