I was talking to a well-known publisher this week as we bemoaned the fate or not…of the publishing industry. There’s no disputing the fact, that publishing has gone through one or two massive changes over the last few years. The major one being the radical swing to e-pub. It was inevitable of course, and feared with dread by the likes of me – an old-fashioned girl – who loves the thrill of a new books and relishes the turn of every crisp new page. However, I, like many others embraced it and came to actually quite like the freshness it brought. Naturally, it became big business, meaning that every wannabee writer then thought how easy is this? Hurray! My awful book will see the light of day, after all. Yes, I am sorry to be blunt but it’s true. Test it out for yourself. Out there on the shelves of Kindlemania are many an oddity written by a hand and mind that can piece very little together. OK, I am not always great shakes at the English language and invariably fall down potholes. Yes, I am an English and Creative Writing grad but with all degrees…a fair amount lodges in the brain cells but some doesn’t and comes trickling straight back out again. As much as I hate to admit it, I do still often make mistakes and fear I will never ever grapple comfortably with all the minutiae of the grammar machine. Anyway, to do that I fear is a writer’s downfall. Picking over every word means we do not benefit from spontaneity and why else do we have that fabulous creature the editor? If not to pounce on some of our sillier moments and confidently tidy them up.
I digress…but some of the awful books lying on the electronic shelf beggar belief. Stories that are not there…I mean to say….no plot…..give way to spelling and wrong use of words that make your hair turn grey. I reiterate this isn’t that I haven’t made the odd faux pas, because I have, and I bet you have too. No, I mean whole books of it exist out there.
One good thing. Recent publicity shows the paper book is far from dead and is making a comeback. It is also seen in my titles and many of my colleagues now having paperback runs which is enough to make the heart sing.
Oh, I do have one more gripe before I go today. Shades of Grey….Shades of What? It now seems from scanning the bookshelves we have Shades of everything. I think the time has come to call a halt. There are many things I could say about Shades of Grey, a book a lot of us were tempted to rushed to emulate and are glad we didn’t. Approached to write a similar story, I turned down the commission. There are loads of books and subjects I would love to write. But when all is said and done do we all want to copy and do the same thing and frankly haven’t we had enough? Shades was always going to be that ‘one off,’ miracle. It was a ripe apple ready to fall at the moment when everyone wanted it. Now, though we need a return to classic erotica, which many folk still love and also good chick-lit – and I don’t mean the stuff being churned out by the bucket load by folk hoping to hang onto the success of others. I mean good, frank women’s social and day to day drama with a heart, and really strong issues that we can all identify with. My colleagues are doing it and with great success and I am sure many more of us can too. Another thing worth adding, any book and great story of whatever genre, if its worth its salt…with flourish.
All of this has led to this final line, which is what I really wanted to say all along, to all my aspiring writer friends. It is this. Do not be panicked by every title that is a big sensation. It is a freak, a twist of fate, a one off. Stick to tried and tested good writing with heart. Watch your P’s and Q’s and find your own unique voice not someone else’s. Then in the end, all will be well and we will be seeing your title added to those bulging shelves…Because you had conviction, you were original and you are actually a serious and good writer though, it may not always sell a million but it will have staying power and more than that. You will actually be proud to see it out there. I’ll leave you with that thought.