Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The ebook revolution and its real effect on authors

Douglas Adams once wrote about the way we feel about technology: the technology that existed when we were young was old, traditional, tried and tested, and dull; the technology that appears in our teens, twenties and thirties, is marvellous, exciting, and easy to use, while technology that appears in our forties and after is unnecessary, dangerous and a threat to humanity.  Whether this is universally true in its details, in general its contains the truth that there comes a time when an invention that promises a brand new tomorrow meets the dour response 'not another one'. There are many writers who see the adoption of the ebook by readers as the chance for the publishing industry dinosaurs to finally lose their dominant role as gatekeepers who decide what can and what cannot be published.

I'm not so sure.  This rhetoric of freedom and unmediated contact between audience and creator has been heard before: it was what was said about MySpace for the music industry.  It was no longer possible for the big record companies to dole out their selected new artists and force them on the public - anyone could upload their music and anyone could find it.  Strangely enough, this didn't really happen much - the fact that the high points of  MySpace discoveries are Lily Allen and Sean Kingston merely confirms the evidence of the charts (then and now) that music remains dominated by the industrial and corporate.  (And it's not just me as a grumpy old man who thinks this, so do The Kids).  The trouble with the MySpace model was one of exposure - audiences are good at sharing links to the music they like, but very bad at searching for new music, and end up relying on established channels of advertising and news.

Which brings us to print on demand technology which also offered a revolution through self publishing   Again, theoretically authors can create, publish, market and distribute their own books without involving a publisher. No more cliques and cartels, Old Boys Networks and trend-hounds.  This revolution, too, stalled, because people looking for books didn't think to trawl personal websites for books.

Now though, things might change, because the distribution and search  of ebooks genuinely exposes them to book-buyers.  Certainly the news that Amazon now sells more ebooks than paper books suggests that the tipping point has been reached.

Part of being a writer is calling yourself a writer.  For some that is as easy as adopting a new self-image, before or even without writing anything.  Others see it is something you have to earn.

But another part of being a writer is writing stuff and finishing stuff.  Having a book that is done and out there in the wild is something we need.  My friend Madeleine Sara has been working at writing for years and has now reached this point thanks to ebooks with the publication of the romance Ultimate Sacrifice..

I have learned that successful people never give up on themselves, so I decided to give ePublishing a go. I found supportive friends who cheer me on. Feedback from other bloggers plus some mini successes has helped give me a clearer picture of my work; improved my work and given me more confidence. I’ve been learning the craft and the more I share my work, the more it matures. Sometimes my goals and aspirations seem rather idealistic and then I can metaphorically fall on my face with a bump! Especially when I compare my work with that of my idols. I have to remind myself that like everyone else, my writing style will be unique. I am guilty of not always writing every day and this is something I need to address, as the more I write the better I write and then I enjoy it so much more. Thanks for promoting my eBook. Madeleine 

‘Facing a moral choice is perhaps one of the most powerful conflicts any novel can present. ... For example, what if giving up on reaching a goal would not just be easy but would be rewarded? Worse, what if saving the day means sacrificing something of one's self? Worse still, what if that part of one's self up for offering has been hard won and is of high importance?’ Donald Maas (Writing the Breakout Novel, p. 238)

Get Ultimate Sacrifice at Amazon.com   Amazon. UK  Amazon FR     Amazon de


Madeleine Maddocks said...

Thanks for the shout out Martin.

Yes many people can rightly call themselves writers, but I wonder, when can one adopt the title of author?

Thought provoking post.

Martin Locock said...

I must admit I hadn't noticed whether I used writer or author in the post , but I guess I would be wary of using the A word in conversation! It's an interseting paradox that the people who claim early to a writer are the ones that shouldn't, and those who deny the honour who should.

Madeleine Maddocks said...

In my view anyone who write regularly is a writer, those who are professionally published are authors.

Martin Locock said...

but what does 'professionally published' mean these days?