Big publishers have squeezed the life (and incomes) out of mid-list writers. Between your Clancys and your prestige authors lies the put-upon midlister. He doesn’t sell millions of copies and get the big advances. He doesn’t have the proper degree from the proper university to express the proper opinions. He just tells good stories to an appreciative audience — if he can find a publisher willing to take a chance on an unknown commodity to earn an uncertain (but certainly slight) dividend. Giant publishers are, by nature, risk averse. And there’s nothing more risky than spending jillions of dollars to print thousands of copies of books by someone nobody has heard of.
But epublishing empowers the midlist writer to go crash the gates and at least be seen on the Kindle Store — which is a lot more than Random House is going to give them. And if one of Amazon’s editors takes a keen interest in something, they can publicize the book at very little risk to the bottom line. A few thousand (or even a few million) banner ads cost nothing compared to a whole bunch of remaindered dead-tree books.
There are thousands upon thousands of good storytellers who can’t get anyone at Knopf or anywhere else to give them the time of day. But for Amazon and Apple, more content is always better, because publishing is practically free.
So to every aspiring writer out there, I say: The castle walls are crumbling — now is your time to rush in.
AND ANOTHER THING: Science fiction author (and friend of mine) Sarah Hoyt has written a companion piece, comparing her status as a midlist writer to a battered wife.
It’s a whole lot funnier than that probably sounds at first glance, really.