It is a time when the tug between the printed word and the digital word is complex. I recently attended a Bristol Festival of Literature, UK, where there was in depth discussion that explored the intricate issues around this topic.
One of the panel members speaking was Alison Baverstock, author, former publisher and trainer. She spoke bluntly about the current phenomenon of the digital environment of publishing.
The Independent author
Baverstock commented that “independent authors are shaping the industry”. I agree that for the first time we, as writers, are in a rather new and – one might say – privileged position. However, as I look through the pages of book covers and texts on the internet, I find it difficult to see HOW an author might first be seen, never mind be in a position to shape the industry.
This leads me onto the point Baverstock raised regarding the possibility of a rating system for the self publishing world. The first of perhaps many ways of thinking regarding this topic, is – will a rating system for self published products bring a new hierarchical structure to the independent publishing world. Who will be deciding the standardised marking system for an all important quality mark?
However, to take into account the topic as a whole I must turn to my own observations of a market littered with thousands on thousands of products, little seemingly distinguishing one from another.
How do we know what is good and what is not so good?
The giant publishing platform Amazon, to an aspiring author, could be seen as an Oz at the end of a Yellow brick road.
I will hold my hand up and say I self published through Amazon and it was a relatively painless experience – minus the constant formatting hiccups. I had a real sense of accomplishment. Agreed, there was no musty smell or the feel of papyrus beneath my finger tips – but there was a manuscript. A tangible book, with: cover, contents and nicely presented pages; my name as the author in the header.
Amazon seems to be review lead, sometimes to the detriment of the author. I happened across a story regarding an author who became a million sales author on amazon who had apparently paid reviewers to review his book on Amazon to raise his ratings.
Alas, wherever there is a system someone will try and circumvent it, but where does that leave the public who consider the star rating an honest guide; where does it leave the authors who painstakingly agonise over word after word to give the reader the best experience?
I would advise from my own experience, if you are considering self publication, consider first your reason for doing it. My own reason was that I had reached a point with my own writing confidence, where I was stuck. I did not have the conviction to knuckle down and commit to writing as something I wanted to do as a career. Completing a piece in it’s entirety gave me the impetus to forge ahead. However I received hardly any sales and reviews from family and friends only. I would say it was not an instant success for me as it has been for some. You may comment that perhaps it was the quality of my writing, but the real information I am trying to convey is that if at first you do not succeed try again. The experience of completion is what I wanted. After achieving this I am now writing with more passion then I ever have.
During the process of self-publishing I have learnt a great deal about: myself as a writer, the process of self publishing, also the small print when completing my own projects.
Baverstock commented that one of the biggest developments of late is that there is “an understanding of publishing seeping out into society”. I feel this both interesting and positive for our industry. As writers we are becoming more empowered. The multitude of help sites and advice given out in the ethers is both growing and heartening.
From my own research I see so much society around writing, to a degree, writing is no longer the solitary activity it once was.
For more information from Alison Baverstock on self publishing please see her publication The Naked Author – a Guide to Self Publishing.
A very useful and interesting site I follow is The Creative Penn this is a blog site by Joanna Penn. In her own words “this is a site for people interested in writing, publishing of all kinds and internet marketing/promotion for their books (in print/ebook or audio format).”