8 March 2011

The Future of Publishing

There are big changes afoot in the world of publishing.  Now that writers can upload their work as en e-book and make it available for anyone in the world to read (and even to buy!), the roles of publishers, literary agents, bookshops and libraries have been brought into question.  Some believe they will disappear entirely.

My ambition as a writer has not changed, it is to be published by Gollancz and I hope they are listening. 

When I was a child, I would go into Tyldesley library on Saturday morning to pick my books for the coming week.  Those bright yellow jackets were like beacons and contained the very best Science Fiction long before the genre was credible enough to have its own section on the shelves.  Much of what I read in those far off days is still held in awe and esteem.  Alldis, Asimov, Blish, Pohl, Lieber, Williamson, Farmer, Delaney, Silverberg, Heinlein, the names trip off my tongue even now.  Theodore Sturgeon, now he was a favourite of mine and I never once questioned the authenticity of his name.  To my innocent mind, there was (or is) a Mrs. Sturgeon justifiably proud of her lad.

The point I am about to make is that if anyone can upload any old crap to Kindle then they will.  I know I am very tempted to put Technical Difficulties up there and see if anyone buys it, even for 99p.  The problem that stops me is one of craft.  Writing a first draft is only the beginning, it isn't an end.  There's lots more to do before it can be released into the public domain.

First, it needs tidying up.  Cliches need to be fished out, useless words need to be deleted and those annoying repetitions that are just so annoying and keep being repeated, well they need to go as well.  Otherwise a reader will throw the book up on the air in frustration before they get to page 2.

Second, it needs reading by someone who has little or no vested interest in the author's state of mind.  This generally rules out family and friends, unless they are both ruthless and cruel.

Third, it has to be edited.  This is something a publisher would do once a book has been accepted.  Now, I fear this essential step might get missed as a self-published author will have to pay for this professional service.

Fourth, it has to be copy edited.  Not only do errors and mispellings have to be removed but grammar and punctuation must be corrected.  Again, an essential service if the poor reader is expected to persevere to the end of the book.

Fifth, some cover art is needed.  Even if it is an e-book and there is no dead tree edition (this shows how well up on the jargon I have become) something has to attract the reader and give them a clue about the content.

Sixth, the book has to be marketed.  Someone has to sell it, someone has to get it onto shelves or into the limelight.  Again, a publisher used to do this.

So, in the good old days of Gollancz SF with yellow covers, all an author had to do was to write something interesting.  Gollancz would do the rest.

Now, it looks like we're going to be on our own.

My friend Christian says you can watch his free video if you click here: