On Wednesday I attended a seminar on ebook publishing - it was a full house, about 30 people who all, for various reasons, wanted to know more about ebooks and their potential. Note I say 'potential' - this wasn't a doom-and-gloom session about how ebooks will be the death knell of authors. Instead the speaker, Madisen Harper, spent six hours telling us everything we needed to know about how to research, write, publish and sell an ebook.
Of course, the marketing part took up a large amount of the afternoon. There's no point producing a great book of any kind unless you can sell it to lots of people. It's the same problem that traditional publishers face. But the internet, being another electronic resource, is on our side! Madisen is a very energetic speaker and I doubt anyone there could possibly have nodded off, even if they'd wanted to. I came home with a head full of ideas. But more importantly, a huge amount of information that I kind of knew or had read about suddenly had all been organised and presented in a way that I "got".
I think some people went home overwhelmed. Epublishing isn't going to make most things any easier. The book still has to be a good or great book. The cover still counts. But you don't have to pay for printing (with boxes of books in the garage). However, the marketing side of things tends to take centre stage. Nearly half of all books sold on Amazon now are ebooks, so you are competing with a fast-growing market. Yes, a lot of the dross will fall away, just like it does in self-publishing. There are opportunities and cost savings that will tempt many writers to try it out. But overnight fame is the exception, not the rule.
I loved this quote from a Guardian article about David Almond. "I used to look at my output before Skellig and sigh," he says. "People say to me, you're so prolific, and I think, now I am! It's the payoff for all the time I spent getting sentences to work properly. Like anything, you develop a skill through hard work."
Same with self-publishing fiction. You shouldn't do it until your writing can stand up against what's selling in the marketplace!