Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Self-Publish And / Or Be Damned

I tend to be defensive when it comes to the self-publishing / vanity publishing issue, given that THE BIG O was originally co-published with Hag’s Head Press, which involved my paying half the costs of putting the book on the shelf. While I appreciate that there’s a lot of dross that gets self-published, there’s also a lot of crap that not only gets past the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing model, but gets championed by said gatekeepers (see Nobody Move, below).
  Time magazine has this week waded into the fray with a fine piece on the future of publishing, the gist of which is that the means of disseminating fiction is undergoing a radical change (e-books, print on demand, etc.), and that the new forms will inevitably influence the content. To wit:
A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn’t dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it’s done. Literature interprets the world, but it’s also shaped by that world, and we’re living through one of the greatest economic and technological transformations since--well, since the early 18th century. The novel won’t stay the same: it has always been exquisitely sensitive to newness, hence the name. It’s about to renew itself again, into something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever …
  Self-publishing has gone from being the last resort of the desperate and talentless to something more like out-of-town tryouts for theatre or the farm system in baseball. It’s the last ripple of the Web 2.0 vibe finally washing up on publishing’s remote shores. After YouTube and Wikipedia, the idea of user-generated content just isn’t that freaky anymore …
  None of this is good or bad; it just is. The books of the future may not meet all the conventional criteria for literary value that we have today, or any of them. But if that sounds alarming or tragic, go back and sample the righteous zeal with which people despised novels when they first arose. They thought novels were vulgar and immoral. And in a way they were, and that was what was great about them: they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking. These books will too. Somewhere out there is the self-publishing world’s answer to [Daniel] Defoe, and he’s probably selling books out of his trunk. But he won’t be for long.
  To be honest, I’m not sure this kind of DIY ethic is going to transmogrify the industry. Pop music had its Year Zero in 1976, when the Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks et al arrived, but little really changed – Johnny Rotten recently turned up on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. And while the web makes it possible for anyone to get published and establish an audience, that still leaves the writer with the thorny question of how to get paid for the value of his or her time, let alone the value of the work. Or is ‘getting paid’ just too 20th century for words? Over to you, folks …