Connecting Readers to Writers:  the ONLY POSSIBLE future of publishing

21 July 2010 in Future of Publishing

messy desk

Two photos for my blog today:

my desk before I spent an entire day and a half clearing it

tidy desk

and my desk after I spent an entire day and a half clearing it. 

So now I have a desk like the people in movies and on tv!  Yay!

If a publisher or journalism outlet ever again deems me worthy of a commissioned author’s photo, I will foreswear the book-lined library backdrop in favour of a mobile phone mast or wifi hub, I swear. 

Two conversations have got me thinking, yet again, about the future of publishing, even though of late I’ve been trying to tell myself to stop thinking about the future of publishing:  one with Anna Lewis of via e-mail, the other with Antonia Byatt of Arts Council England.  Publishing, as we know it today, will surely collapse due to multiple factors too complex to go into here.  The only important question left, really, is HOW TO CONNECT READERS TO WRITERS.  In a world where writers may have to become their own brands, forms of curation – whether that is prizes, or book clubs and reading groups, or the websites and blogs that we rely for personal recommendations – will be of huge importance.  The traditional role of publishers - gate-keeping - will become more akin to curation. 

In my bad-tempered way I do wonder what will happen to the big conglomerates with their huge overheads.  But, to tell the truth, I don’t really care what happens to them, and I am certain that readers don’t care about publishers either.  Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely thrilled to be published by them, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I care about, on a highly personal level, is being able to write what I want to write, being able to publish that writing in some way, and for that work to be able to find its way to readers other than my siblings.  These three things – write, publish, be read – matter more than anything else to me as a writer. 

I do want to be able to make an income from this activity as well though like most writers I will never expect to be able to live by writing alone. 

As a reader, what I want is access to good writing, to long-form sustained prose narratives as well as work that experiments with form, content, and media.  At the end of the day I don’t really care how that good writing is delivered to me, whether it is via the printed page or via digital files on a screen of some kind.  But I want to be able to find the writers I want to read, even if I’ve never heard of them before.  Which leads me back to my original upper case statement a few paragraphs back:  the only important question left, really, is HOW TO CONNECT WRITERS TO READERS.

Any publisher who isn’t addressing this directly and urgently will be in trouble soon.  And I don’t mean in trouble with me. 

And that’s my prediction for today.  I’ll go back to admiring my tv-lawyer style desk now.


Mary Tod, 21 July 2010, 06:40 PM

Hello Kate - first let me tell you that the very latest book I have read is Mistress of Nothing. I enjoyed it immensely.

Regarding today’s post, the notion of connecting readers and writers deserves the ALL CAPS you used. I am in the midst of writing a blog post about it along with a diagram illustrating the old and new worlds of the writing industry (not the publishing industry!). It seems to me that writers have to act like entrepreneurs and as such understand (1) their products, (2) their customers and (3) their competition. Writers need to find ways to engage in conversation with readers, develop trust and market their work. The good news is that our digital world enables these connections not just locally but globally. I think it’s a great time to be a writer.

Kate, 22 July 2010, 07:42 AM

Hi Mary - Thanks for your comments, both regarding my novel and the post.  Yes, I agree, it’s a great time to be a writer - though it is a scary time to be a writer too!  The entreprenurial writer is an 18th and 19th century figure - I often think of Dickens who was so entirely clever and remorseless when it came to figuring out ways to connect with his audience.  I look forward to seeing your post - maybe stick up a link here when it is done? 

best - Kate

Mary Tod, 22 July 2010, 11:34 AM

Hi Kate - I’d love to stick up a link when it’s done. Many thanks for the offer.

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