"Mass-Market Books" in the Digital World


By Mick Spillane


How are mass-market books defined in the digital world? In the old world of publishing houses, what distinguished mass market was the quantity produced. But today, everyone and their grandma is publishing a book—ebooks, even if they are self-published, a vanity press, et cetera, are flooding the marketplace (or should I say Amazon?), changing the publishing world. Ebooks, though, are print-on-demand, as well; and being produced in mass quantities. But the mass-market books of yesterday, were the ones you would find at an airport bookstore or the local drug store. Of course, you still can ... But traveling with your iPad....


Today it is more important to be market savvy and with a great command of social media marketing. Do authors or the audience even care if the books are properly edited? Do these "independent publishers" even taken the time to create a house style guide? From my experience the answer is a resounding "No." It seems that what goes on the cover is crucial.


Yes, these books fall into categories, fulfilling a demand of a special segment of the public—labels are always important. The category is important to the market-savvy author in the digital age—it's akin to a brand name. Branding is everything these days. Nevertheless, being an editor today, one can edit sci-fi, romance, Westerns; you really do not have to specialize any longer. These genres are by no means inert.


But what makes a great editor in the digital world? A genuine appreciation for a particular genre is important. A sociable disposition helps. Common sense is even more of an in-demand skill when navigating the manuscripts of the ebook world. For me, as an editor, this means understanding the writer's intent and considering their words in the proper context. Using common sense, means understanding the type of book you are editing and its intended audience when making editorial decisions. At times it requires a light touch; other times a heavy hand is required. Moreover, in the digital world new genres are always popping up


What seems to matter to most with these digital books, is meeting that five-day deadline.

Write a comment


  • Nick Moore (Wednesday, March 26 14 08:37 pm EDT)

    Being a credible copyeditor requires a consistent use of punctuation that does not create sentence thought fragments. In addition, as your reader of this particular blog post, I am curious as to your
    selection of the word "inert" when implying that genre non-specialization was rendering the full spectrum of literature as of an overall homogenous nature. Please correct me if I am wrong, but the
    word you may have intended was "indistinguishable," as to your original term which is generally defined as "inactive, powerless, incapable of doing a process acceptable in the situation presented."
    One is a qualitative comparison between the appearances of multiple objects or events; the other is an adjective aimed at a singular general group.

    That being said, as a publisher, author and copyeditor myself, I would like to support your overall position. What surprises me is the tone of your statements in comparison to the overall premise's
    theme. Were you promoting what you consider excellent qualities inherent in the e-book publishing industry, specifically the copyeditor positions which, you are correct, are crucial to the success of
    any book regardless of format?

    Were you complaining about the actual need of comprehension and competency of multiple genres in literature review?

    Lastly, were you complaining about specifically generalized issues regarding the ease of production and self-releasing of e-books in a currently unstandardized new branch of the industry we both
    operate in, full-well knowing that it is still relatively new and therefore still requires some bugs being worked out?

    You have some valid points for consideration, sir. But I would be hesitant to consider them in the atmosphere of this blog post without greater explanation of those points.

    I do believe you have an excellent writing skill, and your vernacular has a refreshing sense of energy tempered by a realistic and truthful frustration. I believe furthermore that you could do much
    more to help the e-book industry develop into a more cohesive set of standards. This sense comes from reading a lot of writers, genres and styles - some of which I admit are not all of my personal
    preference, but in our industry there can be no such consideration in order to do what we do best - and have developed a better, if still humanly flawed, sense for talent. You have the spark. Why are
    you limiting that power in your words when you can help shape the future of writing itself?

    I say you've got what you need right now to start today. But the choice is yours, and I look forward to seeing what you can accomplish well into the danger zone. Go for it. You've got backup right
    here if you need - just go for it.

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