Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Can't Sleep #1

I've been thinking about the publishing market a lot lately, for obv reasons.

I'm disturbed. I'm worried books are going the capitalist way. Big trends, blockbusters, digital saturation. Dwindling midlists, less risks taken, a saturation in ebooks, with little quality control. Spinning out repeats of the same blase story, with different character names and slightly different plot arcs, because the original was a hit. Or as more recently seen purposefully publishing so-called celebrities, read bigots, because there is perceived profit in the making due to the Edge, or scandal, factor. Meaning that imprints that once held a good reputation are falling beneath the political shift to the far right and marginalising their readers and authors by aiding the propagation of hate.

When they should be fostering the intimate relationship between writers and readers, symbiotic.

Pubs considering new tactics from offering a range of publishing packages to writers, often set at high prices that treat writers as just another source of income, to subscriptions for ebooks. Looking for innovative ways to redress the balance after technological shifts and economic recession. After it is seen more clearly how the market was not damaged by ebooks but actually expanded and redefined as readership grew and each reader choose their preference, or often still reading both print and ebook. Print, particularily hardbacks are seen as inestments or collectors items; ebooks more chance bought. This gives ebooks more flexability in publishing choices, as well as their very cheap production costs. This can be good, leading to signing more up and coming writers and testing the water before investing in hard copy and a hard marketing push, or can lead to risk if this option is only taken for a soft sell of multiple similar products; taking advantage of the "check out" spur of the moment purchase. Like chewing gum, to be chewed up and spat out.

Branding power of imprints is underused. And here is where the corporate needs to fade and...I dont know what to call it. That feeling you get when your forced to talk to some random person, then they mention a book you love and you start seeing them, and that moment as something other than mundane. Or when you walk into a library out of the rain. Or carefully open some crumbling tome at the back of a hidden shop, or crack the spine of some fresh printed novel, inhaling all the time. And the anticipation, always. That. Book people. Stories, words, poetry.

Those people, who have that, are the ones reading and reviewing and speculating, tweeting, blogging, publishing articles. It's fun, and to some extent it is where some of the quality control comes in. From recommending good stories to critiquing representation in relation to diversity.

Use pool of ebooks to trend hunt, cherry picking the best, either from the popular ebooks or from agented subs that fit the bill, to provide the blockbusters. In process there is also more structure imposed, offering easier access to readers and greater visibility to a relevant audience for authors. But also seek the stories that deviate, that are fresh, the voices of writers that are often over looked. Ebooks offer the chance to develop writers in anthologies, or with subscription models, rooted in a firm online readership. Dont just look at what is trending now, but use the data to see what ideas or gaps are pending. This is old advice to writers, from publishers, and it would be good to see it taken too. Print is wonderful, and often the dream of a writer, why just keep printing the same...push the boundaries, make publishing more accessible and forward thinking; keep looking for that gold.


This post was actually written in a bout of insomnia some time back but I dusted it off whilst poking about and it felt relevant so it's here for curiosities sake.

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