Advice for writers

A Dispatch from the Writer’s Revolution

A Writing Revolution

Democracy is coming to the world of writing. Here are the barricades where the fighting is fiercest:

1. Newspaper and magazine review sites. Reviewers traditionally receive free copies of hundreds of books. They refuse, mostly, to review independently published books, no matter how popular. They support the corporate system that pays their wages. They impose the unwritten rules and censorship practices that their corporate masters have laid down. But the democratic forces of the internet are winning on this front. Magazines and newspapers are parts of a declining industry. Reviewers are a dying breed. Within ten years the whole area will be dominated by internet review sites.

2. Awards and prizes. The traditional method of picking winners is for the literary well-connected or their publishing industry pals to sit in a restaurant and decide who should be short listed and who shall be winners. This undemocratic process has gained worthy winners accolades and foisted rubbish on the groaning front shelves of bookshops.  As George Orwell said, ‘There is no test of literary merit except survival…itself an index to majority opinion.’ Awards are good for the corporate PR departments of large publishers, they often don’t translate into success for a writer – the simple ability to continue a writing career.

3. Bookshops & supermarkets. Buyers at large book stores and supermarkets decide what we should read. They pile the latest blockbuster up at the front of the store in cardboard boxes. They decide what should be read based on what has sold before and what’s least likely to offend. They rarely give shelf space to new authors, and if they do they often hide their books. Independent bookstores are the most likely people to switch sides in the revolution, as they often feature local and self published authors.

So what will the world look like after the revolution? Amazon will dominate. It has its own publishing arm and it’s taking on the bloated corporate publishers. If you write a book that rises in their charts you will make money and be able to survive as  a writer, based on the decision of a mass of people that you deserve to be paid for your talent.

And Kobo is giving Amazon a run for its money, with new models and expanded distribution, and Apple is still in the game. Both these services allow independent and self published authors to publish their books and place them on their electronic shelves.

Review sites online, such as Goodreads and RedRoom,  are the spearhead for thousands of book review sites following behind. Whatever your interest there’s a book review site to match it. Many of them feature independent and self published authors.

Am I extolling the virtues of this revolution, revelling in the bloodshed?

No, I am simply chronicling a long war. Traditional publishers, the corporate media and their buddies, will not give up without a fight. They will deride independent writers and technological advancements, but in the end their position is similar to that of the Ottoman Empire in the Victorian era. They saw little use for the new technologies of the West, they had wealth and power that seemed endless, but eventually the Empire fell, as its leaders became cut off and its territory diminished.

What do you think about the revolution? is it a good thing? Where will it all end? Is publishing the Ottoman Empire of  the 21st century?

6 thoughts on “A Dispatch from the Writer’s Revolution

  1. I’d like to see both types of publishers running side by side, because I still like browsing in bookstores – but it irritates how much snobbery there is with regards self-published books; this notion that self-published are rubbish and that we should all fade away and disappear, so that traditionally published books can carry on dominating. I have read some excellent books by indie authors and will continue to support them.

  2. I agree with you, Helen, but the ‘snobbery’ really is obvious and requires independent writers/publishers to find the various niches by which to publicize their writings. Once again, it is the ‘Goliath’ against the little person for fear of losing money.

  3. I found this blog via a link posted by the author on a Guardian story. That went to his personal flipboard magazine. I’d never heard of flipboard, but I like it very much. I’ve been researching epub3/html5 formatting in order to do four column fixed layout and damn if those guys haven’t built a fine solution.

    But that led me here. And one of the links Laurence posted was to a post at copyblogger on funneling for content monetization. And that’s where I am. I’ve got some content. A 22K word piece on 2001: ASO that made Slashdot and Long Form. A new 25K word piece coming up. About 70K words initial rough to a novel to a techno-geek/thriller. Some short stories, SF and Literary. Some porn I wrote to gauge audience reaction on Literotica.

    I’ve figured out how the file format of epub books. IBM Dev has a great resource on xhtml conventions for building ebooks by scratch. And found some great tools for epub3 workflow generation from O’Reilly Associates’ Docbook team. But all of that is almost superfluous. With Word, a decent cover photo, and some careful formatting, Amazon or Smashwords will do it all for you. Still. I love that four column magazine with javascript animations stuff.

    You ask, where is this all going? As much as I love eink for reading, tablets are it. Right now anyone can make a decent epub2 / mobi file for plain text. But high quality layout and mixed media will require dev teams and high production values. But that’s going to change. And I hate to say it, but the workflow to getting pro app quality animations / video / photography and artwork with a pleasing layout is where publishers will make their stand. Capitalizing large teams to produce glossy mixed content is their advantage.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. The barriers are coming down, but the citadel of publishing will remain, if diminished by the hordes of self publishers in the hinterland. Many will be washed away in the next flood, but enough will survive. Those who have focused on quality.

      If I can help in any way let me know, site reviews, editing, digital marketing consultancy and promotion are my key skills.

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