by Pete Morin
I began my first novel around February of 2008 (one of the very first—and very crappy—draft chapters is still posted at youwriteon). At that time, the “e-Reader” was an infant (the Kindle arrived late in 2007), digital publishing was still pretty much a novelty (Smashwords was born in May of 2008)(read a fascinating history of digital publishing here), and the Big Six held a de facto monopoly on an author’s access to readers. If you wanted to “self-publish,” you were pretty much committed to driving around with a trunk full of your books, peddling them to bookstores one-at-a-time.
By February of 2009 I thought I had a halfway decent product when Diary of a Small Fish finished in the top-5 one month on Authonomy and received a fairly complimentary review by a Harper Collins’ junior assistant editorial intern (heh). There might have been a modest number of pioneers out there, but self-publishing still carried that stigma—might be good but not good enough for a real publisher. No, you have to take a shot at the brass ring, right? A year of revising and editing ensued.
By February of 2010, well—I had an agent (and a damn fine one at that!)! The promise of acceptance (if not acclaim) was within grasp. So was the Kindle, for millions. And Nook and iPad and you-name it. By God, a revolution was in progress, and the Grand Dames of Mid-town Manhattan were on an extended cocktail hour. (A year—or ten—to respond to a manuscript submission?) Why, they actually had their noses in the air at this silly notion of a digital revolution. These apocryphal anecdotes of authors actually selling a previously self-published manuscript to one of them. The very idea!
Another year of revising and editing.
And here we are today. Hundreds and hundreds of damn fine novelists (and yeah, okay, thousands of crumby ones), impatient with the glacial pace of traditional publishing’s reaction to a new paradigm—uploading manuscripts by the thousands, selling millions of copies. The number of self-published authors being offered deals increases daily. Joe Konrath waves the flag, Barry Eisler joins him. Amanda Hocking sells one million eBooks in a year and wows the world with her multi-million dollar offer, an exclamatory statement that a writer can do it either way, and damn successfully. But she’s just the biggest and latest example of the trend sure to continue.
The latter is like a Sotheby’s auction of rare coins.
Okay, I admit it. I still want to be like so many of you—a rare coin, minted by a name brand. I still want the spine of my novel to have the word “Penguin” (and not in the title). But above all, I want as many people as possible to read it and enjoy it, and I want them to read it before the beginning of the next decade. I haven’t got all goddamn day.