Author & Audience Trends (4)

PART FOUR (and last of the series):

Today it is extremely difficult for new authors to enter into the book-selling system. This is because of an industry-wide, entrenched mindset that is: publishing professionals serve as “guardians of quality”. At every level of the publishing and bookselling industry, we are poised to filter out the unworthy on behalf of the book-buying audience.

Book buyers, too, have been trained to trust ‘the pros’ to weed out poorly conceived, badly edited, ratty-looking offerings. Supposedly, this reduced list will prove to be more profitable for all concerned … except for new, upcoming authors, of course, who are pounding on the gate to the castle.

There is some validity to the guardians-of-quality claim. I will state for the record, editing is one of the most important value-added activities we middle-people apply to the process. Authors with access to great editors usually produce improved stories, which is why authors have allowed themselves to be hobbled for so long.

Now don’t get me wrong. Improved quality is not reason enough to justify the constraints we put on new authors and it is not enough of a reason to deny audiences that which they wish to receive.

Although a well-edited story is a wonder to behold, we use this fact to justify all manner of abuse upon our authors and customers. It’s time to rethink our position. For example, rather than limiting the number of stories provided for consumption because it is too hard to improve their quality, we might find a better, faster, cheaper way to edit.

Maybe there are ‘distribution’ venues in which authors can participate that allow for real-time feedback so writers learn their craft. A good analogy is the stand-up comedian who first goes to open microphone, sees for herself which jokes fly, what delivery style suits her, etc. There are audiences available for every level of beginning comedian. Just so, there would be audiences for every level of new writer … if the system was interested in developing writers’ craft.

We have fashioned our industry processes to be streamlined and profitable to us rather than remembering our first priority: servicing our two most important resources.

What if there were millions of authors each with one story? What if there was a small but significant audience for each of these stories? What if there were hundreds of delivery systems rather than a few? What would our industry look like? Who would be the new winners? How would we succeed; what would our strategies be?

These are questions I’m asking myself because this is a type of publishing industry I’d like to grow.

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