by Ben Westerham
Those of us writing today are extraordinarily fortunate to find ourselves living through a period of incredible change in the world of publishing. What’s more, all this innovation is presenting us with a plethora of opportunities. I’ve written this piece to encourage you to embrace all of this change and to maximise the benefits you derive from it. Things won’t be like this forever, so, as they say, let’s make hay while the sun shines. So, where to begin when there’s so much going on?
Wattpad has amassed a huge readership base and one of its features is that authors are encouraged to release one chapter or section at a time, rather than the whole shooting match in one hit. This is an approach that harks back to the penny weekly days of Dickens and company; it’s funny how sometimes what goes around comes around. If you are brave enough, the site even encourages authors to write straight to the site; no re-writes or changes of mind.
Talking books are hardly something new, but even here things are not what they once were. No longer is this the domain of the few because now we can all avail ourselves of Audible’s services to deliver our content in audio. They will even find you a professional narrator if you have the money to pay the fee. Imagine sitting down to listen to someone professionally narrating your story. If you don’t have the money to hand to pay for such a service then why not have a go yourself when the requisite equipment and software can be had for little money. You don’t necessarily need to read an entire book; consider recording a short excerpt to go on your web site.
However, you might think of standard audio books as old hat when you can use a service like that provided by Booktrack. On their web site, you can add music, sound effects and more to your book, all of which are played back to the reader at a pace consistent with their reading. I tried the reader experience myself, expecting to find it a distraction and probably even annoying, so was surprised to find it rather enjoyable.
Why stop at sound when you can add a visual element to your books? With the advent of YouTube et al, you can vlog, run book promotions etc. You can also do your own book readings or even have your characters doing the readings for you. Again, we’re returning to the past here. Dickens, for one, went on tour regularly, delivering reading performances. I use the word ‘performance’ deliberately, because we are talking about more than a mere reading, it is a show, of sorts. Dickens had to be physically present wherever he gave a show but we don’t, we can put our ‘show’ on YouTube for hordes of people to watch.
FreedReads is an interesting and, to me, exciting new arrival. With this service books are streamed, not downloaded, to the reader wherever they happen to be reading, including their TV. This means they can read a book across all kinds of devices without ever losing their place.
If you don’t fancy bashing away at a keyboard when it comes to producing your next book then why not try speech recognition software, such as that offered by Nuance, to get that first draft down on paper. You can also see if this has any impact on your writing style as well as your level of output.
Sometimes, I find the amount of innovation and the opportunities it brings so exciting I have to drag myself away to actually do any writing. I have no doubt that in years to come, authors will look back at this period in history with deep envy, saddened to have missed out on experiencing first-hand such a time of change and opportunity. You’re lucky because you are here to experience it for yourself, so make the most of it, luxuriate in its caress and welcome its tender whispers before the chance has passed you by. Those who do, who learn, adapt and experiment, will find themselves able to reach audiences previously beyond their grasp, bringing pleasure to others as they bring reward (financial and emotional) to themselves.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, explore, experiment, have fun and, hopefully, sell a few books along the way.
Ben Westerham writes the humour-laced David Good, private investigator, novels set in 1980s London. He has sold more copies than you can count on the fingers of both hands. You can learn more about Ben at his website and his Author Central page.