Lately there has been so much talk about the changes in the publishing world that it seemed as if everyone must see those changes. Perhaps the Internet was the beginning, with a move from brick and mortar stores to online retailers, including the ready availability of reviews by which many readers decide whether or not to purchase. The opportunity to move from exclusively paper bound books to digital reading was the next big shift, leading to further consolidation of publishers. It’s also led to price changes; cover changes to fit a digital market; a growing number of small publishers; a growing number of self-publishers as well as writers who work with publishers and who also self-publish. The list of changes can go on and on and on.
But if I were to talk to my sister, an avid reader who cares only about a good read and not at all about the business end of things, she would say she wasn’t even aware of many things on that list. She enjoys digital books, more reader-friendly prices, but that’s about it. How do I know this? Because when she mentions a good book to me and I ask about details, all she can tell me is the title and the author. She notices book covers but it doesn’t get in the way if she doesn’t like it, especially if someone has recommended the book to her. She likes having a book loaned to her (harder to do in digital format) but likes not paying full price for trade or worse, hardback prices.
She has never cared about which publisher puts out a book, whether it’s traditionally or independently published, whether it’s a translation or not, even whether it’s a bestseller or not. She only cares about the story.
When talking to other readers, it seems obvious they don’t care much about the business end of things, either. In fact, these days many readers assume if you’ve written a book you must have paid to put it out there. If they learn a “real” publisher paid for everything the next assumption is that the writer has made a lot of money from the project.
When I talk to other writers, though, everyone feels the ground shifting beneath us. For the most part writers seem to be optimistic, at least the ones I’ve talked to. Going “indie” has some appeal (self-publishing) particularly for writers who already have a few readers looking for a particular author’s next book, a ready-made audience. I’m not sure publishers or agents feel quite as optimistic, but the fact is traditional publishing continues to hold a certain amount of status, meticulous editing (most of the time), wonderful covers (most of the time), better distribution (most of the time).
That status, though, is mainly noticed among writers. Readers just want a good story!
Am I right?