Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Writers Unblocked

Downloading will increasingly take work away from the publishing houses. Amazon self publishing can offer authors a bigger cut than a book publisher. Writers may choose to go this way if it appears to be more lucrative for them to do so. We will begin to see the online publishing of commercial fiction and non-fiction becoming hugely popular; perhaps not as much as music and video but somewhere near it

Much will depend on whether or not future customers/readers, who are not sentimental about the book form, will increasingly opt to access their reading in digital formats. In all fairness many large publisher's, like Orion are embracing technology and moving into the new age, but when the e-book (or its eventual replacement) becomes a cheaper alternative than a hardback they will need to be ready.

When all this really kicks in copyright law will become a nightmare to control, in the same way as it has been for image ownership and for royalty payments. If we decide to put our work out there without representation, I think we have to be prepared to let go.

Publishers, executives, production companies etc. ensure that only a select few can make substantial income through their output, whatever the creative industry is of which they serve. So, I say let us not be part of the machine anymore. Let us cast to history the nouns: submission, manuscript, slush pile, demo, sample, and guidance note and rejection letter.

In our changing world I think it is not right for us to expect to receive a financial reward each time we submit a piece of writing or produce a sketch for instance, no matter how skilful we might be. Nevertheless, we know that putting pen to paper, painting a picture, singing or dancing can be a cathartic experience, so that is reason enough to do it. And if someone happens to acknowledge, applaud or thank you for your contribution, or effort, well that is a bonus.

It is joyous to see people of my generation and our children’s of course, using the art of writing, through social networking sites, forums and messaging. Blogs have replaced diary logs. We write for fun and enjoyment. As an avid blogger and a Facebook user I see, everyday, examples of the English language wondrously used. Writing is lively, informative, opinionated, interesting and descriptive, sometimes a little too colourful, but funny and entertaining because of its diversity nonetheless. Grammatical correctness is not important and spelling mistakes actually present non-conformance and that's ok, in its place. And agreed, some do write twaddle, but it is their prerogative; we don't have to read it.

We can all post our ramblings on the internet if we wish, we can post comments in a response to something someone else has written - and that is extremely liberating. We do not have to limit ourselves to the confines of print, slots, block and space. Writing nowadays is out there, and of the moment. It will not stand the test of time and end up in some dusty book sleeve, and it will not earn us a mint. But it can still be persuasive however, and it can still be powerful. Writing something down can get us into trouble; it can be lasting evidence, so beware.

Stuffy attitudes to the writing profession are ingrained. I think the Broadsheet Press are wrong to charge us to access journalism online.  It is insecurity really. The Publisher and the Agent are insecure too, as the whole nature of their businesses is threatened. The Book Buyer is insecure because they could find themselves virtually redundant.The Writer is insecure, basically over snobbery of what makes a writer, most are of the opinion you can only call yourself one, in a true sense, if you’ve been published ‘in print’ with an ISBN number to boot.

In March, at a Writer’s Conference, I met many people at various stages of their writing ‘careers’. Some were just toying with an idea and seeking direction with it, some, myself included, were using the opportunity to gain some enthusiasm once again for writing as a craft, one old gentleman simply told me he’d been writing for over forty years and felt no need to tell me for which genre or audience- he was lovely. For me writing is a strand to my business overall, so a bit more than just a hobby. Therefore, don’t get me wrong, writing is a profession in which many have to make a living and I acknowledge this wholeheartedly. I believe there will always be a call for quality writing for pay, I just feel there needs to be a fresh look as to how it can be financed and less emphasis on intellectual property issues. I still intend to write that bestseller one day - published in which format you may well ask. Who knows!

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