That Brave New World

By Morgan Karpiel

When I read Angela Guillaume’s excellent post from last week, I was still reeling from Dorchester’s announcement. The change hit me personally, as I had a manuscript requested and under review at Dorchester and have always dreamed of working with Chris Keeslar, blah, blah, blah. No, seriously, I literally had dreams about working with Chris Keeslar, line by line editing, grueling critiques and well earned praise offered through email, long nights of trying to create the perfect masterpiece.

So now what?

Even more concerning is the change in booksellers, stores, etc. No more shelf space, no more expensive manufacturing, inventory or distribution channels needed. It’s all going digital, just like music. Great. Less waste, and surprise, surprise, the publishers are no longer in control. No more gatekeepers. No more rejection letters. You can publish yourself. The comments and sales you receive will dictate your success as an author. Some will be loved, other hated, some will build a brand, others will take up painting.

Authors will now be built by the masses, by stars given and breathless quotes posted, by special offers and free sample chapters. In thirty seconds or less, our work will be downloaded all over the world to 20,000 readers, or maybe just 20, including family and friends.

Great, so now what?

This year was also my third year as a Golden Heart finalist, and my third loss. RWA, as some may know, has taken an aggressive stance against e-books, and their authors, by not allowing self-published e-books (or maybe even any e-books) to enter the RITA. So, essentially, if I publish my own work than I am no longer eligible for any of the RWA contests for unpublished authors or published authors. I’ve heard that you can argue the rules by showing heavy sales, or some such thing, but it still seems to me that RWA has determined that a world without gatekeepers is not in their best interest. Makes sense, right? They’ve existed for thirty years to help authors get into print, because the process is so incredibly excruciating. If the process is suddenly not so excruciating, then who needs them, right? Well, I do. I certainly enjoy the community and will miss them now, because I’m probably not joining up again.

That’s right, I’m going solo. No agents. No publishers, other than my own personal label. I’ve got an excellent freelance copy editor, an HTML formatter for all those pesky uploads to all those different formats, and a cover artist. That’s it. I purchased my own ISBNs and we’ll see if this is a career I build a brand on, or if I take up painting. I’m prepared to plot my course outside the gates, either way.

It’s true, I could have just submitted to e-publishers, but then, why? Why wait for the judgment of the acquiring gatekeepers, the editor time, the publishing time? Why share the royalty? E-publishers work to give their books publicity, but you can hire that on your own too without paying a royalty.

Sure, the e-book industry is still small and the profits are still light, and you have to decide what reader comments to agonize over all night and which to ignore, but this is what freedom is, what freedom feels like to me.

How many authors feel like me? Lots, probably, which means that in the far reaching future, we’re not just talking about the death of traditional print publishing houses, but of traditional e-publishing houses too. Who needs them? The readers will decide who succeeds and who fails, just as they always have. This is not to say that publishers of all kinds won't find a new role and a new relevancy for themselves. Some of them certainly will. I see Harlequin's vanity line as an attempt at that. But I'm a writer and I'm just going to keep on writing, regardless.

Speaking to unpublished writers everywhere, I think we would all do well to forget about houses, agents, whatever. Forget about all the things we’ve learned about the industry so far. Waste of time. Instead, I'll be focusing on what it means to be a writer in the digital world. In my opinion, we’re going to have greater responsibilities and greater freedom. We need to know how to package and distribute our own work. We need to know new strategies for reaching our readers and we need to be damn good writers, good enough to sell a book in three sample chapters and deliver an incredible story to the last page.

No hand-holding, no passing the buck, no one to blame (or rely on) but ourselves. In a world where the great houses are shaking on their foundations, that’s exactly the place I want to be. I’ll bet on me any day, although secretly, I would still love to work with Chris Keeslar. For now, however, looks like that will only happen in my dreams.


  1. *cheering madly*

    Morgan - you're AWESOME. And I LOVE your cover art.

  2. WOW OH WOW! I applaud you! And I love your cover. Congrats Morgan for taking this step. You're my new writing hero! :)

  3. Interesting that *now* I decide to go with a digital publisher after going it alone. :) I miss some of the control, but going it alone is a lonely road, that may not be quite so lonely in the future. Only time will tell where it all shakes out. It's hard to grasp the reality of dreams crashing and burning or at least, being redirected. I must have faith that it'll all work out for my good in some way.

  4. Thanks, Julia! Encouragement is everything :-)

  5. Thanks, Jojo! You're so my hero too! Here's to wishing we get to drink to this someday :-)

  6. Hi Kathy, don't get me wrong. I think getting in with a publisher is still a great thing to be proud of. There are a lot of divas who are published already and have written great books and built great careers and I would never take anything away from that. It's an amazing and wonderful thing. I only mean to say that I personally have redefined what success as a writer means to me. Maybe I never become a bestseller with a big house, but to be able to write my stories the way I see them, and publish them when I want to, is an amazing gift as well. I think now is the time for me to do that, but that's just me. And let's be honest, if major publisher came knocking, I'd still be answering the door, jumping up and down in my bathrobe.

  7. I totally hear you, Morgan! Great gutsy post! I raise my glass to you!


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