Monday, March 02, 2009

It's all about the Event!

We've all been talking about the ways in which the internet can actually bring more literature to more people, if we expand our ideas about how people consume literature. People will still read Emerson, but it might be in a grocery line rather than a library. But for contemporary writers, this raises the question of how they can disseminate their work in a way that makes them money. Of course, this goes hand in hand with all the discussion - on Shelf Awareness, on Harper Studio's 26th Story - with pricing for e-books. (Shelf Awareness had the best, most democratic discussion on the issue and I'd strongly recommend a read through bookseller and rep and other folks' comments.)

But let's factor in this Stephen Adams' article in the UK Telegraph (please please stop making me link to this paper!). It seems more people are reading poetry than ever due to additional e-venues for it: "Rather than killing it off, modern technologies like email, social networking sites such as Facebook and online media players are helping poets reach new audiences." It seems the internet gets the poetry out there and the poets are seeing increased numbers at their readings.

Such a trend suggests we could go back to ye olde days when folks like Oscar Wilde made a mint doing lecture tours. Advances can come down, royalties can go up (the Harper Studio model), and authors can hit the road and charge some $$ for events. Of course plenty of writers do this already - here in the Boston area, writers often charge a few for readings at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge or the Coolidge Corner theatre in Brookline, often in association with the Harvard Bookstore and Brookline Booksmith, both fantastic independents, respectively.

I just want to mention this as another piece of the revenue puzzle that certainly makes me more open to the idea of getting things digitally - again, as long as someone, somewhere still prints books once in awhile. The upshot to this poetry trend is this point made in the article:
And rather than making poetry pamphlets "obsolete", Mr Price said the internet had provided "a limitless shop window for a new generation of small presses and micro-publishers".

(That's Richard Price, a published poet and head of modern collections at the British Library.)

So again, I'm all for anything that makes more room for independent presses. The question of course is how to couch the speaking engagements in such a way that they generate revenue, that people want to pay for them, and I'm again brought back to Richard Nash's point about publishers needing to reach niches more fully, to accept the fact that only 200 people might read that (digital) book and instead take advantage of their high level of interest. If you have people excited about being part of a community, in the way we see most visibly with fans at Comic Con or the way we once saw, and maybe still do, with Trekkies, then they will pay to share the experience that they've enjoyed online with other people in the flesh.

This is all part of re-organizing ourselves as publishing folks around new ways of reading, but a new system is falling into place, led by readers and innovators. As long as we navigate carefully and don't demand too much of the pie - I'm giving the stink on to you, Bezos - then we may just come out with a pretty damned good system!

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Poetry is dead. Sorry, the truth hurts.