Started as a reply to a comment
, but got long;)
I'm inclined to favor independent/self-publishing in many forms, partly due to my own experience in graduating with a Cinema & Video Production degree and not being able to get hired by anyone doing anything remotely like film or video, but I've also seen enough of the dreck on FFN
and elsewhere to know that a lower barrier to entry will mean an increase in the junk that gets produced, not just the rare gems that no one could find before.
Of course, a lot of professionally published books have been less-than-impressive, too. I'm thinking of one Mercedes Lackey paperback I have that actually misspells the queen's name several times. Ironically, there's one page that has her name on it three times, and it's spelled two ways on the same page
. It's a technicality, but there are plenty of pro-books that have major plot and style issues as well. I firmly believe that scriptwriters should not try to write novels; the Andromeda spinoff novels are horrible, as are most based-on-screenplay novels that accompany certain major motion picture releases. Screenwriters can depend on the actors, directors, and art teams to create the mood and visuals of the story, so they tend to leave them out or write things that make no sense when you try to imagine how they would look.
The major thing, IMO, is that self-publishing used to be so expensive that only the truly confident (or those who had their own presses) would spend the money for it. This, of course, meant that the good ones caught the attention of the institution, and the bad ones were generally ignored, especially with the retail system the way it was. Now, though, the technology has made it possible for anyone to self-publish. Even if the would-be author doesn't have the money for a short-run printing, there are places like CafePress
to POD, or the option of selling a PDF ebook on the web - no upfront costs at all. It's the ultimate in ease-of-entry, which means anyone with the inclination to write can be published. In film/video, there's CinemaNow
for download sales, and CustomFlix
for POD DVDs. CafePress will do POD data or music CDs, for the musicians wanting to go that route, and then there's iTunes and Buy.com for those downloads, too.
Technology has all but eliminated the barriers of entry. Anyone who wants to try can write a book, make a CD, or create a video. As is evident on the web, though, not everyone who wants to be published is worth reading. I think PODdy Mouth
commented on this - if POD and self-publishing becomes the norm, people will seek new filters to screen out the garbage. I have done this on FFN by finding a story or two I can stand, then checking that author's favorite authors list. It works a lot better than trying to wade through the recently updated stories list. Translated to non-FFN writing, I think the web will gravitate toward genre-specific blogs recommending the best of the genre, and people will rely on them to filter the slushpile for them.
The hard part has always been getting people to buy. Even the major corporations don't always know the best way to market their products, but the average would-be author/musician/filmmaker doesn't want to pay anyone to help edit/market their work. This is particularly ironic considering the conventional wisdom that an independent movie must be submitted (including paying entry fees) to multiple festivals, in the unlikely hope that a major distributor will see it, like it, and put it in theatrical distribution. Such filmmakers also desperately hope that an established film company will see it and be impressed and hire them. Better to use the festivals as a marketing opportunity to find your audience (if only most of these people knew who their intended audience was) and convince them to buy your movie on DVD or download.
In terms of production, it's still cheaper per book (T-shirt, mug, button, poster, CD, DVD, whatever) to do a massive print run like the major publishers do, but for a newcomer to the field, there's no reason to bet the farm on an all-or-nothing like that. POD is the cheapest way to get started.