So the web has been in a tizzy the last few days ever since Barry Eisler turned down a $500,000 book deal on two books in favour of self-publishing (ebook self-publishing). So now lots of people are talking about the brave new world etc ahead all of a sudden. Again.
And I thought to myself, didn't I blog about this already? 'Cause I feel like I did, and yet . . . I feel like I didn't.
Turns out I was half right. I blogged about The Race for the Future and my hope that we could all just get along, stop being so adversarial in having either one form of media topple the other. And that we could appreciate the unique qualities of both.
And I touched upon the fact that the debate is between two very different sides, the pragmatic (ebooks) vs the emotional (paper books).
However I wanted to expand on the emotional thing, not just focus on the emotional connection to paper books, but on the emotions running underneath this whole ebook discussion currently going on. And thought that I'd already done that too. Again . . . half right. I'd done it. But in a writing forum. So I decided to repost what I said there, here. Because I think emotions are often ignored, and people who are all gung-ho about ebooks tend to look at us who, yes think they have a lot of merits to them but are nonetheless a little sad about their existence, as totally bonkers. Why on earth wouldn't we be as excited as they are about this brave new world?
So here's that post. Hope you like it:
You know what I think [the tension] is, it isn't people dismissing the Kindle ebook revolution or whatever you want to call it (I for one am keeping a very close watch on it, and I adore my new Kobo ereader - it's so pretty ), it's more personal than that.
Honestly, with the rare exception of some real techno-files, the true reason for the joy amongst certain authors about the boom in ebooks has to do with "how can I use this to get my books out there". It's not about the technology or how reading is changing, it's "what can I get out of this". And there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that. There are SO MANY advantages to self epublishing. Getting the writing into the hands of more readers. Control over the product, higher percentage of sales etc.
But just as people greet the ebooks with that kind of excitement over what they will get out of it, so too do people on the other side of the aisle greet the news with "what am I going to lose".
So for someone like me, who has seriously contemplated self publishing herself, I think about what I lose:
1. I lose the ability to just be an author. Now I know people really do feel that publishers these days do nothing for an author, but that isn't true. They edit, they format, they hire a designer and cover artist. Some publishers even pay for fancy websites for their authors. They make swag, they offer special deals etc. They send you on tour.
Yes authors these days are doing more than ever and to just sit back and do nothing is ridiculous. But some people are more publicity savvy than others, and the thought that I'd have to do EVERYTHING (and that includes all the putting the book together stuff) on my own terrifies me. Also one of the things holding me back from putting an ebook out there is that I'm currently trying to finish writing a novel, and I just don't have the time to do both. Now I know some people are seriously awesome at writing fast and multi-tasking, but I'm not.
That's another thing. It seems to me the authors who do best with epublishing are authors who can produce books quickly. Like Amanda Hocking . The idea that the world of literature is going to turn into "be fast or be left behind" frightens me because I don't know if I can keep up, and I don't know if I want to keep up.
Instant gratification isn't always a good thing.
2. I don't get to hold a copy of my book in my hands. I love books. I love how they look, I love how they feel. I love everything about the aesthetic of a book.
For that matter, I love bookstores, and I'm SO worried what would happen in an ebook only universe.
3. I don't get paid up front.
4. A more general thought: a possible devaluing of books. Like what they say in THE INCREDIBLES: "When everyone is special, no one will be." When everyone who wants to be an author can be, then it devalues the work of authors who actually ought to be. I know people say that the strong stuff will float to the top, and I hope people are right in that (and that it won't just be people with marketing savvy who float to the top), but I still fear being put on par with someone who can't even string a sentence together and decided for a lark to put their work up on Kindle.
5. I don't get to role play author. I know that's probably the most superficial of all the losing out things, but having gone to BEA three times now, been sent on tour, going for lunch with my editor and agent, meeting my publisher at their offices. All that stuff is just plain fun. I like it.
I know all these points are debatable, and I know some of these points are just personal preferences. I am NOT posting them to debate them. I am pointing them out to maybe give some a perspective on the other side. On why people can feel sad about the ebook revolution while still being interested in it. That it can also just be an emotional thing, not entirely pragmatic.
And also, you know what, it hurts to see so many authors be so full of joy at the demise of publishers. Because for those of us with publishers, their demise means we're . . . well . . . in trouble. So these authors are basically happy that we're in trouble. I know they don't think of it like that, but that's how some of us feel. Like they'd be happy to see all us authors published the "traditional" way fail.
And that just hurts.
I know people would prefer to think emotions aren't a part of this debate, but I believe they are so key to it. It's a matter of either an excitement over what we'll get out of it, or a sadness over what we'll lose. Though I do think most people, like myself, are somewhere in the middle.