Innovation: Publishing in the modern world! Post I

Note: This post first featured on “The Art of…” blog, under my name: David Atkinson

A short essay that stated as a single blog post!

The book is dead? Long live the book? Really! As I bring my first novel to market (I decided, with the impatience and petulance of spoilt teenager, that I was not going to wait for some kind Agent to introduce me to a Publisher – I’ve run a business before!), I thought I’d try a blog post on my take of the landscape before me. Or, at least that part of it that I can see, for the moment, through my limited field of vision. And one post became two!

A short essay in two posts. Post I – The book is dead…

As a writer (yes I can say that – despite my relative inexperience; I have published!), I am a player in a changing landscape. Not that other landscapes are not changing, and not that I don’t play in other changing landscapes – business, for example, is a constantly changing landscape, forged by countless battles of profit versus social and individual need; but that is a theme for another post.

Back to innovation and writing…

Smashwords is one of the growing number of e-book sites: a battlefield in which the (bloodless?) war over the democratisation of publishing is being fought. Is the battlefield being levelled? Is the author dying – lying wounded on the field? Long live the author, really?

Where can the budding new author get an opportunity to publish their work if the likes of Martine McCutcheon can capitalise on the limited time and energy of the industry’s great and good? It would seem that prior-celebrity is fast becoming a requirement on the CV of a budding novelist, purely on the basis that it is the celebrity-status that de-risks the commercial enterprise. And risk, to me, is what it is all about. When investment dollars (pounds for us Brits) are limited, the “established” prefer sure-fire bets (or sexy sounding techno-bubbles). In the publishing industry, celebrity offers that sure-fire bet. The use of “celebrity status” is a low-risk strategy designed to maximise the return on investment required to bring any new product to market.

For the celebrity author, even the relative bad publicity of the likes of Lynda La Plante’s intervention at a recent award ceremony, which led to a wave of articles attacking celebrity authors generates an interest, and the exposure of a published work to its market, and to sales! There is a natural balance to the order of things. It is an almost Newtonian-principle that for every person that sides with the view that celebrity writers steal the bread from the mouths of “real” writers, there is a person who will think differently. Publicity is indiscriminate in its audience! The “established”, the great and the good are vindicated in their investment decisions.

I am not one to suggest that celebrity authors are taking bread from my mouth. If I had celebrity status, I would use it! So, how, as a “real” writer, do I join the fray?

Only entrepreneurs with a passion for a market are willing to take a bet on something that isn’t a sure-fire thing! How many entrepreneurial Agents and Publishers are there out there? A few – there are always the proverbial exceptions to any rule. But for the budding new novelist, finding the needle in the haystack is a time consuming, soul destroying journey of rejection after rejection after rejection. I know, I’ve tried it. (But not for too long!)

I look to the changing landscape of publishing as an opportunity. It is a battlefield. Business is, generally – despite all the words of corporate social responsibility and the rights of individuals. (In my other existence – as my blog posts may reveal, I write on management issues!) We are talking innovation! Innovation, Innovation, Innovation.

The book is not dead; the new author is not dying, lying mortally wounded in the field – shot in the first charge at the enemy. Read Post II, where I continue with an equally short rant on innovation.