Monday, November 5, 2012

The Measure of Success

First off, let me say how much I truly appreciate the messages of support I’ve received in the last few days.    I truly feel better now than I have in the months since I found out the news.    It’s good to know that there are people who care enough about Jesse to keep following him.

I also find it very interesting how many people have said “That’s okay, I don’t buy print books anyway!”  It ties directly into something I’ve been pondering for a while, and that’s the idea that (for a writer) the measure of success has changed in recent years.  I mean, real recent.  Like, over the last three.

We can all agree that hitting the NYT Bestseller list is a sign of success.  But for most authors, their successes are measured in much smaller increments.  Just getting an agent, for example, or that first book deal.  There’s validation in that, and confirmation that yes, you really don’t suck.

From the time I was a child, the idea of a successful author for me was someone whose books were in bookstores and libraries.  I saw them every time I went into a store, and I always mentally marked the place on the shelf where my name would go. (Had to move down a bit, once I got married and my name changed.)  Those were the people who were REAL authors.  They weren’t like Great Aunt Matilda who paid that company a ton of money to print her rambling diatribe against garden gnomes and their hedonistic ways.

Even as a child, I knew that real authors had publishers and editors, and losers self-published.  And those people who only had writing available on the internet?  Hobbyists at best.  They didn’t have physical books, they were just playing around.

But fast-forward thirty*coughcough* years, and here we are.

Ebooks are becoming more popular every single year.  I can measure the spread of them just by looking at my sales figures.  And self-published books are hitting the NYT Bestseller list.  It’s no longer absolutely necessary (provided that you have the time, skill, and funds) for all literary works to go through major publishers.

What does it all MEAN???

Well, there are smarter people than I who have been batting this one around for years.  What does the advent of ebooks mean for big publishers?  What does the rise in quality self-published works mean for the industry in general?  I think every possible outcome has been kicked around and talked to death, and the fact is, no one knows the answer yet.  We’re all kinda stuck in this big whirlwind of change, and it remains to be seen what part of Oz it’s going to spit us out in. 

I do think, however, that authors will need to reevaluate what they consider “successful.”  Does having a physical book on the shelf mean as much, when many bookstores no longer care a large assortment of stock?  Will print run sizes be important, when ebooks are taking up the bulk of your sales? 

I know that it’s been hard for me to wrap my mind around it.  I’m old-school, apparently.  The thought of “ebook first, print maybe” seemed like a step backwards at first, and I had to sit myself down and point out some facts to myself.

Self, I says to myself, you’re looking at this the wrong way.  The entire industry is now rushing to catch up to a demand that technology created, and you may actually be in on the first wave of something new and totally awesome!

Do I think big publishers will ever go by the wayside altogether?  Of course not.  Personally, I LIKE having a publisher. I like having an amazing editor, and someone to take care of the cover design, and all that tricksy formatting and such.  Every moment they do that is a moment I can be doing something else, like writing, or talking about writing, or thinking about writing.  Or playing video games.  I admit it, I do that sometimes too.  I know diddly about cover art design (it’s more than just taking a pretty picture, folks) or ebook formatting, or…well, I know diddly about a lot of stuff.  That’s why you guys might very well be getting a crayon stick-figure for a cover on the next JJD book.  (I wouldn’t really do that. I think.)

But I think that physical books on shelves and monster print runs will no longer be the measure of how successful an author is.  Instead, we might get to measure it by how many readers truly loved the books, and I think it should probably have been that way all along. 

In which case, I’m pretty damn successful, because there are a TON of you who love Jesse.


Michaela Grube said...

Great attitude! really are successful. Period. Looking forward to what comes next!!

dragonflylass said...

I am having an extremely difficult time with the movement toward digital. I don't have an e-reader of any kind. I don't have a smartphone. I already stare at TWO computer screens all day at work. I don't want to stare at one just to read. But, unfortunately, most of my published friends have e-books and print-books-only-maybe-later. So, I wind up not being able to read their material... which makes me sad. I really prefer the book-in-hand. But, I feel like that is being taken away from me because of the way things are going in the industry. I really hate that you are going through this... partly because I know it is so disappointing for you... but partly because I know that it will decrease the number of people who have access to your work since not everyone has the machines needed to read digital formatted books. But... that's not how the world thinks these days. Sadly.

Anonymous said...

I'd hate to sound presumptous here, Im not an author myself (and I doubt I ever will be just because I cant seem to finish anything). But I recently added a free ebook to my kobo on a whim and I liked it enough to buy the rest of the series. The author's name is Lindsay Buroker and from the looks of her site she does a lot of e publishing, independent and otherwise. I am a huge fan of Jesse and would hate to not have an ending for him. If you are debating the pros and cons of epub maybe authors such as Ms. Buroker would be a good place to start looking for advice and know-how?