Saturday, 31 May 2014

Why is there only one way in publishing?

A couple of years ago I was in a parent meeting at my daughter's school. The speaker said something that made a huge impact on me. "Yesterday's solutions don't solve today's problems."

It struck a chord in me, particularly when it comes to publishing. There seems to be this either/or attitude to publishing, and never the twain shall meet. There is either the traditional route via an agent and publisher, or self-publishing. This ignores, of course, the third route - via ebook publishers.

I read this article about the speech James Patterson gave at Book Expo America, about the trouble libraries, bookshops, and book chains are going through. Publishers are suffering, literature is suffering and Amazon is the bad guy. 

On a personal level I mourn the loss of the bookshops in my town. Where we had three now we have none, and if we go to the next large town along, we always visit the large bookshop. However, and I have a big however, none of these bookshops had or have a LGBT section. Not one. There is nothing catering to an LGBT readership and the only fiction books that have gay characters are mainstream authors like Anne Rice. They do have an extensive military history section or a huge self-help section, but LGBT customers are ignored. This is exactly the same for the libraries. I checked my local library. There are about twenty LGBT books and most of them were published before 1950. Not one of them was published in the twenty-first century.

That leaves me with mixed feelings. Part of me mourns the loss of being able to spend time looking through the books in shops and a huge part of me rejoices in being able to buy online.

I'm an ebook author. I've been published in an era where enterprising people started publishing companies devoted almost entirely to ebooks. For me, it's been the difference between being published and not, between thinking I was the only one and not. The MM genre was ignored by traditional publishers, and now with advent of ebooks, it finally had an outlet and has been very successful. Ebook publishers and booksellers like Amazon put food on my table and pay my bills.

If you read the comments on the James Patterson article, it becomes clear there is a huge divide. On one hand there are the people who think literature is now down the pan without the gate-keeper of the publishers telling us what we should read, and on the other there are the people who welcome the fact that publishing has opened up to all.

It seems to me people who are only stuck in the traditional mode seem to be blinkered with rose-tinted glasses. There seemed to be a small number of people controlling what the public was allowed to read. Were independent bookshops thriving or being swallowed up by large chains? It wasn't some happy, shiny utopia.

Today's book world is very different and it's no secret traditional publishers were caught on the hop. Perhaps they should have listened  and heard the speech from my daughter's school. When I see people talk about print as if it's the only way that has merit I realise that they are still harping on about yesterday.

I didn't have an ebook reader until I started publishing but now I'm an addict avid reader. I still love print books, but I love the accessibility of ebooks, and fact is, I can access my genre without having to source a specialised bookshop. I now have a career that pays my bills, has helped me to make world-wide friends, and I wouldn't have had that without today's solutions.

On the subject on today's solution, my library now offers as well as books, DVDs, audiobooks, CDs, and ebooks and free wifi. Is it the same library it was twenty years ago? No. But the customer base isn't the same. They are looking into the future. Perhaps now I can persuade them to stock LGBT books.


  1. Let's go and talk to them and try to persuade them :)

    Seriously, this divide was one of the issues highlighted at the London Author Fair, I feel. And probably unintentionally. There are people still clinging to the old model *at the expense of* accepting new. They don't have to be mutually exclusive, but if book reading can meet all the current platforms, it helps all books survive!

    1. The London author fair seems just as blinkered as the Book Expo. Frankly I don't get it.