Guest Post: –
The weather kept me off the golf course this weekend. I devoted the extra time to writing – and talking to other writers. The result is a Guest Post about writing – by my English friend Andrew Knighton. Andrew is a good writer and he frequently blogs about the craft – if you have any inclination toward writing at all, I recommend reading his blog at AndrewKnighton.Com .
I hope you enjoy his post here.
The freedom of the modern writer
Allen Ginsberg wrote that he saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness. But these days our best minds are destroyed more by the compromises of necessity, by the lack of opportunity to fulfill their creative potential.
That’s changing. The last few years have given writers and other artists the opportunity to create on their own terms, and to make a living through that creativity. To live the careers Hollywood so long promised us all, but that the economy so long failed to provide.
The death of the romantic writer
Many of us carry a romantic image of the writer’s life. The starving lone artiste, writing away in their rooftop apartment until their genius is recognised and they are thrown into the limelight.
Like so many romantic images, it holds sadly little truth. If that was ever the professional writer’s lot – and it probably never was – it disappeared amidst the big publishing business of the twentieth century. Selling their works through big publishers gave the minority of writers who saw print many advantages – distribution, cover art, the advice and support of professional editors. But it also left their fate in the hands of executives and marketers rather than the reading public and the writer’s own skills. Marketability and big business’s obsession with safe bets came to define most of what was published.
And now the resurrection
In the age of the e-reader all that has changed. Any writer can single-handedly publish their book electronically, through Amazon and outlets such as Smashwords and Kobo. By cutting out so much of the traditional publishing chain, as well as the costs of transporting and shelving print books, this provides the writer with a far larger share of the book’s cover price – for many, this has gone from around 15% to 70%.
The big publishers are still out there, and they dominate the chain stores and newspaper reviews. But thousands of authors are making a living in a way they never could have before by publishing the books they want to write, unfettered by corporate hierarchies. Their success now lies in their skill, both as writers and as self-publicists, and in the interest of the reading public.
For readers too this is a great step forwards. We all have so much more choice, and thanks to the internet so many more ways to access it. Do you want to read a romance set in 14th century Croatia? It’s probably only a keystroke away. How about a western where the cowboy rides a unicorn? That one’s real, and popular enough that its authors write full time, not between shifts at the seven eleven.
The A word
A large part of this is down to Amazon, which has made e-readers relatively cheap Kindle and self-publishing remarkably easy. We should be under no illusions – Amazon is not doing this out of public spirit or a desire to rekindle modern culture. But it has created a business model that works by empowering its readers and writers, creating a better world.
This is a golden age for writers and readers alike, one of unprecedented creative freedom. Long may it last.
Want to know more?
If you want to know more there’s a wealth of information out there. I sometimes discuss these topics, as well as other books and writing technique, on my blog Andrew Knighton Writes. Write. Publish. Repeat., by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright is an excellent guide to the topic, as are the blog posts and books of David Gaughran and Joanna Penn. Self-publishing phenomenon Hugh Howey provides some of the most vocal commentary on the subject, as well as an example of just how much self-published authors can achieve.
These days anyone can publish their book, whether for a readership of thousands or of just your own family. So if you feel that urge, if you want to make your mark through the written word, why not give it a try?
Andrew Knighton is a freelance writer and the author of over fifty published short stories. He is currently preparing his first self-published books. He lives in northern England, where the scenery is beautiful but the weather constantly drives him back indoors to write.
Photo of writer at typewriter by Drew Coffman via Flickr creative commons.