The explosion of digital indie and self-publishing (no one seems quite sure what to call it yet) has also caught the attention of the mainstream media, as evidenced by a couple of articles that have appeared recently.
Meanwhile at the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten worries about readers drowning in a sea of self-published crap once all the gatekeepers of traditional publishing are gone. The concerns about spam e-books are valid, but Eric Felten goes overboard condemning indie authors. And whatever he thinks of Amanda Hocking’s literary qualities, plenty of people love her books.
Besides, there are plenty of reasons why books and stories fail to find a home in traditional publishing and “It’s crap” is just one of them. Books are not published because a previous book by the same author did not sell as well as hoped. Books are not published because a genre or subgenre is considered dead. Books are not published because they don’t fit into existing genre classifications. Books are not published because they are too short or too long. Books are not published because it is believed that books by women or writers of colour or writers from outside the US/UK/Canada don’t sell. Books are not published because it is believed that books set outside the US or at any time period other than the English Regency or with protagonists of colour or explicitly religious protagonists or non-aristocratic heroes don’t sell. Books are not published because a character violates some kind of taboo. Books are not published because they have a first person present tense narrator or because the plot is non-linear and so on…
Are many unpublished books unpublished for a reason? Of course. Sturgeon’s Law applies to indie e-books as well, though the percentage of crap may be closer to 95 percent. But you’ve still got the other five percent.
Never mind that not all authors going the indie route are untried amateurs. Plenty of writers are reissuing their out of print works. There are authors who were dropped by their publishers and some, like J.A. Konrath or Barry Eisler, who simply prefer the freedom and higher royalties of indie publishing.
Besides, the good stuff will rise to the top, while the crap will quickly and quietly vanish.