Monday, 17 June 2013

A week is a long time in publishing. Here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By JJ Marsh

Good - Indie author hits NYT Bestseller List; Society of Author Awards has a ‘happy night’ and via Bookcrossing we discover how books released into the wild can thrive.

Bad - Iain Banks dies. I’m not the only one to shed tears at this final interview. Then Andrew Franklin’s generalisations at TLC’s Writing in a Digital Age make me sigh.

Ugly - Far too many online spats and vitriolic entrenchment regarding the trad v. indie debate. Not pretty and neither side comes out unscathed.

Naturally, the media loves mud-slinging and muck-raking, and will stir that cauldron with a large wooden spoon. Understandable. Good news about positive initiatives and mutual support are nowhere near as attractive as a damn good row and a couple of insults.

What puzzles me is the disconnect between these ‘stories’ and reality. For years, I’ve worked as a journalist for Words with JAM, and The Woolf, and done a fair bit of pontificating on my own blog. I’ve interviewed publishers, agents, authors of every persuasion, publicists, translators, fantasists, artists, architects, politicians and anarchists.

Not one of these individuals was looking for a fight. Each was looking for the best way to bring two things together: the reader and the story. Each has her/his own agenda and might measure success differently, but the ultimate aim is the same. Story + Reader = Success.

Look at Andrew Lownie’s Thistle Publishing initiative, serving authors and readers, and demonstrating how much a really astute agent can add to an author’s career.

Notting Hill Press, an author collective much like our own Triskele Books, uses both traditional publishing and indie to suit their needs. Not to mention the advantages of teamwork.

As for maintaining creative control, Polly Courtney’s decision to ditch her publishers and go independent was driven by her determination not to delude her audience.

Dan Holloway is determined to push the boundaries of what indie really means and trusts his readers. This week, 79ratpress launched seven beautiful books: check out NOTHING TO SAY.

And here’s a brief quote from Jessica Ruston, theTriskele Books Bookclub choice for July.

You’ve followed the traditional route into publishing, via an agent, but what is your opinion on the current move in the market towards acceptance of quality, independent published books entering the mainstream?

“I think we’re living and working in really interesting times in publishing. Technology is changing the way we consume books, and the way they can be made available, and the industry is having to change in response to that. It’s maybe harder to make a living as a writer now than ever before, but it’s also a very exciting time to be doing so. There are people doing fantastically well out of self-published books, and I have huge admiration for anyone who does so - it’s not an easy route to take.”

Publishing is in a revolution. There will be profiteers, casualties and propaganda. But those who respect others’ choices and understand the value of teamwork will thrive. But we would say that, wouldn’t we?


JJ Marsh is the author of The Beatrice Stubbs series, reader, Triskelite, journalist, Nuancer, reviewer and blogger. Likes: pugs, Werner Herzog and anchovies. Dislikes: meat, chocolate and institutionalised sexism.

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