Sunday, 30 October 2011

Why Wage War on Writers?

The attacks seem to be coming thick and fast, and the propaganda has started.

What am I talking about?  Writers becoming divided by changes in the publishing world, and viewing emerging technologies as threats instead of opportunities.

I saw a comment thread on Facebook started by the Arvon Foundation where a string of established authors bemoaned the fact that more and more authors want to learn about how to get published instead of tirelessly honing their craft.  As someone who has just taught a course about how to get e-published I worry that established authors feel they have to guard the doors to their exclusive club, and to keep out the unwashed masses.

If it were true that all books that make it into print were of an exceptional quality the argument would be stronger.  But any wander around Waterstone’s will turn up mountains of dreadful books that have made it into print, just as any hour spent with a group of unpublished authors will unearth exceptional pieces of writing that may never reach beyond the odd competition win or inclusion in a small press anthology.

Perhaps this is just fear of change? 

But for readers the myriad of emerging technologies offers the chance to select what they want to read, not what has been selected for them.  And from these previously ignored gems hopefully will emerge new authors with new things to say.  No longer will a book have to be deemed suitable for a 10,000 print run before being considered for publication.  Readers will be able to find quirky and unique books, while books with mass appeal will still sell in droves.  And even established authors can benefit from the opportunity to e-publish back catalogues of work that their publishers can’t see the benefit of reprinting. 

So what’s all the fuss about?  The music industry has survived the transition from vinyl and CDs to people downloading tracks.  Once upon a time all books were hand written by monks, but then the printing press was invented.  No doubt there were people then bemoaning the end of literature, but was it really such a bad move, making the written word available to the masses?

The story circulating this week has been that people with e-readers are choosing to read low-brow works as without book covers on view they feel free to read what they want to read and not what they feel they should be reading.  What’s so wrong with that? 

I’ve never been particularly political, but this is one revolution that I’m happy to be a part of.  I will proudly be promoting my e-book tomorrow when I launch it on Halloween evening.  Is it a great tome of significant literary merit?  Probably not.  But do I think readers will enjoy it?  Of course that’s what I hope, and as readers are who I write for, I feel justified in using any means I can of reaching them with my work.

I wish the best of luck to all authors at any stage of their careers, and hope the idiotic skirmishes soon die down as we all move forwards into a brighter future for anyone with talent and determination.



  1. "I worry that established authors feel they have to guard the doors to their exclusive club, and to keep out the unwashed masses."

    Well said. It's as if they are saying "I paid my dues and made it through the system, and you have to take the same path I did."

    You make a great point that it should be about the writing. Period.

    Best of luck with the book launch tomorrow!

  2. Well said, Jarek! I couldn't agree more.

    I wish you all the best with your launch of 'Brighton Sucks'.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. I don't often post rants, but this week there has been so much negativity about ebooks that I just couldn't keep it in!