The E-Book Levels the Playing Field

You may recall that old New Yorker cartoon by P. Steiner that shows a hound of some sort in front of a computer, apparently on some sort of dating site, saying to his canine buddy, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The same may be said about authors: On the Internet nobody knows you’re not Stephen King. Or James Patterson. Or any other big-name author. Online, the playing field is leveled, because people search for content, and in a lot of cases that trumps name recognition, even from first-rate writers like King.

The rise of e-books, and the rise of self-published e-books, is rocking the world of writers, publishers and readers. A friend of mine, a well-respected crime novelist with more than a dozen books to her name, has been publishing her old short stories as 99-cent downloads, and doing quite well by this (in some cases she makes more this way than she was originally paid for having written the story).

Why wait for yet another anthology of stories when you can have something by a favorite author – or try something new by an unknown author – for less than the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s? (You can even download it while you wait for that pricey cappuccino thanks to the free wi-fi you find at Starbuck’s and at many other coffee chains.) She’s just one of many mystery writers (many of whom are seriously underpaid by their legacy publishers) who have found additional income thanks to the power of the e-reader and the prowess of Amazon and

At Beneath the Cover, we’re not anti-publisher. In fact, we look for ways to help authors work better with publishers, and we try to teach authors how to market themselves better known to potential publishers and readers thanks to the power of a platform. But we ourselves are soon going to be publishing e-books for writers who want to know about publishing. It’s the best, fastest way to get vital content to today’s reader, other than by blogging or tweeting.

But I made that reference to the power of the lesser-known author thanks to a blog post by the writer J.A. Kornath, whom I wrote about recently in reference to his success in self-publishing a techno-thriller that had been rejected by the major publishers and that has become a tremendous online, self-published, bestseller among e-books.

I get the feeling he continues to be in awe of what’s been happening to him, and also at the tremendous power that comes not only from success but from utilizing a new tool that gives you more than you expected. In a blog yesterday, Kornath wrote that among the top 10 bestsellers among occult fiction on Amazon’s Kindle list, “Every one of them is self-pubbed. In fact, there are only three legacy authors in the Top 30. I count only ten legacy pubbed in the Top 100, and most are brand names… I’m outselling King, Harris, and Preston & Child. That’s odd, since they kill me in paper sales. But it doesn’t matter, because bestselling authors sell at any price, which publishers are aware of.”

This author won’t be the only one to find that. My friend the mystery writer is starting to experience a degree of success thanks to easily downloadable e-stories. Soon, nonfiction writers, especially those entrepreneurs who already have a strong audience, will realize that they can reach their audience without a lumbering middleman like a traditional publisher can sometimes be.

Nonfiction writers may still need to learn how to create a book, find and find an audience, and develop their platforms, of course. But they may realize that they can control more than they used to about how their work reaches readers. That’s because, in a way, the e-book phenomenon, as it’s practiced through the Amazon Kindle and Nook stores, is another example of transparency in today’s civic cycle. No fluff: just content.

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2 Responses to “The E-Book Levels the Playing Field”

  1. Anonymous January 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    It never ceases to amaze me how radically the internet has changed nearly every aspect of life. I’ve always loved reading. I love that I can get instant access to so many books on my kindle!

  2. Andrea January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    I love stories of success and your friend sounds like a good one!

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