Is the new world order in publishing leaving the old guard behind? Many industry experts seem to think so, though there are those on the periphery who persist in trying to stop one of publishing's greatest movements: the hundreds of thousands of independent, self-published authors.
First some background. There is no doubt about it: publishing is going through a massive change, both rapid and permanent. E-books are the new reality and traditional bookstores are closing en masse. Bookstore operators are bereft of ways to bring in buyers as Kindle and iPad owners simply bypass them for an easy and instant purchase experience.
The same is happening on a nationwide scale with one of the publishing industry's largest traditional customers: school systems. Digital books may, within a decade, replace all textbooks in America because they are cheap and don't require massive storage space or shipping costs.
The dislocation is unsettling but inevitable as the publishing industry undergoes nothing less than an evolutionary change. One era has ended and a new one is dawning.
One group that may benefit greatly from this change is independent authors, until now kept in check by the dominance of the "big six" publishers. Trying to destroy this independent movement has been the sole focus of a tiny but vociferous cadre of defenders of the publishing status quo. They are the anti-self-publishing pack-or, to quote William Safire, the "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."
Under the pretense of consumer advocacy, for years and with little or no evidence, these demagogues were quick to accuse people who worked in independent publishing as scam operators or worse. "Heretics beware" seemed to be their motto as they labeled selected targets in the independent publishing movement as frauds. They hounded their targets with enthusiasm and malevolence, usually in forums and blogs.
But despite this tiny group's best efforts, the independent publishing movement, while never nurtured by the mainstream publishers, was often embraced by them. It wasn't unusual for them to cherry-pick self-published titles for their own lists. And it was always good for a headline.
The independent movement, spurred first by vanity publishers and then by POD, was always welcomed by Bowker, Baker & Taylor, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.
It seems that the objection to self-publishing by the cadre of modern-day inquisitors had less to do with truth and more to do with ideology-how to control how book buyers chose to spend their dollars and how to keep authors from going independent and wrecking the status quo.
But now the independents are here, and they may be the vanguard of a revolution thanks to the Internet. More than any other factors, the growth in e-books and the sales and marketing potential of the Internet are shaping the future of publishing. That is the indisputable reality. Consider the facts:
* Literary agents are now seriously contemplating charging fees for their services-once a mortal sin in their eyes and still a bugaboo for the four literary agent associations.
* Ten times as many independent authors were published last year as those published by mainstream publishers, according to Bowker.
* Amazon is offering a whopping seventy-percent royalty to e-book authors, compared to the five and ten percent offered to the mainstream publishers.
* The Internet is now a vital resource for promoting books; there are even Internet virtual book tours, and bloggers have the power to drive the sales of hundreds of thousands of copies.
* Many mainstream authors are already deciding to go straight to e-books.
* Many established authors are also buying up their old rights so that they can promote their books online, without the help of publishers.