Some notes on the 'new world' of publishing

On the weekend I was a guest of the Write Around the Murray Festival in Albury. Besides giving a blogging/social media workshop, I was on a panel called The New World of Publishing alongside author Cate Kennedy, zinester Anna Poletti, self-published memoirist Melinda Marengo, and Barry Dorr and Jo Costello from JoJo Publishing.

I thought I’d share some of my notes written in preparation for the panel. If you would like to read about what the other speakers touched on, see Derek Motion’s blog report.

Some points about the ‘new world’ of publishing:

  • I acknowledge that new ways and modes of publishing and communication are not going to be for everyone – though in my writing life, online activities (publishing, social networking) are integrated and not seen as a distraction
  • new ways of publishing don’t mean the death of old ways. Print books, publishers, editors – these things won’t disappear in the age of ebooks, online newspapers/magazines, blogs and social media, though new systems of disseminating and filtering information are coming into place. There are new or added ‘intermediaries’ from writer to reader (to borrow Richard Nash‘s term) emerging in these new fields
  • ways of publishing online, in small press online magazines, on blogs (a continuous narrative as well as a series of posts) and even on social media sites are ways a variety of voices can be expressed, be read, and interacted with – including some voices you may not hear in mainstream media (case in point)
  • following on from that, in many of these new ways – and this includes ebooks, small print run self-published books and blogs – the author can aim for, and have a meaningful connection with, a small, targeted, yet possibly hugely interested and loyal audience. There is no necessity to aim for a mass audience – and this in itself is a kind of freedom
  • this does not mean readers will become blinkered, self-absorbed and narrow in their reading habits. When you pick up a newspaper – do you read every section top to bottom? Most don’t. Discernment of readers still lies with their education, socialisation process, their natural curiosity and openness
  • all of these ‘new ways’ can be overwhelming, possibly confusing, possibly even distracting. But so is TV, so is cleaning, so is exercise. If you have the will to be distracted, you will be. If you approach creatively, open yet discerning, curious – you might find, create and interact with a meaningful, often fascinating and sometimes humorous world of wonders, just as you would with an amazing ‘traditional’ narrative, such as a novel
  • which brings me to – ‘well how do I find these experiences?’ Everyone knows there’s a lot of crap on the internet – and in bookstores, for that matter. How do you do it in real life? You ask friends, trusted colleagues – you follow a thread, you find it by chance or by brand (ie. a trusted literary brand moving into iPhone apps like Sleepers Publishing). Getting to the good reading – things you can learn and grow from – is similar online as in life, those recommendations (perhaps through a blogroll, perhaps through Twitter), filtering out the crap you don’t want, following links, discerning searching. Yes, it may take a little while to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll find you can read, discover, create in many different ways and it absolutely does not have to take up half your life
  • but then – as fiction readers know, there can also be richness in the ordinary and the everday. I’d extend this to the online realm as well as in life
  • my last point is: new modes of communication (and this is further on from but encompasses publishing) have changed the way I interact with the world as a person, as a writer – my language, my perception. And I don’t think this is any less ‘valid’ way to see the world (than, say, someone socialised in a pre-internet era)

Suggested further reading (some recent pieces semi-related and more polished than this one):

‘A New Type of Conversation’ by James Bradley.

‘The Return of the Amateur Critic’ by Alison Croggon.

Feel free to share some of your own thoughts in the comments. (I’m away in Sydney for a few days, though, so apologies if I’m not timely at responding.)

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