Amazon’s Kindle Store, it seems, is quickly becoming a bandwagon for novels that couldn’t find a publisher elsewhere. Some of these authors are posting respectable sales figures but, for my money, the vetting process is the main advantage traditional publishers have. Self-publishing is still self-publishing, whether as an ebook or POD. I won't buy either, at any price, or even download for free (unless it's an author I'm familiar with), because I don't waste my time reading rubbish. I'm sure there are some diamonds in the rough out there, but I simply don't have time to sift through the dreck trying to find them. With a traditional publisher, at least I know several professional eyes have seen and greenlighted a project before it hits the shelves. I still might be disappointed, but the odds are better that I won't.

What do you guys think? Will sites like Amazon’s Kindle Store eventually put agents and editors on the endangered species list? Or, is the traditional vetting process essential to the future of publishing?

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I've put my book on Kindle, but it was previously edited and published with a small press. If I were going to publish anything else directly to Kindle, I'd want a professional editor to review it first.

In any case, I think a book should sink or swim based on reader response. Writers who might get lost in the shuffle have a shot at getting noticed on Kindle, which is a low-cost alternative to print self-publishing.

As for the gatekeepers, I scratch my head over some of their decisions. They're giving 6- and 7-figure advances for books no one's going to buy. And don't even get me started on the quality of work being cranked out by some bestsellers.
I can't see it putting Agents or editors out of business. We all need them for specisly the reasons that you mentioned. I won't buy a book that hasn't been through the process either. It's too easy to get rubbish in print these day and it's becoming like pop music where there is so much crap being released. I buy from real publishers even if they are e-books, so long as they have standards.

Steve
Jude, I can't believe how awful some of the self-published books are. Some even cross that line of awfulness to where a small dose is hilariously entertaining.

There is however a burgeoning literature on "the wisdom of crowds" suggesting in theory that it's possible for ordinary readers to work more efficiently as a group than the so-called experts (in this case, agents and editors) at identifying talent or quality. But like you I wouldn't want to do the heavy lifting or be the early adopter of some unknown author. I'd wait until the stars of Kindle shone, so to speak, to give one a try.

There's a Harvard Business School professor who believes the average reader wants to be told what to read and likes reading what everyone else is reading and thus has no interest in discovering new authors. If that's true then the wisdom of crowds theory, even if correct, won't apply.

FYI, I took part this year in a hybrid wisdom of crowds fiction experiment at a website in Britain called YouWriteOn, where my fellow unpublished authors read each other's work and vote numerically on the quality of each work randomly assigned to them. The site attracts at least a couple thousand novel excerpts per year. The five highest ranked excerpts each month win professional critiques from industry professionals and qualify for the site's Book of the Year award, which is decided not by the crowd of the unpublished but by the critique panel or experts, editors from Random House UK and Orion and a few published authors. This year's Book of the Year award was decided last week (based on the first 40 pages plus a synopsis), and my co-written crime thriller, Frame-Up, finished second overall. Given the process I think the crowd and the experts both got it right! Or very nearly so. :)
Congrats, Eric. That sounds very promising.
Congratulations, Eric. Here's hoping for continued success with the book.

When it comes to the wisdom of crowds, or the idea that the "average reader" wants to be told what to read, I can see this applying to bestsellers. There are a lot of things that go into bestsellers that don't appeal to me. When it comes to my own books I guess you could say it's just sour grapes, but I also read very few bestsellers - I just find too many of them are plot-driven wannabe movies. So, if that's not the kind of book you want to read or write, this kind of wisdom of the crowd doesn't help.
I agree with John on this. No bestseller has ever seduced me into its world. They have simply made me turn pages to find out what happens next. And that may be all right, but it isn't enough. As for people being like sheep: yes, quite right. It's very hard to build readership normally because you really have to rely on curiosity and later on word of mouth. Hype certainly works for books as well as it does for starlets, but most of us will not be thought worthy of heavy publicity campaigns.
That's great news, Eric. Congratulations!
Eric, that's wonderful! If anything, it tends to support the theory of the "wisdom of crowds."

I'm sure lots of people prefer to be told what to read or watch on TV or at the movies. The "pack mentality" isn't dead. Nor is laziness.

However, I do believe that it's ultimately readers who decide what books should be bestsellers. And if the support of unpublished authors gives you access to the industry pros . . . you've basically leveraged the "wisdom of crowds" to good advantage.
You only came in second, Eric? Better luck next time.

Joking, man. That's great!
I don't usually put much stock in those "wisdom of crowds" types of contests, Eric, because the contestants often solicit friends, and friends of friends, and so on, to vote for them. Cool that your book made it to #2 with the crit panel, though!
The random assignment feature of this particular contest prevented most of the chummy gamesmanship. In my case, I solicited no friends or relatives. (I can't even get them to read my stuff!)
LOL. Same here. It's depressing sometimes how your nearest and dearest let you down. One of my avid mystery-reading friends gets my books from the library.

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