Saturday, October 2, 2010

Publishing in Slippers

Greetings from New Zealand to the Naked Readers.

To write is to change, and to effect change — as long as we’re following some necessity of our own in what we write. For me, the process has been one of serious at-home introversion (entering the imagination and spending long days alone writing it out) followed, then accompanied, by relentlessly evolving extroversion (being published; speaking about the process to ten, fifty, or 400 people; travelling; living with international writers; collaborating; working for a publisher . . .)

Then late last year, in keeping with the global financial scene and the state of crisis in the established publishing industry, I lost my two-day-a-week job and was forced to find another way to fund myself — one more in keeping with this new(ish) webbed-up world we inhabit — and to make another stretch out into the community. Besides that, my latest novel, born into the dark night of the abovementioned crisis, seemed to be drifting into obscurity.

I knew what I’d do. I’d woken one night 18 months earlier and the concept was slid deftly into my keeping, if you will. Now it was time to start seriously incubating it. Digital publishing is not a wildly pioneering idea. It’s been around for a while, piecemeal, but I seemed to be alone here in NZ, with the plan to do what conventional publishers always wanted to do (but got sidetracked from by financial necessity): publish work I love. Beautifully written books whose content is dynamic, truth-telling, and heartening. Work that lights me up no matter how many times I work through it with the author, assessing, discussing structure, close editing, proof-reading, having a cover designed, signaling its glories . . .

Rosa Mira Books goes live later this month. The first novel, The Glass Harmonica: A Sensualist’s Tale, by Utah author Dorothee Kocks, will be out in November, followed by an anthology of Slightly Peculiar Love Stories, by New Zealand and international writers.

What an age we live in, where a woman can start a publishing business at her kitchen table. She can roam about the world in her bedroom slippers, finding colleagues and allies and answers to her myriad questions. She can find designers and marketers, writers and readers, a deeply satisfying job, and sometimes even joy.

I came upon the Naked Reader by the usual ‘you need to check out this’ from a friend. It’s great to find others running parallel along the writing-publishing track, and I’ve admired the energy and generosity of the writers on the Mad Genius Club blog, which seems to be mysteriously linked with this one.

I wish us all the best, we who are having so much fun doing exactly what we want and are best fitted for.

(Edit: I've fixed the links - I'm not sure why they went wrong)


MataPam said...

Hi, Penelope.

Isn't it amazing how internet technology is changing the world? Over here I've seen a lot of businesses fold, unable to compete with stores that don't have the expence of leasing physical space, nor restrictions on the area they draw customers from.

And the consumers benefit as well. I remember the first time I bought a musical instrument from a business physically located in Belguim, for half the price my local store quoted me.

At the same time I feel sorry for the people their closing put out of work, that still doesn't make me wish I'd order that $8k bassoon from them, rather than the (slightly better) $4K bassoon on the internet.

Publishing houses and bookstores are in the process of hitting that same reality, and it's going to hurt.

But that doesn't mean we ought to turn our backs on the future. It's unfortunate that the existing companies didn't leap on the new tech and use it, but new companies will spring up, like Rosemira and Naked Reader. Welcome.

Penelope said...

Hi MataPam. Yes, huge changes, and I guess those of us who weren't embedded in the old structures have been soonest able to jump up and dance with the new. There are lost jobs for some, and new work opportunities for some — sometimes they're the same 'some'. And of course the new model offer breath-taking new possibilities for writers to be read — everywhere — and paid well.
Thanks for the welcome.

Kate said...

Welcome, Penelope,

Publishing is changing at quite the pace these days, and in my view the traditional publishers are asking for trouble when they try to hold back the ebook wave.

Of course, I do have a rather large stake in the issue, since my first novel is being published by Naked Reader in December :)

I hope Rosemira does well - I suspect there's going to be a lot of small e-presses springing up over the next few years, and the "winners" will be what's still in business when the interesting times start getting boring again.

Any new model has big opportunities for the ones who can get in early - and you're right, they're usually the ones the traditional presses are excluding.

Penelope said...

Thanks Kate. Yes, a large part of the fun of this is that we have no idea how it's going to turn out a few years down the track. We start out holding our plans lightly; we hope we can keep them fluid as we go.
Best wishes for that first novel; that's a buzz, for sure.

Stephen Simmons said...

Glad to meet you, Penelope. Good luck with Rosamira. I think the folks like you and Amanda who are jumping into these interstitial voids that are appearing in the industry are doing authors and readers a huge service -- and possibly yourselves as well, if you get it right.

There is a line from the sixth Star Trek movie ("The Undiscovered Country" that I have always *really* loved: Kirk says to the Klingon Chancellor's daughter, "It's about the future, Madame Chancellor. Some people think the future means the end of history. People can be very frightened of change."

Penelope said...

Hi Stephen and thanks for the good wishes. If change is a wind, it's more exhilarating to go out in it than to stay in and wonder if it's going to take the roof off. (Haha, like all metaphors, that only goes so far . . .)

Amanda Green said...

Penelope, great post and thanks for sharing with us. Folks like you, my bosses at Naked Reader and the other e-presses are on the forefront of the latest twist in the on-going soap opera we call publishing. While I don't think we will see the end of hard copy books, I think we will see more and more books coming out electronically first and then, when showing they have a sufficient following, hard copies will follow. Part of it is, I believe, the fact that these new e-presses offer authors a chance to get their books out, something that is becoming harder and harder to find with traditional publishers.

But another reason is one that traditional publishers seem to be forgetting -- our children are "wired". They are growing up with computers and iPods and all sorts of electronic gadgets we couldn't even imagine at their age. It's natural for them to read electronically. There's a study released from Scholastic that says a majority of kids -- sorry, but I forget the site and the exact numbers -- would read more if they had access to ebooks and an ereader of some sort.

So, good luck and let us know how things go!