Michaele Jordan was born in Los Angeles, bred in the Midwest, educated in Liberal Arts at Bard College and in computers at Southern Ohio College. She has worked at a kennel and a Hebrew School and AT&T. She’s a bit odd. Now she writes. Her previous novel, Blade Light, a charming traditional fantasy, was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe and is now available as an ebook at Amazon or at iBooks. Her next novel, Mirror Maze, is available for pre-order from Amazon.
I recently read SF Signal’s guest post by J.M. McDermott, Our Digital Future: What Is It & What Should We Do About It? and I had to comment.
My comment is: Right On! (Or Write On! if you prefer to pun your way through your opinions.) He’s absolutely correct. The digital age is already here, and it’s going to get more so, not less so.
Paper books will never disappear. But they will soon be specialized, luxury items. Most of you already know this in your hearts. This is not a bad thing-surely we of the SF/F world, of all people, should embrace technology. Yes, we love real books: the smell of the ink, the gilded bindings, the caress of quality paper. No, my laptop is not as satisfying to read as a real book. But it’s a lot easier to pack than ten (or twenty or a hundred) real books. My cousin, a former Lit teacher, is moving-and she’s getting a Kindle. It’s a big step for a senior lady, but she can’t face the packing and shipping, and most of her book collection is classic material that she can download for free from the Guttenberg Project.
I used to work at a grade school. Every child over six had a huge back pack full of textbooks. They couldn’t even use the bags with wheels, because of the stairs. (All schools have stairs.) The kids were stooped over like dwarves going into a mine. It was a cruelty; they should have had e-book readers. And if we decide to give our children e-book readers in school, can we seriously expect they will grow up to prefer bound paper?
Mr. McDermott was concerned primarily with the effect of the digital book on publishing. He believes that publishers — although forced to change — will not go away. Hallelujah! I am a little known author. Mirror Maze is my first printed book (now in stock at Amazon! Check it out) and brilliant as I think it is, it would not be around at all if a publisher (Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books) had not taken me in.
It’s not that I lack confidence. Really. I think I’m a wonderful writer. I love every word; I wouldn’t write if I didn’t. I can’t imagine how anybody else could fail to love my work. But I lack even the smallest smidgeon of sales skill. It seems that marketing is a lot like playing poker. My tactic is to lay my cards face up on the table and announce. “Here’s my hand. Do I win?” Strangely, this is not very effective. Thank goodness, there are serious professionals out there who can do better.
You probably don’t think I would really need a publishing team if I were marketing an e-book. Guess again. I have a previous novel, Blade Light, a charming, traditional quest fantasy. It was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe in 2009. Jim Baen’s Universe has since died. (It’s not my fault. The editor had a heart attack.) My aforementioned marketing skills being what they are, I have not yet persuaded a publisher to turn it into a paperback. So I put it up-cheap! – as an e-book. (Also available at Amazon). I advertised it on FaceBook and my website, and even podcast it in my eagerness to drum up interest. So far I’ve made $5.71. If the good people of Pyr can generate some e-sales for the new book, more power to them. Why on earth would I grudge them a cut?
I wouldn’t even mind about the money if I could just con myself that people were passing around illicit copies of my work for free, that my book was being read, the voices inside my head were being heard. Really. I gave up on making a living at this a long, long time ago. But a lot of younger writers really need to make some money at it.
Trust me. Books do not sell themselves. You need professional assistance. Even successful writers, the famous ones who can sell a book just by giving their names, had to start somewhere. They didn’t just throw a manuscript onto the internet, and reap in the millions. Like it or not, digital or not, if publishers vanish they will take most of literature with them. Thank you, Mr. McDermott for your honest look at the future.