Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

amplified authorship

Chris Meade writes — and please forgive the length of the quotation —

The amplified author doesn’t wait for a publisher to decide if his or her work deserves a readership or not. Before considering sending a manuscript to a traditional publisher, the writer may have tested out their ideas on a circle of readers via a blog, drawn new readers in through Twitter and a variety of online networks. Acceptance from a quality publisher gives a boost to profile and reputation, but the amplified author doesn’t need to cede control to any one gatekeeper.

A writer who has one book bought by a conventional publisher might want to self publish the next one, freed from the constraints of editors and marketing departments who have a view on what kind of book they think they can sell most effectively. And this approach can be adopted by writers at all levels, from emerging writers to global bestsellers.

Amplified authors aren’t prey to vanity presses selling them a pretence of publication; they study the analytics and comments to find out who actually reads their work and what they make of it. Few ‘conventional’ authors make anything like a living wage from the books they publish, yet labour under the belief that they should do. Amplified authors know they don’t need cash up front to put their work into the world, and can develop techniques to expand their readership and market their wares if they wish, buying in design, editorial and promotional skills when they choose. Amplified authors drive their own careers forward.

Meade paints a pretty rosy picture here, and I think he ought to concede that many people likely to make a success of “amplified authorship” — Seth Godin, for instance — have such hopes because they have built careers via traditional publishing. In the same way that DIY models of education are parasitic on established educational institutions, amplified authorship may, for some time anyway, need traditional publishing to make itself viable.

Still, I find myself thinking along these lines. On Twitter I’ve been posting a series of Theses for Disputation, mostly about technology, and when I have 96 of them — one more than Martin Luther — I’m thinking of writing commentary on each of them and turning the whole thing into a little book. But should I ask my agent (I have a fantastic agent) to try to sell it to a publisher? Or should I try one of the many varieties of self-publishing, just for the sake of fun and experimentation? Or maybe turn the commentary into a series of letters that people can subscribe to?

Don't know. But it’s fun to think about.

3 comments:

  • Or maybe you could just listen to me and make a really nice book, a book you'd be proud to have your name on and people would be pleased to read and own, and pocket a nice lump of cash at the same time.

  • I'm listening, I just haven't made a decision yet.

  • Alan, I’d advocate the both/and proposition: find a publisher who doesn't mind your distributing a PDF online, and will yet produce a hardback for libraries and print-book readers (several books about copyright and public domain have been published on that basis — Duke UP, maybe?).

    Failing that: post the 96 theses online, perhaps with some commentary or open for posted comments), but reserve your amplification for the print edition.

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