The twelfth of the twelfth of the twelfth. What better time to start a new blog!
One concern (amongst the general worry that with the global recession it's getting harder and harder to earn a living with our writing) that was raised at our agent's authors dinner in London on the 10th was the dichotomy between traditional publishing and the recent ability to self-publish.
Most of us at the dinner rely on the first, and it's true that to a large extent it's the easier option. The publisher provides the finance, the editing, the promotion and the publicity: all the writer has to do is write. Admittedly, they may not be writing quite what they want to write: we rely very much on publishers commissioning specific works written to attract a specific demographic, and if we want to pay the bills we have to abide by the brief (the challenge then is to write what's required while still injecting our own personality and ideas!) But we don't have to promote the books ourselves, at least, not to the same extent.
Well, that's how it used to work: these days publishers have started demanding their authors get involved in the publicity machine and provide their own self-promotion through interviews, workshops and the like. We've seen it recently, with both Dawn French and Roger Moore appearing on TV in The One Show to promote their recent books. (I'll save my opinion on the cult of personality for another post!) While this is fine if you are an extrovert writing on a subject that lends itself to such things, it's not so good if you are shy, introverted or a private person. And let's face it, most serious writers are. We live to write. It's what we do. The thought of going out and bragging about it is horrifying.
Yet that is an intrinsic element of self-publishing. No-one is going to do the promotion for you - you have to do it yourself.
A major problem with self-publishing - with any publishing, really - is that it's too easy to get lost in the noise. There are a huge number of books available now, some of them so godawful you can barely get beyond the first chapter. Some of them are traditionally published (most of us can think of a certain series of badly written books by someone who claimed to know nothing about the subject) but most of them are, unfortunately, self-published. I once had to review a first novel by a young... I hesitate to call him/her a 'writer' as I believe he/she would have had difficulty writing a coherent shopping list... that I ended up throwing in the recycling as I didn't want anyone else to have to suffer it. (In my defence I did try to read it, got as far as page 35 before I gave up in disgust. The thing hadn't even been spell-checked, for Cthulhu's sake!)
And that brings up another problem with self-publishing - with no kind of quality control, it's already developed a Really Bad Reputation...
So - what do we do? Clinging to our traditional ideals and hoping things will get back to how they once were is no good - it's not going to happen. We need a rethink of our talents and skills and a new idea of how to make them work for us. No, I have no idea how that's going to work, but I shall make a start right now.
And report back when I have anything to report.