It has been thus since Gutenburg invented the printing press. Once they printed their fill of bibles, publishers began printing books based on their love of literature. They weren’t in it for the money, which was just as well because they weren’t going to get rich in publishing. In fact, they knew that the top ten percent of their list would support the other ninety percent, thus assuring, hopefully, that they wouldn’t lose money. These publishers believed in the work they did. And they believed that bringing new voices to an eager audience raised the level of all human discourse. And so it was.
In the second half of the twentieth century two things happened. The first was that multi-national conglomerates took over every company they could leverage, including publishing houses. These corporate titans didn’t read great literature, they read spreadsheets. And they weren’t interested in new voices. They were interested in dollars. Suddenly, the ninety/ten rule was out the window and profit was the new king of New York. It became harder and harder to enable new voices to be heard and literature began to suffer for it.
Now the second thing that happened began, slowly, to negate the first. In the second half of the twentieth century technology began to take off at lightening speed. From the B movie sci-fi scenarios of the fifties we wound up in the nineties, where everyone had a computer in their house, to the new century where many people carry one in their purses or bags. And the playing field began to level.
These days, with traditional publishing only willing to take a chance on a known quantity, writers are looking to technology to give them voice. And technology has responded in full force. Welcome to the era of the Indie Author. Writers are now taking their destiny into their own hands, eschewing traditional publishing for methods they can control. The Indie Author movement is spreading like a wildfire through the west and traditional publishing has no hope of putting this fire out. Newer writers as well as established authors are exploring the opportunities that technology and pragmatism have joined together to create. Publishing 2.0.
A librarian friend recently expressed concern on this issue, citing Barbara Bush is an Alien as an example of why the Indie Author will always be viewed skeptically. But I don’t think so. The market will shake out the silly, the irrelevant, and most importantly, the badly written. But for those who are looking for the next frontier, this may be it. And to them I say, “bon chance.”