I think I’ve made it amply clear that I respect book bloggers as an invaluable puzzle piece in the modern book business. But of course that business is rapidly changing. A whole new model is becoming the norm—maybe not erasing the old model, but probably displacing it in terms of sheer popularity and volume. It will have its advantages, and a definite down side. I’m optimistic, however, and I’ll tell you why in this post. I think it will work. But here’s the linchpin of the whole deal: with the help of book bloggers, I think it will fill the needs of readers/book consumers. Without them, it could be a nightmare.
The self-published ebook, along with print-on-demand technology, has opened a floodgate that has not only been shut, but carefully guarded, for decades. Anyone can get published now. This, of course, is both the good news and the bad news, all rolled into one big news flash.
The upside: that brilliant new author who was traditionally a little too literary, too controversial, too ahead of his or her time—the one publishers haven’t taken a chance on since they were gobbled up by enormous watch-the-bottom-line corporations—will get published now.
The down side: so will that really bad author who never took the time to learn the trade, never bothered to get the damn thing edited, and really can’t see why it’s not as good as anything else out there (when it’s obviously not).
So, do I think it comes out a draw? Oddly, no. I think it’s better the new way. For a simple reason. We can forego anything badly written once it’s published. But we can’t go into the brilliant new authors’ desk drawers and find what was being rejected. All we need to make it a great system is somebody to help us tell them apart. Without book bloggers, Amazon becomes the literary equivalent of the agents’ depressing slush pile. With it, it’s a new world where anything goes, where ideas do not have to conform to finances, where the little guy has as much chance as the big guy. Where cream rises to the top.
Print reviews will not step in and save the reader in this new book future, because print media is drying up. The Internet will have to fill that need. It’s hard to imagine, looking back, that anyone had the lack of foresight to call a book blogger “unprofessional,” as it’s their amateur status we should be celebrating. They are doing this for love. They are doing this even though it’s a model that may never earn them a living. And, let’s face it, every platform gets fairer and more honest when you de-monetize it.
But if readers buy too many ebooks that are not edited or proofread (or well written) because reviewers (under pressure or out of a sense of obligation) tell them the writing is “fine,” the whole system could turn into a quagmire.
So, not to beat a point to death, but…we have to encourage blog reviewers to tell the truth as they see it. A greater measure of respect from authors would be nice, too. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll probably keep saying it until more authors wise up and start treating them like the future of this business.
PS: If you want some great examples, check the list on the right. And if you’re a book blogger and don’t see the name of your blog there, email me or leave a comment. Give me a chance to discover it.