Is the growth of e-publishing good for the development of new literary talent?
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In one way, it might appear that e-publishing provides many new opportunities for authors. It costs far less to produce an e-book than to launch a print book. Moreover, rather than having to pass vetting by editors, authors can bring their work directly to the public. While this should allow for growth of the "mid-list" on which literary works generally exist, in fact precisely the reverse has happened. Rather than many authors being able to earn a modest living with literary productions, over the past ten years the economic potential of the book market has contracted to a very tiny group of mega-hits. Most literary, as opposed to genre fiction, is now subsidized by university creative writing departments, with writers working full time as professors rather than earning money from their writing.
The problem with more and more aspiring creative writers becoming creative writing teachers is that they tend to create more and more aspiring creative writers who can't make a living as creative writers and, if possible, become creative writing teachers themselves. One thing they don't teach in creative writing courses is that it is nearly impossible to make a living as a creative writer. The fact that there are so many creative writing classes and courses and MFA programs seems to imply that there is a demand for the finished product. There is only a demand for the raw material, i.e., the students, most of whom are in for a rude awakening when they discover that they can't even give their poems and stories away and that it's difficult to get editors or agents to read their novels.
I think that this depends on what constitutes developing new literary talent. It seems likely that there will be more people who will get published since publishing costs will presumably be a lot lower. That makes for a deeper pool of candidates. But it also seems likely that fewer of these people will be able to make enough of a splash to actually live off their writing. So it seems more likely that the net effect of this will be to encourage more "hobbyists" who can get a book or two published, but not to create much in the way of truly successful writers.
I think that ebook publishing IS good for the growth of literary talent, because there are more options. It used to be that books were only available to the chosen few (see first link). At this point, we still have only a few publishers that are actually the gatekeepers for the publishing industry. We get to read what they think is going to be successful. There could be so many more opportunities!
Epublishing has dramatically lowered the costs of publishing, distributing and buying books, triggering a revolution at least as profound as that roiling the music business. (see second link)
True, some of the ebooks are garbage. However, at least some talented people should get a chance now!
I am a little torn by this. As an avid reader, I have a hard time letting go of my "hard-copy" books. I just cannot bring myself to reader anything electronically. I love the turning of the pages and the smell of an old book. Therefore, I do have a problem with the advancement of e-publishing.
That said, e-publishing is far less expensive. Many more authors are able to get their texts "out there" for a universal audience. However, authors are getting less and less of the recognition they deserve when published electronically. The selling of books, for me and many others, relies upon the face time the texts have when one walks into a book store (another thing seeming to begin to disappear).
A old friend of mine now has a book on the New York Times bestseller list, and his book will soon be made into a movie by Ridley Scott. He self-published his book on Amazon, promoted it through social media, and gave away a lot of free copies to stimulate demand. One year ago, he was an amateur writer. Now he is (I suspect) a millionaire. So I can say firsthand that e-publishing works for some people. I have linked to his story below.
Success stories like the one described in #7 above are common and familiar. They are the standard fodder of monthly writers' magazines, which usually feature at least one article about somebody who wrote a best-seller and then sold the movie rights to Hollywood. This is great for one individual--especially selling the movie rights, because that's where the big money is. People who know nothing about creative writing tend to assume that this is what motivates every aspiring writer. He or she wants to write a best-seller and then sell the movie rights for a million dollars. That's how to drive the wolf away from the door. The people who publish the writers' magazines seem to assume the same thing. But there are many aspiring creative criters who have no such illusions or delusions; they only want to write because they want to express themselves, or to find themselves, or because they are in love with words, or because there's nothing else in the world they could think of doing. A lot of them would be content if they could just pay their rent and buy frozen dinners, so long as they could be free to devote their best hours to sitting at a desk and writing their own thoughts for the next twenty or thirty years. Most of them can't do it. They have to get that day job and sell a part of their souls five days a week. If they go into teaching bonehead English or creative writiing, they are competing with thousands of other aspiring writers for the shrinking amount of inspirational material available in the chalk-and-blackboard world where they spend their days--and nights. One of the worst things about the exponential proliferation of creative writers is that they are sucking up all the oxygen. The editors must be seeing the same characters, the same settings, and the same plot problems all the time. (The young guy's breaking up with his girlfriend. The professor's having an affair with a student.) That, I suspect, is why we are seeing so many more writers with Indian and African and East Asian names. At least these people have something slightly different to tell about--but then of course this only adds more competition to the already overflowing pool.
The growth of e-publishing is not really 'good' for the development of new literary talent. E-publishing increases the ease of access, but in no way does this imply that literary talent will be improved by this increased accessibility. The growth of literary talent depends on experience, perception, and a commitment to the craft. While I do believe that e-publishing will shape and influence the publishing industry market positively overall by forcing it to be more responsive to the individual, I do not see it as bearing any true impact on the improvement of talented writers.
I am totally in agreement with the previous post. I have accessed, and am a member, of one of those "guilds" of e-book based authors who have even written e-manuals as to how to get started.
Like #9 said, it is a wonderful tool for accessibility but the quality of the published works are entirely up to the author. Since there is no formal editor, each author has the right to get their own "editing" done, often by someone who they "consider" good enough to edit but who often are not professional editors, as it is. Moreover, there is the question of originality. If anybody has access to write an e-book these days, who is to monitor the originality of the work.
I nearly fainted the other day when one of my college kids cited a blog as a literary source. Then again, who can blame him since blogging is everywhere. My question is: are we blending in e-book authorship and high-speed blogging? I know this is a slight detour from the whole "development of new literary talent" but there is a strong similarity between the two that needs to be addressed at some point.
On a slightly different note: People have stories to tell. e-Publishing let's them tell their stories. I edited (and coached the author in writing) one such book for a Vet who had become disabled after being struck down with a wasting hereditary disease (survived Vietnam but couldn't stand off a bone and muscle disease) through a State Vocational Rehabilitation service. This man had a story of courage, hope and inspiration to tell, and he wanted to tell it. So he did. And you know what? Now he has four books. He goes on book signing tours. He goes to craft fairs and sells his books. And people are encouraged, they find hope and they are inspired. Perhaps more importantly, so is he, and he has joy to live for instead of dread. e-Publishing may or may not be good for the collective (other than special cases) development of authors and works of literary merit--it may still be too soon to tell--but it certainly is a way for folks to tell their stories and others to be moved by these stories. I'm all for it.
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