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That's an interesting perspective--that readers are being burdened with too many choices. Personally, I don't agree with her argument. I think it's a good thing that gatekeepers are no longer determining what books are published and which books sit in a dusty corner, unread. However, that doesn't mean I believe there shouldn't be some standard for evaluating a book's grammar, punctuation and formatting. That, I could see a need for. Overall, my experience with self/indie pubbed books has been fabulous. I haven't run across anything that was thoroughly unreadable. But I tend to stick with bestsellers.
 

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Interesting article, thanks for posting it. I agree with a lot of this:

My conclusion: This trend toward self-publishing serves primarily the writer.

(Not readers and not the publishing industry as a whole.)
90% true. The main way that readers will benefit is that the self-published titles will eventually help control the price of all books.

It's a way for writers to get their books out to an audience, to get published, and hopefully get read. It serves the writer's need and desire. (I'm not saying this is a bad thing.)
Absolutely. As someone who has been rejected by traditional gatekeepers hundreds of times, yet has sold tens of thousands of ebooks, this is exactly why I'm doing it. I want my books to be read and enjoyed. More different people are reading my work right at this very moment than all the friends, family, crit-group members, agents, and editors combined who ever looked at one of my books.

The reader, meanwhile, is faced with an increasingly mind-boggling array of choices, and the difficult task of trying to ascertain which of those choices will suit their tastes.
This is the part I disagree with. I don't think there's much difference between the 200,000 books available before and the 2,000,000 books available now. It's like trying to find a lost ring on a small beach or a big beach. You won't find it either way unless you have a metal detector. The only difference now is that you need a different kind of metal detector.
 

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I'm a reader just as much as I'm a writer, and as a reader, I'm a little... put-off by her attitude. It's lines like this that really don't sit well with me:

"The reader, meanwhile, is faced with an increasingly mind-boggling array of choices, and the difficult task of trying to ascertain which of those choices will suit their tastes. "

"Who will serve the reader now? Who amongst us has the reader's best interest in mind, rather than the writer's? Who will help readers identify "good books"? Who's going to tell us which books represent excellence in the use of language and in the expression of stories and ideas? I believe most readers still want this kind of assurance and gatekeeping-they have neither the time nor the inclination (or even the skill) to do it themselves. "

Am I the only one who feels like she's calling readers stupid? That we need to be told what we want to read? Oh no! There are too many books! How shall I choose? I can't decide! *implodes* Please, give us a little more credit than that.

aaronpolson said:
The modern gatekeeper is the reader, as it should be.

Makes sense to me.
Exactly. We are the consumers, after all, are we not?
 
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I posted a rebuttal. While writers certainly benefit, readers benefit from lower prices. The position that readers are in of trying to choose good books before they read them does not change at all.

Looks like my comment isn't being posted. Here are my thoughts in full:

Hi Rachelle, I'd like to voice a dissenting opinion about your post. While you are surely correct that self-publishing does benefit writers, there are quite a number of reasons that it also serves readers.

To get straight to the bottom line, buying self-published books saves readers money. 99% of the time, a self-published book will be cheaper than a traditionally pubbed book, especially in e-format. That either allows the reader to buy more books, which they often do, or do something else. Either way, the purchasing power of the reader has increased, a huge benefit that goes beyond "more choice" especially when major publishers are trying to find ways to raise prices rather than decrease them.

Who will serve the reader now? Any writers who are not doing their best to cater to a reader's interests will simply find themselves floundering. Readers have -always- relied on their friends and their own judgment to figure out which books are good before they've read them. The volume of books doesn't change that in the slightest.

You say most readers have neither the time nor inclination to do this, but I'd say every reader who finds a fascinating book does it naturally. They spout off to their friends, to the internet, they buy books as presents, they hound their parents. That's what a good book makes people do. That's the primary contradiction of reading, that an intensely personal act can lead to something so extroverted. A best friend will always be a more trustworthy gatekeeper than a skyscraper in New York.
 

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JRainey said:
I'm a reader just as much as I'm a writer, and as a reader, I'm a little... put-off by her attitude. It's lines like this that really don't sit well with me:

"Who will serve the reader now? Who amongst us has the reader's best interest in mind, rather than the writer's? Who will help readers identify "good books"? Who's going to tell us which books represent excellence in the use of language and in the expression of stories and ideas? I believe most readers still want this kind of assurance and gatekeeping-they have neither the time nor the inclination (or even the skill) to do it themselves. "
Exactly my feeling. I've worked in the industry, and I can tell you that agents and editors don't have the reader's best interest in mind. Don't get me wrong, most agents and editors are there because they love books, but they're in it to make a living. What they want is to find books they can make money off of. Because of the way the market works, there are a zillion small to medium sized niches that simply aren't getting filled. Maybe half the reading public, in total, is not getting served by the old model of publishing.
 

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I've said this before in another thread: you can say the same thing about the internet.

Let me expand.

How does your blog find readers in a sea of millions and millions of blogs? How does your website get bookmarked and followed when there are billions of websites in existence?

Search engines.

Google is standing by hoping to be our choice. Google wants to understand your likes and needs in an artificial intelligence way like never before. I believe we've already seen the beginning of true AI and it has begun with the collected knowledge Google has gleaned from everything we allow them to see us doing online: what searches we make, search results that are clicked on, images viewed, news items clicked, etc.

Don't take my word for this, do the research. Check into why some of the privacy groups are so freaked out by the information Google is collecting.

And Google needs to understand what you like to read to understand what is inside the covers of the books you like reading. This is a major reason why they are fighting the publishing groups to be able to index every word inside books. This way they can cross compare against the index of our likes and dislikes and pick scenes out of books as would be extracted from pages of blogs on the internet.
 

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"Who will serve the reader now? Who amongst us has the reader’s best interest in mind, rather than the writer’s? Who will help readers identify “good books”? Who’s going to tell us which books represent excellence in the use of language and in the expression of stories and ideas? I believe most readers still want this kind of assurance and gatekeeping—they have neither the time nor the inclination (or even the skill) to do it themselves. "

The agent neglects to mention that agents do not have the reader's best interest in mind--the agents have THEIR OWN interests in mind.  The agent wants to sell the books she/he reps to readers.  Period.  The agent does not want the reader to have more choices because the agent is interested in selling particular books--hers.

So we're horning in on the territory of agents and editors; direct competition.  But to say that agents and editors care more about readers than writers?  Nope.  Incorrect.
 

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MariaESchneider said:
"Who will serve the reader now? Who amongst us has the reader's best interest in mind, rather than the writer's? Who will help readers identify "good books"? Who's going to tell us which books represent excellence in the use of language and in the expression of stories and ideas? I believe most readers still want this kind of assurance and gatekeeping-they have neither the time nor the inclination (or even the skill) to do it themselves. "

The agent neglects to mention that agents do not have the reader's best interest in mind--the agents have THEIR OWN interests in mind. The agent wants to sell the books she/he reps to readers. Period. The agent does not want the reader to have more choices because the agent is interested in selling particular books--hers.

So we're horning in on the territory of agents and editors; direct competition. But to say that agents and editors care more about readers than writers? Nope. Incorrect.
Good post. Agents are interested in their pcoketbooks, as they have a right to be. Self-publishing cuts into their share, so don't expect hardy endorements from any agent.

Thing is, I KNOW there have been countless times I've gone to the bookstore, looking for a specific kind of book. I didn't know what it was, but I knew I'd recognize it as soon as I saw it, and I came away empty handed. I moved on. Got that? I moved on. Walked away without buying. If I use Amazon's search engine for "sci-fi" and narrow down the field, I think I can now find a book that suits my mood. Choice is always better.
 

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Baaa.... baaa... that's all I heard when I read that article.  Talking about readers as if they're sheep, being guided around, told what to read... the attitude there just bothered me.

So what, people have choices?  That's a good thing to me... and plus, in my humble opinion, the sudden burst of self publishing will fade out in time.  Why?  because those who feel the could be like Konrath and Hocking and toss up a book or two and sell a million copies will find themselves faced with long terms goals they may not be able to obtain without the right plan in place.  And I'll say it again, those who are indie/small press and take it seriously and treat the writing as a business, they'll do just fine.  Those are serious about it are the ones with the backlist of books, with a future schedule of writing, and are willing to help others out.

Those gatekeepers are the ones who rejected how many indie books that have gone on to sell how many hundreds of thousands of copies of books?  And don't forget, the indie/small press writer has more control, more say, and is more human... we can put out short stories, different types of projects, and do things bigger houses can't embrace right now.

And the time of waiting... and waiting... what is it, 18 months for a book to come out?  18 months?  Think about 18 months ago to the day... where were you?  Me?  I had a one year old son and my wife and I were just seeing ultrasound pictures of our second son - who justed 1 two weeks ago!  

Anywho... I chuckle at that article.  Sure, there are crap self published books out there.  But there's also crap big house published books.  And the reader?  Who will serve the reader?  Uh, THE READER will!  They'll decide.  They'll read, review, suggest, etc... just like they've done before.  It's okay, people can think for themselves...  8)
 

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MariaESchneider said:
So we're horning in on the territory of agents and editors; direct competition. But to say that agents and editors care more about readers than writers? Nope. Incorrect.
Oh, exactly. Her attitude insults me and everyone who's ever selected a book to read for themselves. Like agents and editors really know what I personally would most like to read? Who are they--"Big Brother"? No thanks! I may just have enough brain cells to select my own reading material, thank you. I don't need a government-like agency to filter what's appropriate for my little pea-brain.

--Maria
 

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This argument comes up all the time.

How will readers find books amidst this sea of new books?

Same way they always have. They tell each other. The internet makes that easier than ever.

I don't have problems finding good books despite the millions of books that are available. The real problem is finding time to read them all.
 

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I hate to be ultra-cynical (I usually try to balance that view), and I have nothing against Gardner, nor do I have any reason to believe she's consciously doing this, but....

She's playing the survival game.

Agents, as a group, are nearly out of a job. They've got to find a place in this new paradigm fast, and most of them seem to be jumping for questionable "publishing" enterprises. It's critical that they establish a myth (or build on existing) to do this:

They have been convincing publishers for years that they are critical to the process of finding gold in the slush pile. Their whole line of patter is, "If I don't do this, you'll have to, and you don't want to." Well, with writers going direct to the reader, they've got to convince WRITERS that this is a problem for the reader the way it was a problem for the editor. Note that I didn't say they have to convince readers.

As Todd said, the reader has no trouble finding anything. The opportunity here (for agents) is that there are so many people in publishing -- many of them authors with no business-sense and a huge backlist -- who don't understand how the Web 2.0 paradigm works, that they can definitely build a business on promulgating myths about getting lost in the wilderness.

I suspect many of these agents believe this myth too -- but it's a willful ignorance. If they acknowledged the truth, they'd be out of a job.

Camille
 

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daringnovelist said:
Agents, as a group, are nearly out of a job. They've got to find a place in this new paradigm fast, and most of them seem to be jumping for questionable "publishing" enterprises. It's critical that they establish a myth (or build on existing) to do this.
Ha, I think you're right! I read all the comments she received, and I saw a lot of yes-men on there, who sounded like non-self-publishing writers. It was clear they needed to buy what she was selling in order to justify their continued search for a traditional publisher or agent, rather than take the plunge into self-pubbing. A few readers agreed with her, but most were saying they were perfectly capable of selecting their own reads with the help of book bloggers, Goodreads, Amazon reviews, etc.

--Maria
 

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She's very self-righteous.

I'm fairly certain that publishers have NEVER told me what book to buy. They put out thousands every year and you don't see me buying them all.

Sure, there's more books now for readers to look at and more choice, and it can get a bit tricky to find a good book in amongst the bad, but the world hasn't changed that much.

Readers have stacks of places where they can find reviews for books, including Amazon itself, and Goodreads or Shelfari. Readers can connect with thousands of like-minded people at Goodreads, or on Amazon, or here at the KB, and get recommendations or views on a book they're interested in. It's very much the same as it as before. Readers chose their own books before the e-book boom (I've been writing e-books and self-publishing for five years now and I'm glad we've finally had the boom we've all been waiting so patiently for) and they can choose their own books now. Nothing has changed at all... it's just that publishers are feeling threatened now, as are published authors, because they have competition, and are finding out that, actually, readers DON'T NEED a gatekeeper to protect them... they can do it for themselves and they're perfectly adept at making their own choices when it comes to a book!

Felicity Heaton
 

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The comments to the post are worse. How patronising. All us indie authors are just those who aren't good enough to be traditionally published so we are out there "filling the market with unsaleable juvenilia". If only we worked harder until we were good enough, there wouldn't be a problem.

Meh.
 

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There are a lot of readers who won't look at an indie book and stick to only those books from traditional publishers that have been "vetted" for them. Any reader who feels overwhelmed by choices and doesn't want to make their own can do this. No one forces readers to consider choices outside the box. So this is another example of wanting to deprive more adventurous people of choices just so that less adventurous people don't have to be bothered seeing a longer menu.

P.S. That is if you give any credence at all to the pretense of caring about overwhelmed readers. Personally I think people like this just want to keep readers in their own corral.
 

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ellenoc said:
There are a lot of readers who won't look at an indie book and stick to only those books from traditional publishers that have been "vetted" for them. Any reader who feels overwhelmed by choices and doesn't want to make their own can do this. No one forces readers to consider choices outside the box. So this is another example of wanting to deprive more adventurous people of choices just so that less adventurous people don't have to be bothered seeing a longer menu.
Well said.
 

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We can expect to see this sort of thing to increase as time passes. It's become so common now that it's not really worth replying to each individual blog/forum rant by defenders of the old ways, especially since many of the defenders are just as rabid going the other way (of which I am one). I think only history will settle this argument.
 
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