May 20th’s New Space of Publishing panel, masterfully chaired by Justine Solomons of Byte the Book, saw some energetic discussion and a really engaged audience. We were encouraged to hear all the panelists urging potential and practicing writers to continue writing; to keep at it, to hone their work and to find their audience. Steve Carsey, Director of Original Programming for Audible, Katrina Hopewell, marketing consultant in broadcast and digital publishing, and Jeremy Thompson, MD of independent publisher, Troubadour and its self publishing arm, Matador, made a clear case for discovering and creating work for your audience. On the other hand Kate Pullinger, award winning novelist and digital storyteller and members of the audience made an equally strong case for letting your audience find you rather than writing for a perceived audience, acknowledging experimental poetry’s online success.
This notion of the author as solely in charge of what they choose to write with the freedom to hope that it resonates with some members of the public is key. Before the panel we asked if the traditional roles of writer, agent, publisher and publicist have changed and what was clear is that with advent of the internet, blogging and eplatforms the writer has many more options. Eszter Hargittai noted as far back as 2000 in ‘Open portals or closed gates? Channeling content on the World Wide Web’ that we no longer have to get past ‘gatekeepers’ to a potential audience, that a lack of big budgets and influence needn’t stop creators any more. The panel spoke about the plethera of ways to get content out there, Katrina espoused the Wattpad model highlighting how that has earned some authors great deals with established publishing houses while creating an audience in the process, such as Macmillan signing UK writer Nikkei Kelly’s Stylcar Saga trilogy.
But here we have the dichotomy of the modern publishing phenomena. Jeremy brought up, to the amusement of the whole audience, the notion that some books are better left inside their author. While he made the point light-heartedly he exposed the other side of this new found freedom. We are now bombarded with content and trying to find meaningful content is hard. The author is competing for people’s time, not just their click through attention. In 2009 Hat Trick Associates cited technorati estimates of over 200 million blogs worldwide, and blogging is only one form of sharing written content.
So now we have another set of questions, with so much content out there how can we find those newly written gems? Will we rely on crowd sourced reviews to usher us to new finds? Will the older authors potential lack of technical skill prevent them from effectively engaging in the digital revolution? We think that this has opened up the market place for all yet Hargittai and Walejko establish in their 2008 study ‘The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age’ that there is still inequality in this perceived freedom according to socio-economic class and gender, does this just mean we are getting much more of the same?
Photos: Panagiotis Balalas