Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Like "The Voice" But With Books

The gatekeepers have the publishing castle locked up tight, so authors find a different route to enter the kingdom. Chris Twyman of BoomWriter Media recognizes this fact in a recent article in which he extols the virtues of digital publishing for the masses. If you can't get in through the front door, create an opening yourself, but bring along a little help.

Mr. Twyman is all about the group thing. He equates the surge in digital self-publishing to the rise of the Airbnb rental that outflanks the hotel industry. People find a way to manage their needs by bonding with others seeking to fulfill the same need, and the next thing you know you're driving for Uber.

So why not do the same with publishing?

It costs nothing to publish electronically. As a writer, you don't get paid unless you first write something and sell it, so authors are in the same place financially.

But how can the self-publishing craze be incorporated into the old school model? After all, the marketing power of the Big Five is an asset highly coveted by those with a story to tell. You might be able to publish that story on your own, but you can't reach the audience that the major houses reach with their sales staff and promotions and such.

What the publishers want is a sure thing. What business wouldn't want to reduce risk on an unknown commodity like a debut author? So what if that author could prove that his or her opus was truly magnum?

That's where BoomWriter comes in. Except it's more like one of those reality contest programmes where a singer performs and the audience votes to choose the best singer who then goes on to obscurity because the people who vote aren't usually the ones buying up recordings. Sure they like the voice, but to pay money for the download? The voting was all for fun, but the purchasing involves real money, right?

Would we really end up with some great books if writers had focus groups to analyze and assess each chapter as it was born as a Word document?  

How about a group of writers collaborating on a single book? Would that result in the creation of a blockbuster or an over-edited bit of drivel that ultimately pleases no one?

This so-called 'sharing model' would eliminate writers whose words did not find favor with the community doing the reading, but all you have to do is scan the reviews of any book and you'll find a wide range of comments. Some books appeal to some people, some to others, and a reader doesn't know if they like something until they read it.

In the end, after the sharing model sliced and diced, a publisher would be left with something that a portion of the reading community likes. What the publisher wants is a community that buys. Thus far, it hasn't been the best predictor of the next major musical talent. It doesn't seem any more likely to shape the next big literary talent.

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