|I wonder what Jane Austen would think of her novels being on Kindle?|
The landscape of the publishing industry is changing at a very fast pace. When I first started out as a hopeful writer, as then unpublished, parceling up my submissions and walking to the post office with all the nervous jitters of attending a job interview, I could hardly have imagined how quickly publishing would change. After all, it had essentially remained the same for centuries - how could I possibly guess that the biggest overhaul of the industry would take place during my own writing career?
Not long after signing my first publishing contract, email submissions became the preference of editors - it has to be said that this is due in part to the fact that emails are easier to delete and ignore and are therefore more cost effective for Houses dealing with masses of submissions each week. It also means that new writers have little chance of using gimmicks to make their submission stand out from the crowd. Gimmicks are frowned upon. The writing must speak for itself. If it doesn't, rejection is sure to follow, so with email submissions the writing has to be stellar.
Publication is always a relief for any aspiring writer. It is the start of a new career, where the real work actually begins. It is amazing to see the words you have labored over for so many months, printed as a book with your own name on the cover, spine, blurb and most importantly, the copyright notice. It is such a thrill to see your book sat proudly on the bookshelves of your favourite bookshops; to meet and greet your readers, to receive fan mail and yes, to get paid for the joy of being a published author. It really is the very best feeling in the world.
As your name becomes known, other aspects of the media industry come calling...press, radio and TV. You will be asked to give interviews; your publishing contract will probably contain a Publicity Clause that states you will be required to make yourself available for promotional interviews to help the book sell - and it is unlikely that you will be paid any extra for this aspect of the job. It is all free promotion for your book - all you have to do is turn up, smile and answer the questions. It's like being interviewed for the job you already have - that of published author - rather than a job you are hoping to get.
As the world went digital I watched in trepidation as first the music industry and then publishing were re-formed, re-shaped and re-packaged for the Technological Age. I must confess that I am still quite wary of the changes; it all feels too fast; too much too soon, like a relationship that is running away with you against your better judgment. I was still thrilled beyond measure that my work was being published at all; that I was an author of books, when I was suddenly informed of plans to make my work available digitally, as ebooks. I think I was expected to be thrilled. I wasn't thrilled to begin with, but in hindsight I think I was just afraid that digital books would crash and burn and take my career along for the ride.
In fact, the opposite has happened. It is happening right now, as I type, as you read these words. People all over the world are changing the way they read and enjoy books. The Technological Age has made books available in 1 click, from anywhere with WIFI. Books have gone digital. The top Houses are all on board; the smaller Houses have discovered how cost effective ebook publishing is in comparison to hard copy publishing...and let's face it, if publishing didn't move with the times we would all be reading scrolls!
My own career was high-jacked by the ebook trend some time ago. Of course I was worried, but I needn't have been. This is way the industry is going and I would have to be nuts not to want to be a part of it. These days I am even commissioned to write features for digital ebook only spin offs of traditional magazines and publications. I have the best of both worlds. I write for both types of publication, digital and hard copy.
Being a traditionalist I will always prefer the feel of an actual book in my hands, or a CD in my collection. Digital feels too whimsical, too ethereal for me to grasp. I love walking into my study and seeing rows and rows of books on shelves; I love walking into a bookshop and seeing my own books on the shelves; I love the feel of a CD case as I read the track list, or slip out the sleeve notes...yet, at the same time I am delighted that my own album Moon Chants is available to download in iTunes.
Even so, space issues in my tiny house have forced me to purchase a Kindle...what the hell, my own books are already on there, I might as well have a bloody look! I wasn't expecting to be totally seduced, but I think I have been. I downloaded a new novel in a matter of seconds, without going out in the rain to the bookshop, without searching for a parking space; while I was still in bed, drinking my coffee, in fact. Then I downloaded my favourite classics - for free. I wonder what the Bronte's would think of that?
I will always prefer 'real' books, but it is wonderful to know that I can take a whole library of novels with me on holiday to Oban, in my handbag on my Kindle. It made me smile to finally see my own work in Kindle format! I have tried to remain true to my love of traditional publishing by putting my Kindle in a Pride & Prejudice Kindle cover...so it looks just like one of my much loved classics. This is comforting to my romantic sentiments and it makes my techno-phobic soul sleep easier in her bed at night, after reading a few digital pages.
I really do feel like I have the best of both worlds, as a writer and as a reader. And yes, I think that Jane Austen and the fabulous forward-thinking Bronte sisters would approve.
BB Marie x