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Sunday 30 August 2015

Drop it in the the mail

I woke up to an email on Sunday from West Cumbria Writers, not all of them obviuosly, but one of their number and after reading the mail over a mug of Yorkshire Tea chased up the website and the blog. I recommend you have a look for yourself.

An interesting collection of short stories for adults by Susan Brice is featured on her website  www.lakestay.co.uk, under the title, Returning Back & Other Short Stories. The brief introduction mentions a few of the topics covered in the book, and one title particularly set me thinking, Is your wardrobe watching you? The idea of a shifted perspective. The header for cheekyseagull.co.uk came to mind.

Monday 10 August 2015

Something in the air?

Behind the front page of this blog is a list of blogs I follow, one particular favourite is the Passive Voice, that  puts out something to chew over on an almost daily basis. Running through the recent posts I came across Self Publishing is Completely Corrupt.

That's a pretty blunt statement and had to be explored further. The article originally on GoodEReader (posted 5 August 2015) starts well, explaining the benefits of trade publishing and the advantages offered by the army of people involved in moving the book from the writer's imagination to the bookshelves, all valid and worthwhile points but then the tenor changes and the character assassination of self-publishing comes into play.

He cites Tracy Hickman's experience of going to the other side,  published by Penguin and joint creator of the DragonLance series, New York Times bestseller and having enjoyed the experience of people queueing around the block for his work. He chose to self publish and now his books are no longer in the bookstores, he laments, "I have a 6 million following, and they don't remember me!" (The Dragonlance Chronicles are available at Amazon).

The writer comments, if a bestseller cannot make it in self-publishing, how can anyone?

He starts the way we all do, learning the craft of self-publishing. The army of invested people employed by the trade publisher aren't there anymore! We all have the same tools, it's how we use them that makes the difference!

The argument is postulated that the self-published author knows nothing of the system, fails to do proper marketing and spam social media with #hashtags #buymybook and even, shock, horror,  buy friends and likes on social media; the same social media used by the trade to promote their books!

Indie writers are apparently lazy, not even bothered to fork out the price of an ISBN number so their books can be found and spend their time whinging about research and how the data is skewed by not accounting for indie books. Is a level playing field asking too much?

Okay, so an opinion is valid, but behind the opinion, what about the reasoning, why does the speaker believe that self-publishing is completely corrupt. Consider it, the phrase is unambiguous, not hedging its bets, but saying it straight out!

How much of the animosity is really petulance: and I was foolishly beginning to think the attitude towards the self-published was beginning to a bit more adult and less of the petulant child. Here it comes across very strangely, on the one hand they complain that what is being self-published is rubbish, unutterable drivel, and -  you can probably recall a whole list of other adjectives that fit the scenario - and then complain that we are not using the system.

We are told self-Published authors are trying to game the system, to work out the easy advantage, but who doesn't look for a way ahead, especially when the odds are stacked?

Fake and paid for reviews are dragged out and added to the supposed mire of self-publishing; yes, there is a problem and the self-published author is generally aware of it and the policy of eBook distributors toward such things. We work with the situation; but asking your friend to tell the world what they think of your book, is that really corrupt? Have you ever seen a trade review where the reviewer thinks the work is garbage?

The image I see is Ivory tower myopia, and the villains are at the gate.
A baying sweaty mob hammering at the portals? No, a long  line of pissed off writers who have had that same portal repeatedly slammed in their faces, because the inmates considered them unworthy of making a profit for their company!

The bottom line is profit, every time, the system is geared to maintaining the hold of the trade publisher, and rightly so, it's their system and it keeps them going, but remember, slam the door too often and an alternative will be found.

We know that not every book is rejected because it is bad; some are not considered commercial enough for the publisher to invest in. The bottom line again. The article quotes Andrew Franklin at a recent London International Book Fair talking about the quality of self-published books, the link to the page was broken when I tried it but I did stumble across an earlier interview with Mr Franklin, quoting Stanley Unwin, the original publisher of Tolkien, "The first duty of a publisher to the author is to remain solvent."

Get off the money, but how can we?

What is the real basis for this animosity, is it truly about quality, or driven by the sales figures. Every successful self-publisher says it can be done, and how do you stop a self-publishing success story, buy it out!

The argument then moves, what is self-publishing, the article mentions two recent phenomena, E L James and Cassandra Clare, whose writing began in fan fiction (Miss Clare deleted her fan fiction from the Internet shortly before the first volume of her Mortal Instruments series was published by a trade publisher) and moved into trade/commercial publication once they had established a fan base! Fan fiction is written and published (posted on the site) by the author, there are purists who don't consider this self-publishing?

The twist in the tale here is the offer of a way forward. The aspiring self-pub sees the trend. Do it for yourself and generate a solid fan base and the trade will come looking for you. (It may be the new mythology of authorship, but in every myth there is a truth,) or even set up a portal where they can monitor your work and sign you up; Harper Collins and Authonomy, virtually a trade in-house self-publishing facility.

Here we drift towards the ultimate blurring, the scenario that undermines trade publishing's claim to any form of high ground, moral or otherwise, the labyrinthine connections (and not always hidden) with known vanity publishers. To stand there and declare self-publishing corrupt while nurturing the most exploitative form of publishing within their own bosom! How do you do that!

Shades of Kettle and Black?

What am I seeing, an industry going through a series of changes over which they have little or no control and using a form of social manipulation to reinforce and enhance their position - you are not a proper writer unless we say so and give you our approval, (until we publish you)!

So who says so? Simon Pegg has a discussion with a self appointed authority in the closing minutes of "The World"s End" demanding of the alien presence "Who put you in charge?"

So who really is in charge, the publisher or the public?

Ultimately, why we write and who for determines the path we take, it isn't about the right or wrong way, it is a choice.  Hammer at the gates of Trade, sign up for Authonomy or something similar, weave your magic on Wattpad, strew dollar bills and pound notes along the corridors of vanity or go it alone; self publish!

I self publish, but I'm not alone, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands self-publishing their own work on a daily basis and revealing one self-evident truth. Readers who enjoy and love the written word don't just love reading it, we love writing it!