For some people, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable with change. If you’re a creative sort, it’s something you need to be very careful with. It will hold you back.
That’s the thought I have at the writer’s hub networking event at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal, where Mark Chisnell arrives to speak about the state of publishing in the early 21st Century.
It’s a fascinating talk, with Mark’s story confirming what I have been thinking for some time… that the job of the agent and even the publisher in fulfilling their own commercial needs is to work against the interests of the writer.
His story of having a novel published by Random House, just as he had always dreamed of as a kid, his book spending 2 weeks on the shelves of W H Smith and Waterstone’s, receiving no supporting publicity from the publisher (except for a Press Release that would have scored badly in an “O” Level exam) and then having the books withdrawn is a priceless tale of the treatment the majority of authors receive from publishing houses.
But Mark Chisnell goes on to talk about the massive change that is happening in publishing now. He talks about the opportunities offered by e-books, and the strategies for getting publicity. He talks about the artistic control you have as a writer when self-publishing via Kindle. He talks about the circulation of stories from people who have stories to tell, but who would never previously have been allowed a voice. Of books that have not been messed around with by a small publishing clique in London who think they know what’s good for us, or what will sell.
It’s all here, in his talk. A precise summary of the pygmy world of publishing, and the massive opportunities the electronic world offers us as writers.
The responses of the audience are fascinating. There are concerns about grammar, and about not having editorial guidance, which are issues that really sound like ones of affirmation – as if your audience is not affirmation enough. One speaker seems concerned that you aren’t going to get the very best out of yourself if you aren’t made to work it up by an editor and you just publish. A red herring, I believe. A publisher’s editor can wreck a piece of work or make it fantastic. The fact is, whoever you work with, you need to trust their judgement more than you need them to work for one publishing house or another.
Another literary author feels that self-publishing compromises quality. But it’s not as if the people wanting to read shlock horror or works containing poor grammar are competing with the audience for “elite” writing, so what difference does it make if there are more voices for a reader to choose from?
Another, bizarrely, seems to believe that any attempt to make money from writing is “wrong”, while at the same time stating that vanity publishing is also “wrong”. Which doesn’t leave her very many places to go. Of course, such a view is just bloody nonsense.
It’s a fascinating night that really shows how much fear can surround change. It has really set me thinking…
And doing, too, I have decided.
My project. To get my first e-book out for Christmas, if possible.
I’ll let you know how it goes.