It’s interesting to see how much the publishing of books or in fact any creative activity has changed since we all became digital beings.
This revolution started in the music industry with artists able to plug in directly to their potential audience through a whole host of sites, initially Myspace and after YouTube and then through more money driven sites such as Amazon and iTunes.
These offered the promise to anyone with a modicum of talent the chance to bypass all those negative structures – agents, managers, music company executives – that didn’t recognise talent or who refused to take a risk and thereby ended another burgeoning career.
The future would be different, talent would be allowed to connect directly with a waiting audience and success would be assured. Finally, it would all be based on ability and not on random stuff such as the whim of someone in the industry who wouldn’t know butter from margarine.
And so the publishing industry followed the new democratic model created by the music industry. However, it’s becoming clear that we’re not really getting the future we were promised. True, it is incredibly easy to be a published writer, all you need is a blog, a computer and an internet connection and away you go. The world is online for you and anyone with an internet connection can see, read and comment on your genius. You can release short stories, plays, chapters of a new novel into the unfettered wilds of the world wide web and wait for the response. And for the vast majority of writers that wait will go on and on with hope sustained by the long-shot successes of books such as 50 Shades of Grey. Even if a readership is found, and this maybe enough for many writers, can that audience then be encouraged to support you in a financial way?
Clearly, it’s too late to go back to the old days of physical publishing and the whole structure created to support it including the selection of a few writers paid to feed and maintain that structure. However, the alternative universe we now find ourselves in is equally as unsatisfying; free access to your potential audience but with very little chance of being found by that audience. And on top of that this free access is based on the philosophy that everything is free no matter the cost to you in creating it. This open culture of free will ultimately not sustain creativity, one of the pioneer’s of this free model, Jaron Lanier, now has some interesting things to say about what has been the result of the open culture orthodoxy.
What is needed is a hybrid of these two models, an approach that is more democratic in terms of access but also helps reward individuals for their creativity, without this it is difficult to see why creativity will continue to be attractive.
The Word… has something to say about helping you to stand out in the online crowd and over the coming months will be offering pointers and suggestions that we hope will help you find your audience.
Tell us in the comments below what you think about the direction that publishing has taken over the last 5 years and what support you would like to see from us to help your publishing endeavours.