Monday, February 6, 2012

Technology and Trends - Friend or Foe?

After I finished reading a section of my WiP this weekend (yes, I am almost there!) I turned my attention to news and trends in the industry as a whole.  I guess I am in that "hopeful" stage now, looking forward to what might be ahead of me if all goes well.

Clearly, a lot has changed since I worked in publishing in the late 90s (not in editorial).

iPad and Kindle; Twitter and Facebook; Blogger and WordPress; Agents and Self-Publishing.

They may affect the way we think about the packaging of our work; how we develop and execute our marketing strategy; how we network with other writers and expand our readership; and how we approach the challenges of seeing our work in print / on the tablet.

But are these trends and changes helping those of unpublished?

While I prefer the feel of and the aura created by a real book, I do think that tablets are probably our  friends.  And they make books more affordable (and often solve storage problems for those of us living in tight quarters).

Social networking channels and blogs are, of course, a great way to connect with other writers and allow us to learn from each other in various ways.  I don't know whether it would help one sell a book, though.

Similarly, self publishing is a good way to get the work out when one can't find an agent or a publisher.  I have heard or read that self published titles can dilute the quality of literature, as there are no "quality" checks.  Yes, at the risk of stepping on some toes, I can see how that might happen.  I have written some awful stuff in the past (and used to think they were good) and I could go ahead and self publish.  I guarantee that those works would negatively impact the quality of published materials.  But others, who are better judges of their work than I was of mine, have found remarkable (and deserved) success through self publishing when agents missed the mark.

What do you think?


  1. I think a site where a person evaluates self pubbed books and rates them will pop up, if it hasn't already. There are parts of self publishing that is so appealing, but I don't want to embarrass myself by publishing garbage.

  2. I'm a 20th century man, and I don't hide from that. But I'm also a contradiction.

    I could quite happily post comments about the dark onset of technology and inevitable demise of the well loved book via my iPad, whilst listening to my digital radio with my electric central heating toasting me nicely through the harsh Winter nights.

    But the fact is some technology is bad. And perhaps some of these make-life-easy gadgets don’t allow us to challenge ourselves as much as we should.

    I know what you mean about the feel and aura of a real book. In fact, growing up I used to collect comics and having the hard-copy form meant that I could share adventures of the Amazing Spiderman with my friends – and thus prompt discussion. Now it seems there’s a Marvel App, so how do you share an App??

    There’s also something very comforting about reading a well-thumbed book, knowing that others before you have stepped into the adventure which lays before you and cherished the book enough to ensure it remains available for others.

  3. Really great post, E.D. I have really enjoyed my Kindle. Technology advances so quickly, it inevitably has both positive and negative consequences. TV in the early 40's completely changed radio, diminishing its importance. Books and, in particular, bookstores are "under attack." It's hard to see where the publishing industry will be years down the road. :( Hopefully the future is bright. One question I have: do you really think social networking DOESN'T help authors promote their books? I've heard of books through blogs that I wouldn't have otherwise heard about.

    Great thoughts. Thanks!
    - Lo

  4. I am completely on your side on this one. Especially about self publishing. I used to mentor college students, and one girl in particular, who was very heady, said she had three books published. I found out they were self published. I was somewhat both please and then pissed odd because of how this simple thing gave her this stupid "I'm betterthan you" confidence that really meant nothing in terms of quality. And that I think will be the downfall of ebooks. The fact is there is a lot of crap out there that is "free" and that will ruin how people view ebooks in general (not ALL is crap of course, just a good number). For me, even though I am in love with the next new gadget each time it comes out, I will always love my paperbacks. I need to feel the's part of the experience for me.

  5. ...oops, I meant pisses OFF, not odd. Damn you autocorrect.

  6. The whole publishing thing is a conundrum to me. I haven't been able to decide what path I would like to take. I vacilate between the two options of self- vs. traditional. I have read many articles on it, and it seems like the only thing anyone can agree on is that at least there are options, where there didn't used to be any.

  7. Ebooks are really where authors are truly selling. In fact, I'm not happy with my publisher now because they haven't gotten onboard with digital books yet. It's funny, because it used to be the other way around.

  8. Thank you all so much for taking the time to think about this and comment.
    Elizabeth - we do need a site like that, if we don't have one yet. I should check.
    Liam - you are right on about that feeling that "real" books create for us and those around us (and I find e-readers so hard on the eyes..)
    Lo - my gut feeling is that social media does not help. Sure, it would help spread the word to people and other writers kind enough to follow me but would that necessarily result in sales? How does it affect "quality control?" I just don't know.
    Nicole - yes, that sort of sums it up! There certainly are great books out there that are published because of access to self-publishing (which truly is a good thing), but this easy access allows a good number of subpar materials to be distributed (I realize quality in a way is in the eye of the beholder...) Perhaps we need to get a review site Elizabeth suggested.
    Jennifer - that is a good point too. I think my issue is not so much with e-books (although I do prefer "real" books) but more so with self-publishing.
    The publishing industry and the art of writing truly are mysterious.

  9. In a sense, I think it's better for the unpublished, but it is going to hurt the previously published. It seems to me that years ago, before mass communications and social media, the writer's platform was strictly limited to the industry elites. This happened because the "buzz" was controlled by those in powerhouse publishing companies competing, marketing a distributing their "stars".

    With the platforms every writer, whether amateur or veteran, has today, the stars are at your disposal. They are not molded by the few elitists anymore. They are molded by the consumer, the readers. Finally, the readers get to decide what they like to read!

  10. I don't think technology is either good or bad. It's all in how we use it. I'm a big fan of the kindle app on my laptop, but I love real books too. They each have different purposes and uses and I make those uses work for me. Yes, how others use it affect me too. Poor quality self publishing and under-priced ebooks can have a negative influence on the availability of good books. While twitter and blogs will work for some (I have bought books just because they were from blogging friends of mine) they won't for others. Again the only reliable way to sell a book is to write a very good one. Something good enough that people want to talk about it.

  11. Thank you Diane - I think there is certainly truth to the elitism of many in the publishing world, especially if the work is classified as literature or one of the more "serious" genres. Perhaps it is also true in YA - I do not know enough about it to make any sort of calculated comment. Great topic for discussion though. Thanks again.

    Thank you S.P. as well - and well said - the only reliable way to sell a book is to write a very good one. All the marketing and elitism isn't going to help if the readers are not convinced.