Self-Published Books Pushed by Apple
Apple recently announced its new program of “Breakout Books” as reported in The New York Times.
According to the piece, “popular” self-published books will be featured under a banner on the iBookstore for the first few weeks, and then will become a regular feature. Not mentioned in the article: exactly where these books come from. The piece interviewed Smashwords founder Mark Coker, who said the books “were nominated to Apple’s editorial team.” Given the happy Smashwords/Apple relationship, “were nominated” probably means “nominated by Smashwords.”
Smashwords’ importance as a sales and discovery channel for self-published works is ever-growing. Mr. Coker recently also allied with many public libraries to make thousands of self-published ebooks available to the library market.
Can We Trust the Books?
The titles Apple will highlight are selected based on: “criteria including sales performance and reader reviews” although the Apple “editorial team” has “final say” on the selections.
The world needs a trustworthy filter for self-published books. Such a filter has to involve some first-tier screening. Traditional publishers use agents, who use assistants, to sort out the potentially viable from the unpublishable. Online crowds can provide the same function.
The Editorial Question
Online crowds and reviews, though, are a start, not a solution.
Will Breakout Books become a viable discovery engine for deserving self-published books? That depends on
the makeup of that Apple “editorial team,” and the extent to which they are actually involved in selecting the books, post-Smashwords.
In other words: once the slush has been sorted, who recommends the gems? If the “Breakout Books” are screened for the same level of editorial quality as traditionally published books (after they’ve gone through the professional publisher’s editorial and design machines), bravo! We might have our filter.
If not, and the recommended books are of a lesser quality than readers deserve, that’s cause for alarm.