Friday, 22 June 2012

Changes A-Font

   Big changes are happening in the publishing industry.  Technology is moving rapidly and where once an author was beholden to the publishing houses and literary agents, they can now ‘go it alone’ and self publish by e-book or using print on demand companies.
   The idea of e-books has been around for a long while but it’s only in the last twenty or so years that they have really taken off.  Probably only in the last five years that they have  become of service to new authors.
One of the initial ideas was to put every book ever published into e-book form by scanning old copies into a huge database.  Books that are no longer in the public domain are available for free.   The Gutenberg Project,  founded by Michael Hart, is dedicated to making these books available to anyone who wishes to visit their website.  So now, instead of shelves accumulating dusty books, people can carry a library around with them in their pocket.
   Not everyone takes to this idea.  Many who have never touched an e-book reader declare they prefer to feel a paper book, to turn the pages and smell them.  They don’t mention sneezing when the dust gets up their noses.  But I have come across many converts in the last year or so.
It’s not only old books that are being offered as e-books.  New books can be had, too.
No longer is a budding author bound by ties to an agent, if they are lucky enough to get one to sponsor them.  No longer do publishing companies dictate what the public wants.  It is sometimes said that everyone has a book in them – and now everyone can offer that book to the world.
   Not that publishing an e-book is likely to bring fame and fortune.  Writing the book is the easy part.  Getting people to read it is where the work begins.  Promotion through whatever means possible is the key.  Social networking sites are full of people trying to ‘flog their wares’.    E-books by independent authors are usually cheap – or free.  They are even cheaper than the shops like The Works who buy up the rights to books and flood their shops with piles of book going at three for a tenner, with little or no money going to the author.
   Does quality diminish with quantity?  Possibly.  Some authors take more care than others when preparing their work.  But if you find a diligent author who has worked hard on their manuscript before submitting it, then you can find some real gems.  But if you haven’t paid a great deal does it matter if you don’t like that book?  Before now I have gone into a bookshop and paid a great deal of money to discover that, really, I don’t like what I have bought.  Likewise, I have looked at books and thought to myself, ‘why has that even been published when others that are far better have been rejected?’
   The other form of new publishing I mentioned is Print on Demand.  Again, this was started as a way of printing ‘out of print’ books, but has moved on to provide the independent author a means of getting their book published without the need for a big name publisher or even a vanity publisher.  This does come at a cost, but not as great a cost as vanity publishing, and maybe hasn’t got the real kudos of having a publisher.  But it does mean that your precious story is available at a reasonable price to anyone who goes along to somewhere like Amazon and orders it.  It also means that massive print runs that end up being pulped don’t happen.  It means that no one has really lost out if the book doesn’t sell; apart from the author, of course, who hangs their head and wonders why their masterpiece hasn’t set the world alight.
   Will these innovations change the face of publishing?  Not immediately.  But as more people turn to e-books, and cheap e-books at that, ideas may have to change.  Some publishers are fighting back by putting their books out as e-books, too.  But usually they are priced at the same rate as paperbacks.  Why this is when they don’t have any printing costs, I don’t know.  Maybe they have paid the author a huge amount of money for the rights and have to re-coup that to make a profit.  No one from a major publishing company has ever offered to handle any of my books so I can’t comment on that.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

More Houses, good or bad?

I kept a very diplomatic silence in the pub last night as a discussion developed about the proposed new housing developments in a couple of local villages. I had already started reading my Kindle when those around me began talking about football and kept my head lowered and my mouth shut when it moved on to this new subject.
Two very anti-development members of the group were worried about the fact that there would be no jobs for the people who moved into these houses. The people concerned don't seem to be able to get their heads around the fact that people do not work within walking distance of their jobs any more. Which is strange as one of the people taking part in the discussion travels for 30-40 minutes each day to get to his job. And another has a son who lives in a village and computes to London to work.
Other concerns were the extra demands that would be placed on services, everything from roads to schools and health services.
I sat quietly reading my book - very good book, by the way, the latest from Gerry McCulloch, a wonderful new writer, this book is called Angel in Flight - saying nothing.
The fact that these houses are due to be built will bring a welcome boost to the flagging building industry.
The fact that the road system might not cope could led to improvements in the roads, along with more schools, more medical centres, upgrading to all sorts of services that are currently struggling to cope.
More houses means more council tax coming in.
And people need somewhere to live. For every young family with two or three children, when those children grow up they will need homes of their own. With people living longer, houses are not becoming so readily available. With so many families splitting, two homes are often needed where once only one was used.
One member of the discussion group said these developments would encourage people to leave the cities.
Good! Has he every lived in a city? I have and couldn't wait to get out.
And while all this was going on I couldn't help but think the very village where this discussion was taking place has changed beyond belief over the last 50/60 years. Ok. Now it seems well established, but a huge redevelopment took place back in the 1960, which brought an enormous number of new houses to a tiny village. It also brought a bigger school, a better doctor's surgery, and a decent sewage system that up until that time had not existed!
So there can be benefits to new developments.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Flaming June - Not

Over the last few weeks I have been promising myself I will post things more regularly. I am a writer, I should be writing. But that's the trouble, I have been writing and editing and doing all sorts of writery things, writing a blog hasn't had a look in.
I promised myself this blog would not be about writing. It would be about ME. What I thought was important. MY reactions to the things that are happening in the news. I'd be topical. Up to the minute. Then I get out of the bath and life takes over. Oh what I could achieve if I could take my laptop into the bathroom with me! That is my thinking time.
So what have I missed?
Pasty tax. What was all the fuss about that. It hasn't even really been abolished. Piping hot pasties, baked and kept hot, will still be subjected to VAT. And you don't want to eat a pasty that has been left to cool - not unless you want to be ill. The only cases of food poisoning in my house in the last 40 years have been caused by pasties that were not piping hot. And let's work the figures out here. How much is a pasty? 80p? 20% of that is 16p, (I think, I'm not noted for my ability to do sums), so a hot pasty should now be 96p. Bet the shops round that up to a £1 and blame the government. And so be honest , would an extra 20p stop someone snacking on a pasty in their lunch break? I don't think so.
The Jubilee. I'm glad that went well, although I'm not a demonstrative person myself. You would not find me standing around Pall Mall waving a flag, or camping out for a glimpse of anyone, not even the Queen. But each to their own. Pity about the weather.
Which brings me to the ultimate topic of British conversation.
The weather.  It's June. It's raining. The media would have us believe this is something unexpected, unusual, not what we should be having. Well, I'm afraid these people have very short memories. I don't know where the idea of 'Flaming June' came from, or where 'Ne're cast a clout til May is out' originated, but for most of my life June has been a big disappointment. Why else did they put a roof on Wimbledon's centre court?
Remember 2007? The country was almost floating! The worst floods in ages. That was in June.
My daughter used to be a Guide and I later followed her as an adult leader. Every year a big camp was planned for June, around the longest day usually. Every year in the weeks and days leading up to the camp it was either wet or cold. In all the years I went to camp only about 2 were really hot. Admittedly only two or three were complete wash-outs, but it nearly always rained at some point.
So why do we continue to live in the belief that we live in a Mediterranean type climate? Why do all the D.I.Y. stores and garden centres stock patio furniture that would be find in Spain or the south of France, but might get used two or three times a year in England? Even more to the point, why do we actually BUY the stuff? Is it some kind of ever hopeful belief that the sun will shine for more than two days in a row?
And when it does, everyone complains. Fortunately heatwaves are far fewer than cold and rain. So enjoy what sun you can. In the meantime I am counting down to my winter holiday when I will be off to sunnier skies.