The Future Human Podcast #17: Smash Publishing
Documenting our relentless quest to understand innovation in an age of radical and accelerating change, this latest edition of The Future Human Podcast investigates how digital authors are profiting from the chasmic transition to electronic reading and creating collateral damage in the process.
Just two years ago, a work of messageboard ‘fanfic’ re-imagining the Twilight Saga as a saucy S&M romp was self-published as an ebook. Today, its creator E.L. James is the bestselling author of all time on Amazon.co.uk and the Fifty Shades trilogy is a blockbusting global sensation. Yet the unprecedented success of a self-published ‘mummy porn’ ebook is merely an early symptom of a tremendous metamorphosis that is taking place within the book publishing industry.
A panoply of digital tools and community publishing platforms such as Wattpad and CreateSpace have reduced the cost of marketing and distributing a book dramatically, propelling unknown authors towards professionalism. This process is disrupting and augmenting the traditional book publishing career path that connects writers to literary agents to commissioning editors to printers.
Meanwhile, established authors like Seth Godin and Rich Burlew are taking advantage of a fluid ebooks market to assert more control over their work and claw back a greater chunk of the returns. Online author collectives like The League of Extraordinary Authors are thriving, and emerging ‘digital first’ publishing imprints are ditching paper altogether.
So are we witnessing the mass idolatry of the digital amateur or the birth of a better, more networked literary culture? How will mass market publishers ride out the next decade? And how are DIY digital authors innovating to bypass the existing hierarchies?
Joining Future Human’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Jack Gwilym Roberts to discuss these questions are Sam Jordison, founder of Galley Beggar, a newly launched small press, and Henry Volans, head of digital publishing at Faber. They explain how authors are finding new ways to market books and ‘work their brand’ online, weigh the merits of a traditional publishing deal’s prestige against the eroding stigma of self-publishing, and examine contemporary innovations in fiction distribution. Listen below via Soundcloud, or download via iTunes.