In my writing career I have been published in mass market paperback by a few publishers, then kicked out after a book or two. I’d come back, and get a better deal…and then get kicked out again. There were reasons for this. For one thing, the book biz as it was before Amazon, relied on book sales throughout the country. If you have a small print run, then maybe one book of yours goes out to the Barnes & Noble in, say, Tucson, Arizona. And that book is spine out on a shelf among many other books.
The publishers send these books out all over the country, but all is contingent on “sell-through,” which means selling a good number of these books. (And face it, it’s hard to notice a book spine-out in the mystery section of a bookstore when you’re really looking for Lee Child’s latest). Books cost money, so who’s going to take a chance on a paperback by an unknown? Or a hardcover, for that matter? For the reader, how do they find more good books to read?
Every time I was dropped by a publisher it spurred me to take my time and write the best book I could. I learned from the best in the business, by reading the best and marking up their books–writing notes, drawing arrows, and circling passages. And that was how I got better and better as a writer. I always thought of my readers who are always looking for more good books to read. I went through the revolving door at the publishers four times. I did not come out smelling like a rose. I have to mention here that there are many many savvy authors who did manage to make this Rube Goldberg machine work. Many who built viable and even stellar careers.
Ebooks came along. The digital tsunami that transformed the music industry swept over book publishing.
Ebooks leveled the playing field for many authors who were busy building their craft and getting bought by the New York publishers before getting kicked out again. And good writers can come from anywhere. They just have to develop their craft, and many writers did just that.
Now the marketplace is more open–at least distribution is more accessible. A smart author (many of whom have been going through the revolving door of New York publishing for years) can go out on their own and be their own shopkeeper. Thanks to the ebook etailer platforms, authors can easily look at dozens of books in their genre and that will help them determine cover art and cover copy.
All in all, it’s a great time to be an author. You just have to have some publishing and marketing skills, work with good people on cover art, copy editing and other aspects, and above all–write, write, write. And with digital, you now have the chance to reach many more readers and offer them more good books to read.