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Publishers once were the gatekeepers and authors had little say. Now writers get a chance to give the readers something new. Writers are grateful for getting a following through publishers, but are now empowered by taking the course of their careers in their own hands through the power of the Internet.

“Gatekeepers are needed or else it’s going to kill the business,” said one panelist. “The notion that we should put all the crap out there and see what happens is ridiculous.”

The significant thing that’s happened is that the wave of indie publishing has minimized the number of gatekeepers. Traditionally, a bad book usually had too many hands involved in it. Now a writer can go straight to the consumer, but that writer still needs the editing/gatekeeping to put out a quality product.

Bad books burn out readers. “We might be doing that for the whole fiction field right now.”

Quality fiction is writing the best book you can write. It’s not just about providing the reader with a good story; it’s more. It’s about creating a connection with the reader. It’s about providing an experience—phone, iPad, print, audio, talking on Facebook about story, audio—offering a package of things as opposed to just writing a book. Readers want to be part of your world. Facebook makes that more immediate. But it’s a mistake to take ideas from fans. Readers don’t actually know what they want until you’ve written it. Traditionally, if you wrote a bestseller, you could pretty much guarantee you would remain a bestseller. You had the kind of visibility that drove the sales because of momentum. But now content is king.

“The capability of launching a polished piece of fiction by yourself may not be easy,” said one panelist. ”To have the best quality, you need support.”

Five percent of the books have 95 percent of ISBNs due to self-publishing. A lot of authors aren’t catching on and haven’t demonstrated reader appeal. That goes back to quality—having a great cover and getting great editing.

A tremendous amount of success in indie publishing has come through marketing. The tactics that once worked are no longer as viable, because everyone’s doing them. ”These authors won’t have a life unless they deliver something significantly more meaningful.”

One writer felt she was too slow for digital world.

“It’s not about pumping out books. One of the biggest problem in the indie world is that many don’t understand or don’t want to deal with the difference between good content and copy editing help.”

“Research the editors and artists for cover designs you are hiring,” suggested one panelist. When you package your book, you need to trust the people you hire, because that’s their expertise.

The challenge is how can we refine choice so readers know where to find quality? “How do I become that quality author readers want?”

Writers, whether traditionally published or indie published, need gatekeepers. Readers don’t want to wade through thousands of choices to find their next read.

One danger of indie publishing is that the business side is so overwhelming that it can affect the quality of the work.

The best promotion is to write a good book, then write an even better book.

“We should all maintain a ridiculously high level of quality,” said one panelist. “If we’re not worried about this, nobody else will be.”

Sylvie Kurtz writes adventures that explore the complexity of the human mind and the thrill of suspense. She likes dark chocolate, soft wool, and movies that require tissues.

Business Briefs

Mass Market and Adult Trade Up in August

AAP’s StatShot for August 2012 says not only are adult trade sales are up 11%, BUT, mass market went up 17.2%. This is attributed to 31.6% decrease in returns. The news remains solid for adult trade with an overall increase for Jan. through August of 10.4%. Figures are the results of 1,186 publishers reporting.

Ebooks sales were up 34.2% with an overall Jan. to August increase of 36.9%. There was no division by book type in the current report.

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