Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We've changed too...

I have noticed something of interest lately. Something that has been happening for a while, something even I have participated in and I wasn't even aware of it (ooo, I do like a good mystery).

The book writing, publishing and book-selling landscape has been under MAJOR renovation for months - well, years really. E-books seem here to stay, bookshops (although fewer in number) seem to be hanging in there too. Neither are as robust or as terminal as either group had hoped/feared/prognosticated (d - all of the above). Print books have a particular set of skills that mean their demise is not as imminent as many suggested. They, unlike records, don't require any specialist, obsolete technology to be bought or utilised. Old ones can work just as well as new ones. They have a fairly long shelf life once bought and taken reasonable care of. They are cheap to run once you have stumped up the purchase price. E-books too are a nifty alternative. Often cheaper then the print alternative here in New Zealand, mind-blowingly easy to obtain and taking up no more room than an idea in your head. They offer a ship-load of convenience and you get easy access to a lightweight and comprehensive library if you want. You get where I am going with this I suspect. To a certain extent the dust is settling and people and books in a wide range of formats are moving forward.

But, no doubt about it, the landscape has changed, irrevocably. For authors it is a different place. There are currently less opportunities to be taken up as a new author by traditional publishers than there used to be, say, ten years ago. New authors are still published but the lists are in fact smaller, and you have to be even more patient and full of a lot of perseverance. Some new independent publishers are stepping up but they are being prudent and taking it slowly. In better news, self-publishing is a world away from what it was ten years ago too.

We don't seem to attend workshops and classes like we used to. Like books, authors now look to electronic alternatives to learn their craft, share and critique, and research how to find agents, and publishers and how to submit. The world wide web is a bottomless pit of information valuable and otherwise but somewhere out there in the ether is exactly what you need to know if you look well, and hard, and long enough. Our communities are now on-line more often than not.

And we have kind of become an invisible community that hangs out and shares information in a virtual way. I spend more time in my inbox and outbox, on facebook and goodreads, then I do face to face. I see readers more often than I do fellow writers, even though I am in touch with other writers and with illustrators everyday. And in so many ways this suits writers who work best in their own little worlds. We are not just isolated because our work is individual. We choose that isolation because that's how the best writing happens. We often talk about finding sanity in our water cooler conversations because isolation can drive you crazy but as lonely as our garrets can be that's where we ultimately want to retreat to. This internet thing actually seems to suit us pretty well. I love seeing my writer and illustrator friends, love chewing the fat, finding out the latest gossip and sharing hot tips. They are the best. But we don't wait for get-togethers to fill each other in on what's happening, and I expect to keep working on information gathering and personal up-skilling on an ongoing basis on my own all the time. Its not just the book writing, publishing and book-selling landscape that's changed. The way we do business is different now too. And how our new needs are met will have to catch up with us...

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

Yes - the Ordnance Survey have recorded (for the first time) the changing buying habits of the UK to include a surge of e-readers and e-books!! Times are definitely a-changing! Take care