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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Mr Angry

Mr Angry was a character on the BBC Radio DJ Steve Wright's afternoon show some years ago, one of a number of characters who would respond to various prompts in the format of the show; his was a half throttled voice on the edge of screaming, the pent up rage evident through the strain on his vocal chords, and then there is the classic scene from Fawlty Towers; John Cleese beating his broken down vehicle and pouring out his anger and frustration at life's persistent little defeats.

I didn't become that angry, but reading a writing magazine article a few weeks ago did notch up the blood pressure. The continuing discussion about the merits of taking the self-publishing route occasionally throws out some odd remarks and one touched a raw nerve. I closed the magazine and stuck it back on the shelf with a few uncharitable thoughts running through my head. The comment, oh, yes, the comment was that the self-published independent author had more to prove than the traditionally published;  frankly the remark pissed me off.

So what do we have to prove; that working by ourselves or with a smidgeon of carefully selected professional assistance paid for out of our own pockets we can produce a book of the same quality as a multinational conglomerate with a huge workforce and  a marketing budget that looks like a telephone number. Duh, yes, that's the challenge thrown down by the Trads, and a lot of Self-Pubs do just that.

There is no point the traditionally published being high minded about standards and quality when they're already dining with the demons of Vanity, sidling up and buying them out, taking a cut of the harvest and shoring up their defences against the sea change taking place all around them.

OK, I keep banging on about smashwords, and why not, they've helped me reach further than I thought possible when I published Iceline almost two years ago, and I have a great respect for Mark Coker and the staff of smashwords. I read his indie author manifesto when he posted it at the smashwords blog and agreed with it, all of it.

The sea change is startlingly simple, the shift has nudged traditional publishers into partnerships they would have avoided with a ten foot barge pole a handful of years ago because the old gatekeepers have been bypassed by the Internet.

The Internet revolution in self-publishing  has changed the landscape as much as the introduction of the printing press. Small independents are laying the foundations of more than a game changing situation. This is digging up the sacred turf and carting it away then dismantling the stadium and rebuilding it, and that is what they are doing. Independent authors/publishers are doing the groundwork of a whole new way of reaching the public and giving them what they want; good quality writing, equal to any.

This is happening and the roll of Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, John Locke and others is the proof. The independents with a brand and a readership in place, the prospect of more books on the way, with an established franchise that can be marketed and backed by an already existing word of mouth promotional network spreading the word makes a better sounding investment than the old method of taking a chance. Let's be fair, if picking a bestseller was easy we would all be doing it, and the truth of it to quote Mark Coker in an interview with LateNightLibrary  "is like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks."

Not the best method of picking your next big thing, and the greatest shift between the independent authors and the traditional is cost effective print on demand and distribution, a way forward for the self-published without the snares of Vanity publishing. The manuscript stored electronically and printed when a copy is needed may generate slower sales but without the constant jostle for shelf space the factor of time over sales dissipates.

Does any of this mean that the independent author has more to prove than their traditional counterpart? No. absolutely not. The challenge; traditional or self-published, bought in store or delivered by post, is that the end product should be of the finest quality across the board.

1 comment:

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