A brief interruption to the stream of art and flash fiction that is NaBloPoMo on mindandlanguage, to summarise the insights of a pair of experts on digital publishing. I’ve just spent the evening listening to Danuta Kean of Mslexia and the Creative Enterpise Centre at Brunel, and Dan Franklin of Random House Group, discussing e-books, the future of fiction in digital form, and twitter (self-promotion via and addictions to).
If you have an interest in fiction and publishing, and use the internet, then you’ll be familiar with this terrain already. E-book sales in the UK are increasing, overall and as a proportion of book sales. Media are starting to bleed into one another – gaming, apps, interactive story-telling and forms of audience participation are territories now being explored by writers and publishers alike. Twitter has become the prime way for a self-publishing and publicising author to gain a network and audience, though there are caveats around how to do to this.
And that’s where some of the interesting insights from tonight’s event (The Digital Way, put on at Foyles by Spread the Word) started to emerge. It’s perhaps not surprising that bald hard-selling, as opposed to genuine interaction, is off-putting in social networks – both in real life and online. On the other hand, Dan Franklin admitted that 95% of what he has learned as a digital publisher has come through Twitter. In fact, Twitter often came to dominate the discussion, which was telling in itself; I wondered what the Twitterless section of the audience made of that.
Danuta Kean pointed out that while the key asset for any writer attempting to put themselves out there is strong content (i.e. a good book), opportunities for self-promotion, often without cost, are there for the taking in a way they have never been before. She encouraged writers to use the power of bloggers to spread the word, simply by approaching the relevant people directly with their material and asking them to mention it or pass it on if they feel the urge. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Something I had never thought of was the power of a small group or network, as opposed to just the networking possibilities of something like Twitter. Dan Franklin pointed out that groups of artists or writers that are perceived as a whole in some way are also perceived as making something happen even if you can’t clearly see what it is. He mentioned examples such as the new puritans, and other mutually supportive gangs whose connections can easily be seen online. Thinking of the way writers and artists have been bunched together in this way in the past, this hunch felt right – being part of something is good for you.
There were encouraging noises about the growth in potential for selling short stories in digital form, as it comes without the expectations of print publishing, and a resounding dismissal of the notion that publishers are put off writers who have previously self-published digitally. I for one will be taking these messages to heart.