Thursday, July 20, 2006

Which is more important: writing a book or getting it published?

Print-on-demand services are going mainstream, according to this article in the New York Times. With it, anyone can produce a book that's indistinguishable from one printed by a professional publishing house.

Writers don't even need to know desktop publishing anymore. A new service called has created Booksmart, software that makes laying out a book as easy as creating a blog or a Word document. It doesn't provide any of the flexibility of Quark or InDesign (each page must conform to one of the provided templates), but it doesn't have a steep learning curve or price either. Even in its first incarnation, I think the options offered in Booksmart would satisfy most writers (if not designers or layout specialists.)

So the question becomes: what matters more, writing the book or publishing it? It's true that getting past the gauntlet of editors and getting a book contract is a very difficult task. But there's something to be said for someone who manages to put in the effort to see a book through to its conclusion. The reader will have to decide for themselves if the book is worth the paper it's printed on. I'm not saying there isn't still value in the professional publishing model. But that value is decreasing as technology improves.