By Catharine Morris
There have been plenty of conferences about the future of publishing, but few, if any, have been aimed at writers. The Literary Consultancy remedied this recently with a two-day conference – Writing in the Digital Age – held at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon.
One of the speakers, the American writer Robert Kroese, likened submitting a manuscript to publishers to turning up to a club to find a group of people waiting outside. Some have been there for a few minutes; others for hours. Nobody seems to know when they will be let in, if they are to be let in at all, or even what the criteria for entry are. You eventually resort to sneaking in by the back door – the back door being self-publishing, of course. Digital self-publishing.
Kroese recommends that option to those who are entrepreneurial, impatient, sociable and difficult to classify. He fits that description himself. Having done all sorts of preparatory legwork including compiling spreadsheets of potential reviewers and being funny on a blog, he uploaded his comic fantasy novel, Mercury Falls, to Amazon’s self-publishing platform in 2009. When he took the tactical step of dropping the price from $4.99 to $0.99, it made the sci-fi top twenty; and having sold 5,000 copies in its first year, it was picked up by Amazon’s flagship imprint AmazonEncore. A good number of writers have been taken on by traditional publishing houses having first had success on their own in this way. (No literary novelists among them, though, as far as we know. They still wait their turn out in the cold.)