Literary industry thoughts…

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Publishing

There was an interesting line written on the Guardian with regard to the recent spat between Anthony McGowan and Moira Young. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/16/ya-novel-readers-publishing-establishment It seems the bust up has rocked the foundations of the literary establishment. They say, the hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it’s no longer truly yours. Well, I’d like to ask this literary establishment, what the fuck did you expect? The old empire hasn’t seemed to caught up with the fact things are not changing, they already have changed. I’d like to suggest these dinosaurs forget the literary world and log on to youtube. Search for ‘Amazing guitarist’ and view how many thousands of young kids there are. Yes, kids. They can rock the shit out of their guitars, so much better then was the case ten years ago. This hated digital generation are logging on, and learning. These young kids are picking up guitars, yet unlike my generation and ones before, they are logging on to guitar forums, you tube and various other sites. Shown chords, structures. Playing and replaying video of tutorials. Their learning is accelerated, they develop quicker. For every video of a young guitarist doing something amazing, and with many comments celebrating his genius, there will be many more videos of him. These will be the ones uploaded years ago, with less hits and shitty reviews. By the time they put out some work, they are phenomenal musicians.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter the art form. Writing is the same. There was a time when you wrote blind. You had no idea if what you had lovingly ejaculated wasn’t utter shit. Some went to creative writing classes or did college. Now though, there are millions of places to publish your thoughts. There are genre sites, literary sites, writers forums, poetry blogs. And these people will critique the shit out of you. You write awful shit and they will fuck you up. There are sites like Litreactor, that services the transgressive. It’s team are good. Very good. They are fantastic, published and well crafted writers, that don’t just mouth fuck you if your work is shit. They give you advice, help and suggestions to improve. Just like the talented little prick with the guitar, these writers get seriously good. Soon you see some mind blowing stuff from them, they may be young, but fuck they can write the shit out of a page.

The establishment doesn’t seem to have got a grasp of this. Worse, they have not grasped how loyal and tribal the internet has made readers. Take the young fantasy author and her book. You can pretty much put money on any new author has served time getting fucked over on the forums. She developed, and they liked her work. She improved more and they loved her work. By the time she gets published she has already a hardcore army of fans that have been with her on her journey. They helped mould her and watch her grow. Not only of her, but her genre of writing. So when some dick-neck, old school, literary dinosaur gives it a shitty review – look out, there will be a full on cock fight. What Mr. review doesn’t seem to get, is the book is processed differently. It won’t have some elements that the critic likes. This might be prose, it might be depth of character. It has though, been shaped and sharpened by the very readers it is aimed at. Fiction of this type is super-evolved. It is like a laser guided weapon, accurately hitting it’s audience with the bits they want and not the stuff they don’t. People often say Oh, porn never has much of a story… fuck the story, I want to see filthy dirty stuff. Stuff that isn’t legal. Critics are gonna have to watch out, reader power has happened. They are vocal, they are powerful and of massive influence. If a shitty review is written that contradicts a mass of positive reviews by readers – look out!

The other element they seem to struggle with and bitch on about is the whole digital ebook thing. It reminds me of the bullshit from the music industry. It evolved overnight, consumers took control. This industry, like the world of books seemed to be run by people with both feet in the 90’s. Buying music was a real pain in the fucking ass. You had to really want it. You had to drive to a store, queue up to pay for the record, that you spent a half hour trying to find. It was shit. Worse than that, and the bit you didn’t realise, was it was choice by proxy. The records in the store were the ones pre-chosen by a buyer. You were allowed to select from a pre-selected range. The industry ruled the radio and the shelves. It was encapsulated. Then digital happened. Kids in bedrooms making records without studios, independent labels, raw demand. Why buy an album with filler when all you want is one track? It’s happened to publishing. Self publishers, indy publishers, anthologies, online books that are endless. The fear from the industry is from the lack of control. The industry though, still is acting like a dictator, its autocratic. It uses social media like a megaphone not a telephone. Too few are interacting, listening, getting involved. Instead, simply shitting on about what they have due out, while getting left behind. In one click you can read a chapter or two, read independent reviews or bump to a product through the traffic of like minded individuals.

The first televisions looked like radios. The first television shows looked like plays. The first magazines looked like books.  I remember when the film industry said video will kill cinema. It didn’t. These same stuffy, old school suits said the same about DVD, it too will kill cinema. Nope, wrong again. In fact, cinema and DVD coexist perfectly. What video and DVD has done is taught film fans what is a good film. You often hear ‘Oh the effects were amazing but the pot was shit.’ 20 years ago, the effects would have been enough to blow your mind. People still see going to the cinema as an event, a treat. Film fans are better educated, but also, because of this, smaller independent films and foreign films are being digested. Demand led by choice. The same with ebooks. Many within publishing ask, how do you make a digital book look like a book? Why does it have to? Why can’t the reader change the fot to one he is more comfortable reading etc.

Another little snippet form the music industry that should give authors and publishers hope. Vinyl sales have increased for the last three years. We are an analogue species and a lot has to be said for the tactile senses. There is a big difference between owning a book and possesing a book. The into music, who consider themselves ‘muso’s’ still love vinyl, they love the cover, the artwork and the fact it is limited edition, for the serious, hence giving an authentic value. Additionally, DJ’s still carry oxes of vinyl. It is little used, because it is digital. But the box servers as an advert, it’s content a statement. And when he removes the vinyl and spins it in, can elevate him or her to hero status. So far, those who have bought me ebook has ordered the printed one, just like those who love a film will buy the DVD. There was a time we could afford to evolve slowly. Not any more. Customers will buy what they love, not the okay. They are informed and buy on the confidence of like minded customers reviews. The hardest thing the industry has to learn is that it isn’t theirs any more.

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