Here’s what I was saying a year ago and, looking at that post again, I can honestly say I’ve mellowed a lot. I’ve spent far too much time following debate, which is something I hope not to do in 2011. But I think the sheer quantity of opinion kind of numbs a writer in a mellowing way: don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate any review posted anywhere, but I’m marginally desensitised at the edges: bad reviews don’t quite hurt as much, as a consequence. Everything becomes a learning experience.
So anyway: here are some observations on the industry after another year.
1. The blogosphere ain’t what it used to be. Blogs have come and gone, and actually a lot have appeared in the last couple of years. The net result, combined with Twitter (which absorbs debate and attention) means that conversation is now phenomenally diluted; niches have sprung up within our genre niche. I’d consider print review venues (other than, say, SFX or the Guardian) to be absolutely ineffective in generating debate or playing much of a role in the genre, but the debate online is increasingly watered-down in terms of impact. It ain’t what it used to be. The older blogs still have the bit audience: Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, A Dribble of Ink, Wertzone, or the Book Smugglers (these are the first four I typed – there are many more, but newer blogs will struggle to come close to getting their page views).
2. For this reason, I really pity new authors. It’s tough out there – it was a year ago – but now, with so much diluted debate, how the hell can you get yourself noticed? Having publishers tell authors to get out there is even more frustrating because…
3. Publishers dominate once again. Remember that time where people controlled debate according to the mildly anarchistic nature of the internet? Not now. The big publishers have created the mega-sites, and have invited bloggers to write guests posts. It’s miraculous – regular, interesting content, around which they can flog their books (and they’re a business – that’s what we expect). Bloggers mention they write guest posts, and send traffic to the mega-sites. Traffic flows one way. What’s more, the ethics of reviewer/blogger neutrality has been raised in discussion a few times. The saddest thing about all of this is that money (resources to set up these sites) now buys attention once again; for a short while, that wasn’t the case.
4. Ebooks turn out not to be the most evil thing in the world, but still no one knows how much to charge for them. Some
idiots people believe they should be free. Many publishers charge hardcover prices – or simply don’t release a novel in ebook until the paperback is out. I can’t believe this side of the industry has not yet got its shit together. Sort it, people.
5. Tax bills suck. They really, really suck. I have no problem in paying taxes – I feel rather good, in fact, that in a country like the UK we can give our taxes fund, for example, the NHS. But it doesn’t stop the fact that the bastard final bills crop up on you just after Christmas. You see a lot of what you earn, as a writer, being taxed.
6. Writing gets easier. The more novels you write, the more you learn about their craft and construction; but no matter how many you publish, you realise that few people will get the things you intended – which is, I suspect, the way of things, and also a little bit diva-like on my part.
7. Sometimes spending hours on a blog post is pointless when you can just post (exclusive) cover art to generate debate and hits.
8. It surprises me just how much readers can hate a book (or an author); moreover, it amuses me when they can’t believe that other people liked it.
9. Sometimes people don’t want authors to talk about the real world. I forget, quite often, that authors are often routes of escape for people, and that they might not always appreciate rants of a political nature.
10. Tip for new bloggers: people love lists.