I’m an Author in the E-book Jungle and please DON’T get me out of here!!
Two years ago I started exploring the strange world of independent e-books, with all the snobbish distrust of the traditionally published author. I was only in the Cyber Jungle because I was bruised and discouraged by what was happening in Book World and I followed a faint pathway between the trees like a jungle explorer expecting to be mauled by a predator at any moment.
I published a couple of my back list biographies that people kept asking for, and – more out of loyalty to e-publishing friends – vowed to read and review one e-book per month. Then I joined Authors Electric – a tribe of Cyber Authors bravely hacking their way through the tangled undergrowth of html and e-pub, wielding weapons with names like Calibre and Sigil, and WOW!!! suddenly the landscape looked different.
I was now part of a tribe. I didn’t have to discover everything for myself, the hard way, and I had friends whose shoulders I could weep on when it all went wrong, and who would also pop the (virtual) champagne corks when it went right. Friends who would gang up on the school bully when I was threatened, and who would give each other a leg up the publicity tree when asked.
Spurred on by the success of some of the members and the rousing battle cries of the tribe when challenged by Book World, I moved into a small hut in the Cyber Jungle, called The Book Mill, and began publishing new stuff as well as the backlist. This year I put out a ‘reader’s guide’ to the life and work of Margaret Forster, called ‘Margaret Forster: A Life in Books’, and a historical novel called ‘The Sun’s Companion’. The reviews have been very encouraging.
Another novel is well under way and when I was commissioned earlier this year to write the biography of the poet Norman Nicholson, most of my discussions with the trustees of his estate and his agent, have been about publishing it independently as an e-book as well as a paper book. There’s a new sense of purpose and – curiously – relief that I don’t have to cope with the horrendous grinding mill of submissions and rejections, hopes raised, hopes dashed, which mainstream publishing entails even for an established author. Even Fay Weldon had a struggle to find a publisher for her last novel!
A similar shift has taken place in my reading habits – at first I struggled to find even one book I really wanted to read on Kindle, but the other day I did a tally and discovered that, in the last twelve months, about 70% of the books I’m reading are e-books. That surprised me. A lot of it has been down to the growth of e-book review sites that sift and recommend – sites like IEBR and Awesome Indies to name just two. Goodreads is pretty strong on e-books too, and the Kindle Users Forum. But it’s also down to the sheer quality that’s available now and there are a lot of authors making reputations on the internet. Good e-books are easier to find.
Particular favourites this year have been thrillers, the first in a series about private investigator Danny Beck, called Blood Tide by Avril Joy, and the chilling Survival of Thomas Ford by John AA Logan. Among the non-fiction Fifty Years in the Fiction Factory by Julia Jones, with its account of the life of a hack writer in popular culture, and Water and Ice – a story of human suffering and shipwreck by Arthur S. Mattson, both caught my imagination as well as a sobering account of Italian life and politics – Tobias Jones’ The Dark Heart of Italy. So many novels it’s hard to choose, but I particularly liked Orna Ross’ After the Rising, Roz Morris’s My Memories of a Future Life, Catherine Czerkawska’s Polish epic The Amber Heart, Linda Gillard’s Glass Guardian, and Sophie Nicholls’ gentle romance The Dress.
In the last twelve months my life has been completely changed – I’m writing as if the world was just about to end, with all the energy and confidence that had deserted me two years ago, and I’m reading some b**** good books! It’s been a fantastic year.