From me to you

I mentioned the Ross-shire Journal's review of my novel, More Deaths Than One, and the accompanying interview. In it, Hector Mackenzie asked me a series of questions that interested me and might interest you, so here's the article …

Of course, as a fresh-faced 74 years old beginner I notice a lot more now than before the publication of More Deaths Than One about the whole business of books. And it seems fairly sure to me that, right now, the links between writer and reader are undergoing a fairly dramatic series of changes.

In the beginning - well, let's say 17th century London Town - the writer wrote and his publisher published and his publisher sold to all and sundry readers - who made up the vast minority of the population - via his shoppe on the premises (probably beneath the walls of Westminster Abbey or some such.)

Over the years, as education and communication and the means of distribution all advanced the writer became more and more remote from his - more likely her - reader. So in my lifetime it's been a case of writer to agent to publisher to distributor to wholesaler to retailer to reader. Public libraries cut out only a couple of those stages. There is still this remoteness of reader from writer, even though the essence of the whole books thing remains unaltered: it's your mind to my mind via my words.

The relatively slow application of new technology that enabled modern distribution, created the links in the aforementioned chain, now seems to be cutting out those links. There was, for instance, an article in last week's Bookseller magazine on small press / self-publication that may have read like the crack of doom for a publishing / bookselling industry that has grown up quite naturally (and usefully) on the enthusiasms of creative writers and their readers. There's another, similar one in The Scottish Book Trust's newsletter today.

These days, any of us can create a book and get it published. The traditional publisher seems increasingly to be the lazy option for those who can't be bothered to sell what they make. Sure, self-publication will cost you a great deal of your time but, in money terms, less than a week's holiday in sunny Spain. And if what you make (write) is 'good' enough to interest your mind in joining mine, with a bit of a push your work will sell itself via the wonderchild that, right now, you are using …

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