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This is our second article this year about e-publishing, and that's because we feel it is the wave of the future; especially for genres like transformation fiction.
The stories of proven authors having difficulty finding publishers abound. The ongoing consolidation and contraction of the large publishing houses, and the disappearance of many of the smaller houses, has left the fate of mainstream publication of genre fiction is in doubt. Yet on the surface, this makes no sense. After all, logic would suggest that the best way for a publishing company to make money is to publish and sell books. Consolidation should bring more money and more efficient use of resources, not less. So what's wrong?
If you listen to the publishing companies, other media are eating away at their market share. The plethora of new cable channels are one example. E-zines like TSAT and mailing lists like TSA-Talk, TG Fiction, and Furry-Lit, are other examples. It seems that consumers are saying, "why buy when I can have it for free?" As sales go down, the impact of a failure, a book that doesn't sell up to expectation, is greater and the result is publishing companies are becoming more and more conservative in their acquisitions and releases.
I suppose you and I are at fault. I know that the number of books I buy per year has dropped by at least half since I started finding stories I liked on the Internet; even more since I started writing the stories I liked, instead of searching for the themes and situations I like in the works of others. I doubt I'm alone here so odds are pretty good that the publishers are telling the truth.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm still reading at least as much as I was in the past, just off a computer screen instead of from a bound volume -- and that's both good and bad. Aside from the obvious personal preference for the feel of a book, it tends to hurt if you drop your monitor as you slip gently into sleep while reading in bed. My problem is that the quality of work on the Internet varies so much. There's some absolutely fantastic material out there. Hell Hath No Fury and the Fury Directive by Darkside are superb examples of novel length action thrillers. The Professor's morality tales are highly enjoyable light reading. People like Corey Moore, Phil Geusz, Bill Hart, Bob Stein and dozens of other online authors have consistently produced some of the best transformation-related stories I've ever read. I like a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. I like a story that doesn't use the word "giggled" more than five times throughout. I like a story that makes me feel like I should care about the protagonist. I like a story that doesn't have such poor grammar and spelling that it distracts me from the story itself. In short, I like quality.
But then there are the stories that are little more than a chance to describe a sexual situation, the stories that end as soon as a transformation occurs, the stories by authors that have apparently never seen or heard of a thesaurus, a grammar checker or, for that matter, even an old fashioned dictionary. I won't name names here, and maybe these are my own personal pet peeves, but I'd like to think that a few more of you feel the same way. The problem is that while I love the various mailing lists I'm on and would never, for a moment, suggest that they should change, most mailing lists have no standards other than the material must have a certain component in them -- thus the phenomenal variation in quality and the concomitant need to wade through chaff to find the pearls.
Actually, that's why TSAT was created, to try to provide a source of quality stories, stories that people would be able to consistently say, "that was a good story". I'd like to think we've accomplished, and are continuing to accomplish, that goal, but being a volunteer organization, in effect a fanzine, we have serious limitations. While we've published the occasional novella, few of our stories can be more than short story length. That means, we cannot come close to providing the depth of characterization and the richness of background possible in novel or trilogy length material.
E-publishing is the answer there. It's cheaper than paper publishing. It's faster from author to the reader. It can address issues that go far beyond the topics that a paper publisher, pandering to a mainstream audience, can even consider. Like I've been saying, it seems to me to be the wave of the future.
But like all new things, there are risks for both the author and the reader. Finding a reputable e-publisher can be a challenge. The Internet seems to be purposefully designed to aid frauds and scam artists. Where else do you get to make a financial transaction without having the slightest clue of the true name or address of the person who's getting your money? With the excellent graphic and text software currently on the market, how do you know that there's even a product to be purchased?
In response to that question, the best answer seems to be caveat emptor, and the best solution is to stick with known commodities. In e-publishing that would normally mean making your purchases from an established publishing company. Sadly, the large publishers have been remarkably slow to enter this market. That leaves word of mouth.
Rather than be ripped off, TSAT would like to start a new service. Send us your good and bad interactions with e-publishers so that we can build a listing of reputable e-publishers of the kind of literature we want to see. We'll provide a listing of all e-publishers we hear about and all interactions we hear about. Where we can, we'll advise the e-publisher of any problems we hear of and allow them to respond. Then you can decide where to spend your money and we can encourage e-publishers to get out more transformation-related material. How about it folks?