For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
The Future of Writing: As a write these words, in a desperate attempt to break through as a successful author, my mind turns to the future of the craft. Not to the future of the actual creative process, as that is safe: people will always have the urge to write new words, whether as plays, poems, short stories or novels. There are probably more novelists alive at this moment in time than there ever have been in any year in the past. We are not going to run out of the creators.
No, I am concerned, I suppose, about the future of publishing, in what is a changing world for the written word. For writers it is a very different world to what it was in the 1970s, for example.
The classic model of a writer getting published was to write a novel, try to find (an agent and) a publisher, have the publisher print off thousands of copies of your meisterwork, have the publishers promote it, and hope that it sells. That is the way, to the best of my humble knowledge, that the publishing industry has functioned since Victorian times.
It is not the way that it functions any more, though. Things have changed. Yes, there is still what I think of as the classic model. But changes to the way in which things are done have put it under threat.
I have tried the classic route to getting published in the past, and I have had a great number of rejection letters along the way. I have enough rejection letters for a book of them. I might actually do that, at some stage: a book of all of the rejection letters that I have ever had. Perhaps I can title it How Not To Get Your Novel published. But, at least, of all of those dozens of rejection letters, only once was the reason given as being the fact that I cannot write.
But I digress. This post is not really about me. It is about the future of writing, in relation to the difficulty of getting out onto the shelves of W H Smiths.
Now there are other things going on than just trying to find a publisher. We have had the collapse of the NET book agreement, which tried to fix a price for books. We have had many bookshops go out of business, including in the town in which I live. Waterstones is still going, but Borders has gone. There are now fewer places in which the constant reader can find the sort of things which he (or she) desires to read.
To add insult to injury we have councils closing down libraries, making it even harder for the reading public. Libraries give us power. They are stores of knowledge, at their best, of facts which you still, in some cases, cannot find on the internet. Wikipedia is not the font of all knowledge. I have tried to research a subject on there, to find that they do not have a page for what I am after. And you know that a book is more likely to be correct than a website, especially if the book is scientific, due to all of the procedures which a book must go through before being published.
Not a lot of you may know this, but each time that a book is withdrawn from a library the author receives a small amount of money. I think that it is only a couple of pence, but if your book is withdrawn thousands of times then it is a bit of extra money for the author. It is not as though authors exactly get a lot of money. I have heard a lot of different figures for how much is the average that an author makes in a year. Most of those figures are going down. One figure which I heard is only four thousand pounds a year – and that is taking into account people like J K Rowling. An author cannot survive on four thousand pounds a year. And, if writers cannot make a business out of writing, then why should they produce new books?
I think that only a philistine would close down a library, or try to convert one into a place where people drink coffee and go on computers, as has happened in some places. If publishing is to have a future then libraries need to be about the books.
There has been the rise of electronic publishing. I am not going to denigrate that, as, currently, it is my preferred method in which to publish my works. Over ninety percent of the things which I have completed can be found on the Amazon Kindle store. The only things which I have not yet put on are the ones which I don’t yet possess the rights for (two Fu Manchu novels) and things which I think that Amazon would not be keen to host (such as my short story collection called Blasphemy).
I think that electronic is one of the futures of publishing, although I’m not yet entirely sure whether as saviour or supervillain. The indications so far are not all that heroic, however. Yes, just about anybody in the world can now put their stuff on the Amazon Kindle store (just as I have done). But that does not mean that people will be aware of those works.
In any new model for publishing there has to be a way in which a person can have their work promoted. This is not easy, though, with Amazon and Kindle. Amazon does not exactly go out of its way to promote the stuff on its site. It really is left up to the author.
This site, on which you are reading these words, are one of the ways in which I try to promote my work, and, hopefully, without it appearing as spam. I also go on a few steampunk forums, as the steampunk genre is not all that far removed from gas-lamp fantasy. Occasionally, on those sites, I will mention this WordPress site. But I don’t like to push it too much.
Anyway, enough about me, we are considering publishing and its future. We need to accept that electronic publishing is not going to go away; and we need to change its business model, so that it is actually about the authors, rather than the platform. If writing is to have any future, then the authors have to come first. But we won’t change things just by hoping that Amazon goes away.
We need just as much time and energy devoted to promoting and reviewing electronic books as we have devoted to physical ones. We need agents who only deal with electronic works. Will that happen, though? Well, unless it does I think that authors are going to earn less and less in the years to come.
I have absolutely no idea what I am going to write about in my next post.