Sort of like that new relationship. It's exciting and fun and unpredictable at first, but while you never really want to let go of those jittery feelings--ideally, you've found someone that inspires you to be your best at every turn, and if you ever fail at it, you're inspired to dust yourself off and try again--you don't want to go through life worried about using the bathroom while she's in the same apartment.
There comes a point, where you have to be comfortable with who you are, and plan for the future instead of worrying about the present. So all those fantasies I had when I was younger--of hobnobbing with Stephen King and Dean Koontz--them actually looking forward to MY next book--are locked away in my daydreams forever. If it happens fine, but it isn't going to define my happiness, nor my opinions of what it means to be a success as a writer.
What does any of this have to do with why you should never send out another manuscript if you are an aspiring writer? Hold on and I'll tell you. First, let me start by giving you my three reasons as promised in the title of this post:
1. The Technology Has Changed
Self publishing was once a waste of time unless you had tons of startup capital and plenty of time to go from city to city and beg people to buy your book. Few did. If you didn't prep your manuscript and put your life on hold for the next six months while you waited on that form letter rejection, then you were out of luck. The industry gatekeepers, heretofore mentioned as "The Industry," stood watch with haughty Puritan smirks upon their faces and watched as you ran in place, never going anywhere no matter how hard you tried or how tired you got. Then, ebooks came along while we were still living in the world of Adobe PDF readers. Sure, it was kind of cool for business purposes, but if you wanted to read for enjoyment, the last way you wanted to do it was to scroll up and down, especially on a computer screen after waiting five minutes for a 400-page document to load. Fiction ebooks did terribly, and rightfully so. The Industry patted itself on the back for continuing to up book prices and put out crappier product. But those techie geniuses at Amazon and Apple saw opportunity.
2. The Industry Has Changed
Instead of going with the flow and allowing the Industry to have its way with consumers, Amazon and Apple devised formats for reading that were more pleasurable to the eyes and convenient for the common man. They offered books at cheaper prices, and gave you the option to dispose of the book once it had been read without driving out to Goodwill with a 600-pound box of books that you needed a push-cart just to transport to the back seat of your car. If you wanted to keep said book for another read, you could. No problem. A few short years later, and today, we have the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad. Now, not only is the format better, but the device is as well. Meanwhile, the Industry continues to charge $14.99 for ebooks from popular authors, while decent writers with talent have the opportunity to charge just $2.99 for a novel and use social media and online networking to promote themselves and their books while still enjoying a tidy 70-85% royalty--a heck of a lot more money than they'd ever see from publishing with one of "the big boys." In much the same way that the RIAA inadvertently helped the music industry by screwing itself and removing the middle man from transactions between artist and listener, the Industry has contributed to its own potential demise.
3. The Consumer Has Changed
So who stands to profit from the two changes mentioned above? Two people: the author and the consumer. Who stands to fail? Brick and mortar bookstores and libraries. Meanwhile, the publishing giants will continue to offer premium marketing efforts to the lucky few, but the means for finding an audience has simplified so much that a web savvy author can find exposure for his book without an agent and without a printing press. So in a sense, the publishing companies fail, too. Unless they learn to adapt. Meanwhile, newbie authors with talent are going to charge less for what they write, profit more, and build more personal relationships with their consumers, which, I believe, is truly a win-win--for everyone that matters. When sites like Smashwords.com offer a free formatting and distribution service in exchange for a 15% commission each time you sell a book, it just makes sense to take matters into your own hands. Consumers are already embracing ereading devices. And I've got to believe that my network of contacts on Facebook and Twitter is more likely to pay $1.99 or $2.99 for an Aric Mitchell joint AND help spread the word than they would be if I charged them $33 for the same novel at a vanity press (or $25 with a mainstream publisher, for that matter).
Now would seem like a pretty good time to end this little tirade, but then it occurs to me that I haven't told you where I was going with those first few paragraphs. Here's the skinny of it: I'm done sending out manuscripts, and I think you should be, too, because you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting accepted by the limited amount of publishing houses still lucky enough to be in business. Each manuscript mailing is like buying a $1.80 lottery ticket. And I've never been much for playing the lottery. I'm far more attracted to the idea that my own God-given smarts can fuel my passion, enhance my creativity, and help me find an audience. The reasons listed above all play in my favor, and yours as well, Good Writer. The Industry would expect you to do most of the marketing for your book anyway. So why not cut out the middle men, charge a FAIR price, embrace technology full-on, and keep pounding those keys?
How do you think the Industry will adapt to the changes mentioned here? Will they? Or will they continue overcharging for a product with very little overhead? Would love to hear your thoughts.