As the publishing industry evolves and new models are tested, it will be interesting to see if the role of the author changes. Specifically, I wonder if authors will gain more control over the product they create.

Currently, in the traditional publishing world, authors often feel powerless. They have little or no control over what the book is named, when it’s released, or how many copies are printed. They also have no guarantee that their publisher will pick up their next book. For non-bestselling authors, every novel feels like starting from scratch in the process.

This is the reason some authors self-publish. They want control over their product and how it’s presented to readers. They like to know their work will reach the market, regardless. They choose not to feel powerless. Who can blame them?

This subject is on my mind today because I evaluate manuscripts for a large self-publishing company. A few of the stories are good, many are unreadable, and many are written by doctors. Why are doctors writing and self-publishing novels?

My theory is they sometimes feel powerless too. Doctors’ novels are always about an individual MD making a dramatic improvement in the healthcare industry. I can only assume some physicians must also feel powerless to change a system they’re entrenched in and dependent on. So they write out their fantasies and pay to get their stories to the public.

This is the only power writers have: to create a story that entertainers, enlightens, or simply shares their way of looking at the world. For everything else, we must cross our fingers and hope for the best.

  1. Interesting POV. Doctors, hey. I think the rise in e-publishing is part of your control factor. Right now, e-publishing is an anacharist’s dream garden. It largely illustrates the failure of a part of our school programs that deals with grammar and language. But e-publishers and their authors are really in charge at the ground level and are making tremendous strides. Some very interesting and thoughtful work is now being done in this arena.

    Will all this energy result in the demise or death of the book? Of course not, but it will result in more writing talent being revealed.

    One of the phenomena I see over and over again is frustrtion because our institutions, public and private, do not have enough people who are listening.
    Sometimes all that angry woman needs of to know that somebody is hearing her problems. Maybe that’s one of the reasons doctors are writing books. Maybe fewer and fewer people are listening!

  2. As for doctors, I think some of them feel they’ve lost power over patients too. Especially when the patient comes in armed with information and ready to take charge of his/her treatment.
    The good thing about e-publishing and self-publishing is that is allows great authors who would fall through the cracks to have a chance.

  3. Interesting viewpoint on self publishing. Since writing is for many a catharsis, it’s not surprising to see people turning to this outlet to “bang out” their frustrations on a keyboard in a controllable, fictitious setting. And why give up that control by going the traditional publishing route when the book is done?


  4. My immediate response to reading your comment is how psychiatrists tend to hang paintings of sailboats in their office lobbies.

  5. Does the sailboat represent escape and control? Or do you simply mean that I’m crazy?

  6. Self-publishing probably has many reasonings. Control. It’s faster. More author input. Frustration with the establishment. It’s not an easy route. But both paths have bumps and and detours. Some people think self-publishing is just taking the easy way to publishing, but I don’t think there’s anything easy about it. It looks like hard work to me.

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