Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Sky is Not Falling, Chicken Little.

I recently attended a reading by several authors, one of them quite well-known.  The moderator announced that Anarchy would be the evening's theme, in homage to the current state of the publishing industry.  The readings were lovely, absolutely lovely, but it wasn't until the Q & A session afterwards that the theme truly emerged. 

The questions, every last one of them, were about the state of the publishing industry.  The authors panel were all anxious, even eager to talk about what's happening.  That didn't surprise me.  What I didn't expect were the contradictions that followed.  One the one hand, the panel expressed unanimous contempt for a publishing industry controlled by corporate greed.  One authors cited the example of a close friend with two mid-list books and another book on the way.  If this book doesn't achieve more success than the previous two, it will be the author's last with that publisher.  The fate of a modern day John Irving who didn't have a breakout hit until his fourth book, "The World According to Garp," was bemoaned.  In today's hungry market he would have been given the boot well before book four.
In the next breath the slew of self-published e-books currently available on line was referred to as the slush pile.  The readers and writers in the room were encouraged to support independent authors and bookstores  And yet, the authors panel expressed general concern about (and maybe a little contempt) for the  quality of writing encouraged by the e-publishing boom. 

As we left I couldn't help think that Anarchy was a spot-on theme.  The ebook revolution has opened the floodgates.  It's currently in the process of giving a hard shake to the big six publishers who have held the industry in a chokehold for the last twenty years.  Anarchy can be scary, even to the most practiced anarchists.  In the end, when the dust settles and order is restored I'm willing to bet there will be some winners.  Will there be some crap published in the meantime?  Absolutely, but just between you and me, that's not such a change from the status quo.  More importantly there's also the chance of finding an undiscovered John Irving in the digital wave headed our way.  Do you know who stands to benefit from that?  You, me and everyone who loves books.  We will be the true winners of the publishing revolution.               


Christine Murray said...

I think it's really exciting! But then again, if I don't find a publisher I'll be going the self-publishing route myself, so I'm a bit biased.

Johanna Garth said...

I agree Christine! I think it's such an exciting time and we are all so lucky to be the beneficiaries of good timing.