Monday, July 23, 2012

The New Gatekeepers (also: The Books that Made Me Geek-Out)

My Kindle recently drew my attention to an author I hadn't read or heard of before. I downloaded a sample of a book and before I was finished reading the sample, I'd bought the entire series. It's a brilliant YA contemporary series by a very talented author named Tammara Webber:

Between the Lines (Book #1) Paperback / Kindle

Where You Are (Book #2) Paperback / Kindle

Good for You (Book #3) Paperback / Kindle

When I sat down with Tammara's books, we weren't solving all the world's problems, or confronting all the world's evils. But we were looking at life through a very unique perspective -- and learning, and growing. These books are (in my opinion) what YA is all about - a little bit of What I Wish My Life Was Like, and a lot of Real.

It's the most fun I've had reading books in a long time. I groaned when I reached the end because THERE WERE NO MORE BOOKS. I was officially in love with her hero (anti-hero, of sorts) and just plain fanatical about the author herself.

(NOTE: I might have geeked out just a little and tweeted the writer incessantly for a week, during which she may have started legal proceedings to make sure I never showed up at her house, but I couldn't possibly confirm, nor deny...)

In any case, when I was finished the books and in that awful limbo of wanting more, but having no more material to devour, I skipped to the front of the books to find out who published them.

That would be, Tammara Webber.

This, my friends, is self-publishing at it's best: When my internal editor didn't notice, and my internal story-swallower didn't have to argue with him. For me, as a reader, these books are GREAT. And while they might not float everyone's boat, there's no need for me to say "Great...for a self-published book..." because they're just plain GREAT.

Even better, the author herself makes no apologies, and pulls no punches about the realities of self-publishing. She's got a great set of indie-writing FAQ's to address the most common questions and requests. There's truth in them-thar lines, thar is.

So what's my point? My point is, when a story catches the reader's attention, they don't spend time poring over the opening pages for rights assignments or copyright attributions. They just read, and enjoy, and wish there was more.


It's authors and books like this that show me how the balance of power is changing.

Having owned a Kindle Fire for five months now, and seeing how it's changed my reading / book shopping habits without me noticing, I've formed a new opinion on the publishing industry:

The traditional model of promoting and selling books still works for customers who don't have easy-use, high-content e-readers. But I think we all know the proportion of readers who don't own e-readers is rapidly shrinking. And I suspect in ten years it will be virtually nil. So... for those readers who don't have or like e-readers, the traditional model is still working.


There's a rapidly growing, distinctly personal market for e-books that the publishers can't control. The e-reader is smart: It looks at what you bought and tells you about other books like those. It looks at what you bought and tells you what other people who bought that liked. And it doesn't distinguish by publisher or agent. The only thing that pulls a book to the top of the recommendations pile, is purchases.

Do you know what that means?

It means the agents and publishers aren't the gatekeepers anymore. For digital readers, the real gatekeepers are the readers. (Finally!) Because no matter where or how a book came into print, if people keep buying it, Amazon (or Barnes and Noble, or whoever) keep recommending it.

The bigger the digital proportion of readers, the less powerful the traditional publishing model will be.

Now, don't get me wrong: Traditional publishers still turn out great books from great writers. They'll get the word of mouth recommendations, which equal sales, which equal e-reader recommendations too. But the playing field is evening up.

And I, for one, am a convert. Thank you, Amazon, for telling me I might like Tammara Webber's books. YOU WERE RIGHT.

Your Turn: Do you think readers have the power yet? Or are there still barriers? How long do you think it will be before e-readers are the standard for purchasing and reading books?


  1. So if readers are the gatekeepers...are there actually any gatekeepers? I think the gate is wide open and it's a market where anyone can buy and anyone can sell.

    1. You're right, but I still think "Gatekeepers" is accurate, because things readers choose to reject (by not buying, or not recommending to others) will remain in obscurity.

  2. One more point that I maybe didn't hit firmly enough in this post:

    The books linked above are (in my opinion) of a quality equal to traditionally published books. This is important to note because while the average reader may not have an internal editor like most writers, they do know the difference between something they can read and understand easily (get lost in) and something which is a hard slog (or lacks continuity, or has lots of typos, etc).

    The other thing I think Tammara did right was make her books available in both e-book and paperback format. This means her audience isn't limited - a recommendation can be acted upon by any reader in any format.

  3. THIS, RIGHT HERE: "Having owned a Kindle Fire for five months now, and seeing how it's changed my reading / book shopping habits without me noticing..." YES! Believe it or not, this happened to me. I realized recently that with the exception of traditional authors I already love, I have a really difficult time shelling out over $5 for a digital book. Why? Because I've discovered the good self-pubbed authors in my preferred reading genres... and you're so right - those Amazon recommendations were key to those discoveries.

    When I published, I didn't know ANY other self-pub authors. I read Amanda Hocking's blog and followed what she did as closely as I could. I've made wonderful indie friends since then, most in the last 6-7 months - many of whom I've never read! Why? Because there's still so much to read! I don't have a hard time finding good, CHEAP reading material.

    I love this post, Aimee. Thanks for the info contained, and for loving Reid. <3

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tammara.

      I know what you mean about becoming less inclined to shell-out top dollar for books. I'm becoming VERY picky about what I buy in physical copy, and the price of an e-book will make me pause if it's high. (My threshhold for PAUSE is about $8-9. That said, I'll only pay that or more for a book which grabbed me and shook me by the lapels in the sample).

      And as for Reid... I'm not sure "love" goes far enough. The man keeps popping into my head and driving me nuts even weeks after finishing the books.

      Bravo, my girl.

  4. Totally just bought Between the Lines - sounds awesome! :)

    1. It is. And it goes places you don't expect. But Good For You is the best of the three in my opinion :)

  5. Definitely adding this series to my to-read list! And yes, I completely agree that the playing field is evening up - for those self publishers who take it seriously and invest in their work by having it professionally edited etc. Hopefully my book will join the ranks of 'quality' self published books. :-)

  6. I've read Tammara's EASY, and love, love, loved it. So much. I'll be sure to check these out as well. I've no doubt I'll love them. =)

    1. I read EASY first. I loved these EVEN MORE :) But they are definitely a little lighter.

  7. I love traditional books. It's very hard for me to let go of them, and I don't think I ever will completely. But I do own a Kindle (just a basic one) and I am getting used to reading on it and I do like it for portability, storage, and instant gratification - it's great when you finish one book in a series and can instantly download the next! I don't know how different the suggestions are from what you normally see anytime you order from Amazon - whether ebook or not - they always list other things you might like. So if you order paperbacks, you'll still get suggestions for titles you might like.