Ladies and gentlemen, things have just gotten a lot more interesting.
In the past, publishers printed, distributed and marketed books. Authors had to write something publishers wanted to buy before they could figure out whether readers wanted to read it. Publishers were driven by the desire to produce great works of fiction (and non-fiction), but they were also driven by the bottom line. Publishing is a business and that big publishing house wants to make money. Predicting popularity is a gamble and they are always looking for what will be the next new thing - which can be great if you are what they think will be the next big thing and not so great if you aren't. They hold the keys to the kingdom.
The internet is changing all that. New electronic publishers with lower overhead costs are able to take chances on new authors (like me!). And if you want to skip the publisher entirely and try to print and distribute your own book (like my cousin did) then there are self-publishing companies available offering their services. (Note: I'm talking self not vanity publishing. That's a whole nother kettle of fish.)
But what if you are an established author and you want to skip the publisher entirely, releasing your own ebooks directly to your faithful readers... Is that the new trend? Straight from the author to the reader with no middlemen?
J.A. Konrath talks openly on his blog about the relative profitability of his Big Publisher books and the ones he self-released through Amazon. And now... drumroll please... Lynn Abbey, CJ Cherryh & Jane Fancher have opened up their own online storefront, designed to distribute their books the way they want them. You can read more about their venture and the intentions behind it HERE.
Are editors, agents & big publishers a thing of the past? I don't think so. But I do think the industry is changing a little bit more every day and this is a fascinating time to be a part of it. Market analysts are calling this Christmas the Year of the Kindle and Amazon bragged that more ebooks than print books were sold on Christmas Day.
The way we read and the way we get books may change, but I am certain there will always be work for those who want to make good books and get them into readers' hands.