It’s not about the Money

The world is very complicated and that it’s probably impossible to understand it all. The reason for this is that it’s full of people. Each person has a world of complication inside them. All these worlds together are never going to achieve any kind of coherence. Life’s only going to be experienced as simple if we isolate ourselves from everyone and everything else. And that’s not a good way to go. And so we have to find a way to cope with the complexity.

One way to do this is through choice. We choose what we want to take notice of. We choose what we allow in our world. And book publishing is no different. We choose the books we want to read. Everyone (that reads) does.

We choose on the basis of the information provided to us. It’s possible to argue that we also choose according to our means, but that’s not always a valid criterion. There are libraries that allow us to read for free. There are also car boot sales, table top sales and charity shops that supply books at very little cost. Then there are friends and family who read and pass on books for free. Reading habits are not always determined on the basis of money. But they are based on information.

We know what we like to read. We try to read more of the same. We read covers, spines, blurbs, reviews and listen to friends (and others) to gain the information we need in order to decide whether the next book is similar to the ones we already like.

Information about a book is based on the contents of the book. The blurb is a tiny summary of the contents. Reviews are a view of what the book contains. Friends talk about a book based on what is in it.

So forget about money – it’s not about that. The success of the novel you will write is determined by what’s in it and how effectively you can get people to talk about that. Content and talk. That’s all.

Have a nice day.
Robert.

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The Future of Fiction (what I think)

In the future, writers will be able to choose their own readers, and it will be an informed choice. Maureen Freely and John O’Brien have announced that publishers have declared that readers are only willing to spend money on commercial fiction and that’s that. So, if you are content to write for money, then write commercial fiction and if you wish to write for love, then write literary fiction (or whatever you fancy).

But is that all there is? Do we have to choose penury or profit, or is there a third gate; a middle way?

Call me an optimist, but I believe that there is. I’m one of those guys that believe that if we carry on the way we are, this one-and-only jewel of a planet will die, that social systems will collapse, that economies will slump and that aliens will eat us for breakfast. Unless … and this is what I really, really believe in … tech saves us.

I think that as well as saving Earth, society, economies and mankind from alien depredations, future technology will save the publishing industry.

Imagine the best features of a novel combined with the benefits of movies. Imagine intelligent, no, wait … imagine conscient software that will run, not just on hardware platforms such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, watches and other wearable computers, but on wetware. And by that, I mean we will be able to install it on our brain using self-organising nano-based chipsets that are capable of migrating to your neural pathways via either the optic nerve or the auditory pathway – your choice.

And here’s what this software will do. It’ll convert the book you’re reading into a movie. In short, you will be able to see the words transform themselves into pictures before your very eyes. At a stroke, the film industry will be dead; television will be the domain of Luddites and as for radio … well, as any fule kno: video killed it long, long ago.

Of course, in the initial stages, writers may have to adapt their prose to the new medium. Whilst software is still in the mere intelligent phase, it will be able to do little with tosh such as this:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
(Jane Austen, 1813)

I mean, what kind of imagery can any intelligence derive from such limp and lethargic language? On the other hand, the following (first paragraph of the) masterpiece that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will have intelligent and conscient beings (software based and otherwise) rubbing their little hand/tentacles together with glee and painting such pictures as would make Da Vinci blush for shame:

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
(Douglas Adams, 1978)

And, best of all, the brain-chip version of the software, due to its ability to access the 90% of the brain that’s currently unused and alter your consciousness and perception of time in the process, will be able to render to you an entire novel within your tea break. In fact (and don’t tell your boss this) you’ll be able to read novels while you’re working. I mean, who’s going to be able to tell!

So, there you have it, the future of the publishing industry: everyone writes like Douglas Adams for an audience of nano-chipped readers who will be able to ‘read’ whilst sitting, slack-jawed in their own living room. I, for one, can’t wait. How about you?

The Future of Fiction (part two)

In 2012, Maureen Freely wrote:

The Strange Case of the Reader and the Invisible Hand

In 2019, I say, in reply, that Maureen writes well and in a way that interests me. She speaks of the future of literary (as opposed to commercial) publishing in such a way that I think she is saying that there isn’t one.

She then said that UK readers are looking for books with a strong narrative that has echoes of the latest prize-winner, that are not philosophical novels (ones that have more speculation than plot), are hard-edged thrillers with multiple murders in the first page, psychological thrillers with a female (rather than a male) lead, are stories packed with exotic sights, sounds and smells and are novels that race to a dramatic conclusion that confirms their (the reader’s) world-view; in other words – commercial novels. So if you happen to be a literary writer, what are you going to do?

Then she rounds it all up by asking us to imagine what more we, as writers, could do if we could cast off the chains of the reader. Well, I say hurrah for Maureen and hurrah for the seductive enthusiasm of optimists.

The Future of Fiction (part one)

In 1996, John O’Brien wrote

31 Questions and Statements about the Future of Literary Publishing, Bookstores, Writers, Readers and Other Matters

In 2019, I have this to say:

You’re full of falafel, Mr O’Brien. When you say that people are falling out of love with literature and books and that publishers will no longer be able to support those forms of fiction that make little money then you’re right, but only if publishing stands still.

We won’t stand still. We’ll move on to other forms of writing that are disseminated in different ways. Instead of books and screens that try to imitate books, we’ll have the software and hardware that make reading a book as easy and enjoyable as watching the movie version.

I’ll tell you more about it later, but believe me – it’ll be good.

Heated Towel Mittens

Just invented something wonderful: heated towel mittens.

These are mittens that are self-heating and that can be used to dry yourself after a shower/bath/thunderstorm. They are used instead of a towel and, unlike conventional drying implements, don’t trail on the ground when you’re drying below the knee.

You’re welcome.

Ditch the Habit

Strikes me that I have many habits of movement. I dry myself from the shower in an identical way each day. My hands describe an identical arc every time I make a cup of tea. I set off on the same foot, touch the same places on the bannister and end up walking on the same piece of carpet each and every time I walk downstairs. In short, I am a creature of habit.

The people who become exceptionally good at something, such as athletes, typists, racing car drivers are in the same kind of rut. We all think that they have reached the acme of perfection, but they are merely describing the same arc as yesterday and the day before.

It’s kind if fulfilling to be good at something and to be in a comfort zone and to fiddle with the familiar, but is it enough?

Where are the far horizons we, as children, imagined we would reach and traverse as an adult? Where are the mysteries we would solve? Where the distant planets?

Answer: they are still far, mysterious and distant as long as we go through life in the same way as every other day we’ve lived in so far.

So, what should we do? Well, if you’re happy, then keep on keeping on. But if there’s a little voice in you that’s telling you that there’s more to life than this, then you must change.

Ditch the habits of a lifetime and so something different. But not just once, but every single day you have available. If you change once, you’ll fall into another habit. But if you approach each day as if it is a brand new, never before seen day, and do something in a different way, then you’ll have a life that’s rich, varied and infinitely rewarding.

So ditch the habit. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Experts

Isn’t it funny how it always seems to to be a person who is learning about something professes to be an expert on it? Or it’s a person that wants something that writes about how to get it? Or it’s a person that is the polar opposite of something that writes about it as if they are an expert on how to be it or they tell you how to get that or advise you how to go there?

And then, when you do get an expert writing about something, it’s just so complex that there’s no way that you can understand it.

Ironic, huh!

People should stick to their areas of expertise:

  • Perhaps the only people who should be allowed to write about death are dead people
  • Maybe depressives should only give masterclasses on how to be depressed
  • Possibly the only person qualified to tell someone else how to live their own life is absolutely no-one at all.
  • And, sure as tofu is tofu, that’s my cue to stfu.

Have a nice day! (But only if you want to; it’s your choice).