It's not only reading patterns that have been changing as a result of the Internet. The publishing business is also evolving, taking advantage of the web to facilitate and expedite the entire process, from submission of a manuscript to marketing the finished product. This makes exciting opportunities both for new authors looking for recognition for their work, and established writers with good published material that is out of print and no longer generating royalties.
The former have been flocking to micropublishers who have mushroomed all over the net, organizations like Dynamic Patterns, LTDBooks and NovelBooks. Some of these novels are available only in electronic format, others are also published in paper, usually softcover versions. Quality of both story and editing varies, but there are good reads to be found and the price is usually lower than that set by the more established publishers.
Of course, anyone can set up a site and start to publish ebooks. There are a variety of organizations who will collect the revenues on your behalf for a price. For example Amazon has implemented its Honor System to collect fees as low as $1. Their charge for this is $0.15 plus 15% of the total transaction amount, that is 30 cents for a $1 transaction, $1.65 for a $10 transaction. It's an interesting development as I suspect that once people are more comfortable with Internet payment systems, they will be willing to pay these small fees for good content.
Established authors are generating new royalties from their older books using something called print-on-demand implemented by organizations like iUniverse.com. This has made available to readers excellent stories like Cecelia Holland's Firedrake, which would otherwise have been found only in second-hand bookstores. New authors who are confident of their material and ready to do their own marketing can also pay iUniverse.com $99 to get their work in print within 120 days.
Many well known authors have been publishing in e-book format along with paper, for some time now, and most publishers have launched their own electronic venues. One very interesting approach is that of Time Warner's iPublish.com, 'a new eBook publishing company, connecting readers, authors, and editors in a common mission to develop and distribute quality digital fiction and nonfiction works online.' It's an exciting opportunity for new writers, who can submit their own work for the fee of reading and rating excerpts of other authors' pieces. The process is intended to be 'a democratic one, based on merit.'
It's also a very smart approach, spreading the load of slush pile evaluation among the writing community, and watching the best work rise to the surface. iPublish.com just announced the first discoveries from the process in a New Author Showcase. Readers are encouraged to browse excerpts from three new books - and vote for the best. Those who pick the one that is rated highest overall, are entered in a contest to win $500 worth of Time Warner books by the company's best selling authors. Apparently this contest will continue with new books and authors on a monthly basis.
So what's the impact of the Internet on publishing? So far, various web forums, such as discussion groups and sites like this one and Lost Books, help build a demand for excellent older titles. New print-on-demand approaches are allowing established authors to control the availability of their work. Publication of e-books, the spread of micropublishers, and ventures like iPublish.com by the major publishers, will all shorten the time taken for new works to get to market. Once books get out there, we've already seen how word of net can spread interest in them like wildfire - as in the case of Diana Gabaldon and J. K. Rowling.
These are all very exciting trends for new and established authors, who can expedite the publication of their writing, and expect a reception based on its merit - I Came, I Saw, I Published translated into They Came, They Saw, They Read.
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