Monday, 24 September 2012

Under the wide and starry sky....

On Friday night I drove 105 miles to the North and West, from autumnal, dreich Edinburgh to the wide black and starry skies of Argyllshire and specifically the townlet of Strontian in Ardnamurchan for the small but perfectly- formed Book & Arts festival of the Three Lochs(patron Sandy McCall Smith). This was my first visit – only it’s second year. One of the highlights of the weekend is the local produce available for hungry 3-lochers – smoked salmon, cheese, bread and more – for which I was very grateful after the long drive through Glencoe, and an hour spent driving up and down a single track road looking for my lodgings. I’d forgotten that the evening falls early in the highlands and the night is very very dark. Helpful to remember when you are trying to reverse down a steep unsurfaced track, hoping not to hit a sheep or drop into a ravine.

We were a small but eager group at the 11.30 am How to get Published workshop on Saturday.  I got about 10 minutes into my talk when the questions overcame me. Interestingly, most of the talk was about writers becoming publishers rather than finding publishers – reflecting a change in perceptions in general, I thought. We spoke for some time about this change of focus, and just touched on the other related change – i.e. not only has the new technology (and the recession) changed the way writers find readers, but it may also be changing the kind of books that readers want from writers.

We talked about the pros and cons of publishing yourself – being in control, a larger share of the takings on the one side and the scary business of self-promotion on the other. And we talked about the perceived advantages of the conventional route to publication – the publisher bearing the cost, managing the marketing and selling, in exchange for a bigger share of the takings (most unjustifiable in relation to the eBook).

I think at the end of our discussion we had reached a consensus – a consensus for a compromise. Somewhere between conventional paternalistic publishing  and going it alone. Do writers have the time and skills needed to both write the books and bring them to market? Some do, undoubtedly, many/most do not. Independent publishing, with a minimal selection procedure, where the writer can buy the support he or she needs while staying in control of the process, and of their destiny. That would be the ideal. 

I think we might need another post to do this subject justice. I'm only sorry I missed the barbeque on Saturday night. Food, film, books. A perfect little festival.