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?