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Stickin’ It to the Man, 50,000 Words at a Time

August 30th, 2011 - 5:14 am

Bill Quick isn’t just an entertaining storyteller, he’s a sharp businessman who understands the publishing industry better than most publishing companies. Looking at how ebooks are changing the industry, he concludes:

“Good” writers generally craft stories that many, many people like. That word “craft” entails a lifetime of hard work, trial and error, self-education, and, yes, native talent. Not everybody can do it. In fact, not very many people at all can do it relatively well or successfully. And therein lies the issue over which the dying world of book-object-story is currently dashing itself to pieces. The commercial structure undergirding our previous method of story delivery – the mass-marketing of book-objects that present individual stories — acted as a gatekeeper that prevented all but those regarded by hard-eyed editors using a definition of quality that included notions of profit — Will this story sell enough books to make a profit in our current commercial structure? — from reaching a significant number of readers.

That structure is dead — and the gatekeeper function it performed is equally dead [Emphasis added].

It’s an unnerving time for publishers, as their “structure is dead.” But it’s an equally-unnerving time for writers, who must find new ways to reach an audience, and to do so profitably.

Rather, I think it’s unnerving for established writers.

Young writers are busy with their Great American Novels and will, without much worry, publish to Kindle and the iBookstore and trust that their audience will find them. Some will succeed, some will fail, just like they do today. A very lucky and talented few will become the next Tom Clancy or John Grisham. But I’m not concerned about them, because the next Clancy or Grisham will always come around. Some writers just tell rollicking good popular stories, and will continue to do so — no matter what form the industry itself takes.

But one class of writers who currently benefit under the current system will suffer, and another class which has suffered will find new benefits in the exciting world of e-publishing. Let’s cover the bad news first.

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