So, I think that it's time to face some facts. Book publishing is dying. Publishers are hanging on by their nails, and what dollars they do have are being invested mightily in those authors with a proven track record of sales. No one is taking chances in this market. No one is buying in this market. Authors continue to get dropped by their publishers. Plus, we are in a gray zone as we transition from paper books to e-books. FYI: according to amazon, sales of e-books has now surpassed sales of ALL paper books, including hard covers and soft covers combined. The future is here. How this shakes out is still a mystery to all involved. What I do know is that the big authors will continue to see their books published in paper, and authors like me will find themselves as e-authors.
I might actually do better as an e-author because the investment in an e-book is minimal. You might take a chance on me if you only have to pay $4.99 for the privilege. That's the cost of a large coffee with a double shot of espresso. But that's still an "if." If the big publishers demand that the sale price of e-books remain somewhat on par with the sale price of paper books that will kill authors like me. I doubt that my publisher will take that sort of hardstand because a great deal of their sales are to libraries and library patrons tend to like books. But even that's changing as even libraries are now looking at e-books. If your goal is to get people to read, then having e-books for "rent" could mean endless inventory, albeit in bytes and not shelf space.
What's the new author to do? That author who is trying to break into the biz? I don't know. I've thought about this a lot. I think that author collectives are going to be the name of the game. I did a review here recently on Stephen Elliott's The Adderall Diaries, and he's basically done just that: banded a bunch of authors together that's part literary e-salon and part social salon. He's doing a nice job, and I commend him for it. He seems to always think a little outside the box. I recommend getting his daily letter. It's always got some interesting insight into life in the city or publishing. Anyway, the site it called "The Daily Rumpus" and it's URL is here: http://therumpus.net/. In the top right-hand corner you'll see a link in how to subscribe to the google group for his daily (mostly) email.
Even as I see this as the wave of the future, what is scary is that Elliott already has a fair amount of cred. He's not some newbie author banding together with other newbie authors trying to get people other than their friends and relatives to buy their books. That they basically have to self-publish because no publisher will pick them up. I don't know how you make a presence if you don't already have some presence. The only way I can see doing it is to pick a niche and then cater to that niche (interestingly, Elliott's niche is the SandM scene in S.F., which he uses mercilessly in his writing). But it could be something as simple as writing mysteries that feature dogs. So you go to vets and ask if you can display your book for sale. You contact other authors who write about dogs and as a collective unit you buy space at dog shows and try to sell your books. You work it.
This system involves investment and time (I work pretty much full time and I don't have any money--kid in college), so it probably wouldn't work for me, but that's where I see it going. You have to band together and work your six-degrees-of-separation like crazy. You Facebook. You Twitter. You take cute pictures of dogs and post them. You become a marketing machine with other writers.
Essentially, I think that we will all have to become our own publishers and publicists.
Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so. The e-book revolution will mean that I can be published forever, but it doesn't mean that I will have any readers. And that's the rub.