For good or for ill, five hundred years of publishing tradition are now changing before our eyes. In the past, the publishing industry served as a gatekeeper between the written word and readers. As any fan of good books knows, such a system in no way guaranteed that all the cream rose to the top. There are always stories of the gem that a publisher passed on because they couldn’t figure out how to market it, or perhaps it was too challenging for readers to be profitable. On the other side of the coin, every reader and writer has wondered, as they perused the pages of a book, how the drivel they hold in their hands ever came to be in print in the first place.
The internet has changed all of that. To start, reading has changed. The Internet age has removed publishers as the mediators of written text. It also requires greater literacy than has ever been demanded of past generations.
The Internet has also dramatically democratized the process of writing and creating books. It is now possible for authors to make a good living publishing exclusively in an electronic format without any help from a professional publisher. At the same time, print on demand technologies have dramatically lowered the risks for traditional publishers, who no longer feel obligated to print 50,000 copies of a given title.
Both of these trends have combined to flood readers with waves of new titles to discover, not all of which should have been presented to the world in the first place. Like a sports league expanding too far and diluting its talent, now that anyone can publish their own book, anyone has and will continue to do so. At the same time, per book marketing budgets have diminished greatly, forcing even traditionally published authors to spend their time marketing their existing titles, rather than focus on writing new ones.
The problem for the reader becomes sorting through the chaff to find the kernels. They are still there. In fact, I believe there has never been as many good books available to readers as there are today. It just takes more work on the part of the reader to find them.
Enter Story Con!. I envision Story Con! as an event where a reader can, in a single day, preview a hundred books or more, spread out across a wide variety of writing styles and genres. My hope is that each reader who attends walks away with enough books to fill a Northwest rainy season. Well, perhaps that’s a little ambitious, but one can hope.
I look forward to seeing you there.