By Edward Nawotka
As author Bob Mayer discusses in today’s feature story, digital self-publishing has shortened the distance between reader and writer, both literally, figuratively and temporally. Previously, fans of an author would wait years for a new book: George R.R. Martin’s fans waited six years for A Dance with Dragons, the latest installment in his “Song of Fire and Ice” series; fans of Joseph Heller waited 13 years for Something Happened, Heller’s follow-up to Catch 22.
Today, fans demand immediate gratification (just ask Martin…as described here by Laura Miller in the New Yorker) and authors are indulging them by publishing a book every month or even faster.
The upside is sustaining a reader’s interest — after all, when a reader discovers an author, it is best to capitalize on their attention as much as possible before they get distracted by another. The downside is often work that could be vastly improved by rewriting, editing and proofing. As Mayer notes, he recommends a writer have at least three manuscripts written before they begin self-publishing. It’s the old maxim that practice makes perfect.
With the volume of new work hitting the Internet each day, it stretches credulity to think that so many people have been laboring in their rooms for so many years and now is their moment to shine. Then again, readers aren’t exactly being asked to commit a fortune to trying out many of these new authors — 99 cents is less than you’re likely to pay for a daily newspaper these days. Lower prices have made readers more tolerant of less-than-perfect prose (hey, you get this newsletter for free, so I’m sure you can tolerate a mistake or three).
Ultimately, as a reader and writer, do you think self-publishing makes it too easy for writers to pull the trigger on books that might not be fully-formed? Do the safeguards of traditional publishing offer significant advantages in this regard?