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Guest post: Are eBooks fracturing the writing ‘family’? by Dave Sivers

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of eBooks is brought to you by crime fantasy and mainstream crime fiction author Dave Sivers.

Are eBooks fracturing the writing ‘family’?

Most writers are keen observers.  We like nothing better than to see how different people respond to different circumstances.  For me, ever since the eBook revolution really began to take off, with opportunities for writers to directly publish their work to the eBookstores for little or no financial outlay, it’s been fascinating to see how the battle lines have been shifting.

In the early days of eBook self-publishing, it was no real surprise to see publishers and agents doubting it would catch on and pointing out the advantages that their roles as the ‘gatekeepers’ of the publishing world offered to writers.  But it was also pretty obvious that, if everyone direct-published and the physical book died a death (I don’t think that will happen for a long, long time), those people would soon be out of a job.  A threat to one’s livelihood is bound to provoke a reaction.

What has surprised me more is the way self-published eBooks are dividing the writing fraternity.  I’m not just talking about a healthy difference of opinion.  Some commercially published writers are quite vitriolic in their blanket condemnation of those who take the new route to publication.

Not so long ago, writers who had enjoyed a bit, or even a lot, of success were only too ready to share their experience and tips with those who were still working at it.  At writing conventions, published and unpublished writers often socialised like an extended family.

Now the revolution has come, and very many commercially published writers have indeed embraced eBooks and offered encouragement and support to self-publishers.  But some seem to have adopted more of a ‘them and us’ approach.

There is a body of opinion out there that condemns all self-published eBooks, almost without exception, as ‘crap’.  It insists that those who write such books have no right to call themselves ‘authors’; and that they should call themselves ‘self-published’, not ‘independently published’.

Part of this concern is that direct self-publishing allows writers to flood the market with so many ‘bad’ self-published eBooks that it can be hard to find the ‘good’ stuff.  Interestingly, it’s not only the commercially published who are saying this.  At least one successful self-published eBooker who was picked up by a commercial publisher now says he never felt like a ‘proper’ writer until he got that deal.

I have even seen a couple of self-published eBookers insisting that their stuff is fabulous, but the rubbishy rest is hiding their brilliance from would-be readers.

There’s no denying that the ease of self-publishing must tempt some inexperienced writers into publishing before either their craft, or their book, or both, are ready.  And I have no difficulty in accepting that the professional input of an agent or an editor can only help.

This does not mean that every book that does not go through the traditional process is without merit.  Many self-published eBookers do submit their work to serious scrutiny by critical and knowledgeable readers, including experienced writers, to help them make their book the best it can be before finally publishing.

The obvious weakness with condemning all writers who have not been commercially published is that even the top writers have known rejection.  They and their books were not ‘bad’ up to the moment they were accepted and then miraculously transformed.  Yes, the input of an editor may have made a difference, yet most of us have still thrown our share of commercially published books across the room.  Commercial publishing does not have an absolute monopoly on quality, and self-publishing does not have an absolute monopoly on trash.

What about labels like ‘author’ and ‘indie’?  This side of the debate has echoes of the recent row between Austria and Slovenia over the Krainer sausage.  It’s of academic interest to some people, but the real issue is what the sausage tastes like.

Let me say straight away that I am clear that I am the ‘author’ of my work, but I tend to describe myself as a ‘writer’.  If my writing comes up in conversation, and I am asked if I am an author, I usually say, ‘Yes – I’m a self-published eBooker’.  And I make no apology for it.

I suspect there are many reasons for these attacks.  They undoubtedly include a genuine belief that published writing needs to earn some sort of professional seal of approval.  Some may slightly resent the fact that they had to get past the gatekeepers, only to find these self-publishing upstarts sharing the eBookshelves with them.  There may even be a touch of elitism, a sense that the self-published are a second-class rabble.

Whatever the reasons, my worry is that writers who launch sweeping and savage attacks on other writers may have forgotten that most writers, like themselves, have dreams, a strong desire for their work to be read, and fragile egos.  Whether they submit that work to an agent, show it to a critical friend, or self-publish for all to read, they are laying those egos on the line.  Other writers are the last people who should sneer at them.

My crystal ball tells me that the self-published eBook genie is out of the bottle and will not willingly go back into it.  It will take time to figure out the best ways to enable readers to identify the books they’re most likely to enjoy, but my guess is that eBook readers will gradually gravitate towards those on-line reviewers they most trust for recommendations.

I took the eBook plunge because I had received strong, positive feedback on my novels from serious people and because I wanted people to read them – that’s why I wrote them in the first place.  It’s for me to do my best to promote them and for the readers to decide if they like them.

Do I still dream of one day seeing my titles on Waterstone’s shelves?  You bet!  Do I feel that not being commercially published makes me less of a proper writer?  Sorry.  No.

Morgen: Being a self-published eBooker myself, no apology needed here although a downside to eBooks is that a minority (I’m hoping) of authors do the editing themselves and have no-one to be their back-up eyes. I have a very good editor and two first readers and as you know, Dave, belonging to a writing group is a must. Providing an author gets constructive feedback and not just “that’s good” or “I don’t like that” then they’ll learn where their strengths and weaknesses are. Thank you, Dave!

Dave Sivers grew up in West London, England, leaving school at 16 to start a successful civil service career.

Over the years, he has gained a First Class Honours degree from the Open University and moonlighted as, among other things, a night club bouncer, a bookmaker’s clerk and a freelance writer.

His published work includes short fiction, magazine articles and newspaper columns, and he has also found some success with stage and TV material.

Since taking early retirement from the day job, he has devoted more time to his writing, which includes both crime fantasy and mainstream crime fiction.  His short mainstream crime can be sampled on his website, and his crime fantasy novel, A Sorcerer Slain, introducing personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel, is available as an e-book at the Amazon Kindle Store, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book stores. Dave’s website is http://www.davesivers.co.uk and you can also read his author spotlight.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with novelist and screenwriter Mary Firmin – the three hundred and eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in ebooks, ideas, writing

 

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Author Spotlight no.32 – Dave Sivers

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the thirty-second, is of crime / fantasy novelist Dave Sivers.

Dave grew up in West London, England.  He left school at 16 to start a successful civil service career that took him to a diverse range of locations, including Newport, Rhode Island, Northern Norway, and Sutton Coldfield.

Over the years, he has gained a First Class Honours degree from the Open University and moonlighted as, among other things, a nightclub bouncer, a bookmaker’s clerk and a freelance writer.  His published work includes short fiction, magazine articles and newspaper columns, and he has also found some success with stage and TV material.

Since taking early retirement from the day job, he has devoted more time to his writing, which includes both crime fantasy and mainstream crime fiction.

His short mainstream crime can be sampled on his website, and his crime fantasy novel, A Sorcerer Slain, introducing personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel, is available as an e-book at the Amazon Kindle Store, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book stores.

In whatever spare time he can find, Dave can be found writing, directing or performing in amateur theatre productions, trying to keep on top of his allotment, supporting Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club, or attempting to play guitar just a little more like Mark Knopfler.

And now from the author himself:

My reading taste is fairly eclectic, but has been dominated by horror, crime and fantasy, and these influences have pretty much driven my fiction writing over the years (apart from a chick-lit short story in Take a Break magazine under the pen-name Melanie Blake).

A Sorcerer Slain, the first of a series featuring personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel and his dwarf sidekick, Grishen, is what I call crime fantasy – a blend of the two genres.  The concept began, almost by accident, with a fantasy short story in which a sexy sorceress dupes a gullible man into doing her very dirty work.  Along the way I realised that she was really a Raymond Chandler-esque femme fatale, and I liked that.  So I reworked the story, the hero morphing into a hard-bitten private eye-like figure in a world of swords, sorcerers, dwarfs and demons.

The characters and the concept stuck in my mind, and I set about writing the full-length novel that became A Sorcerer Slain.  The longer form gave me a much bigger canvas on which to develop Dashiel and his world.  He operates on the mean streets of Andruan, capital of the Kingdom of Balimar, a city that has its palaces, exotic towers and temples, but also has a seedier underbelly.

When I write mainstream crime, I spend a fair bit of time on research to give my stories an authentic feel.  If you don’t ‘get’ fantasy, it must be easy to assume that it’s a softer option to simply make everything up.  Yet I find creating a whole world that looks, smells and feels ‘real’ just as challenging in its way.  You have to create political systems, international intrigues, cultures and landscapes that are plausible.

It’s also essential for the magic to make sense.  You can’t just have a spell up your sleeve to resolve every difficulty, or there will never be any real suspense.  Like science and nature, magic has to be confined by what is and isn’t possible.  In Balimar, this is strictly controlled.  Magic users are born, not made, and they are all required by law to join the Guild of Sorcerers, formed over 900 years ago in the aftermath of the devastating Sorcerers’ War. Only Guild members are allowed to practice the craft, becoming part of a ‘weaving’ that binds them to the Guild’s rules and makes it impossible for them to break them.

At the time of the events in Sorcerer, the guild’s head has been murdered and his heir, Zarna, is the prime suspect.  If she is convicted and executed, the weaving will unravel, breaking the Guild and unleashing a terrifying new conflict.

With everyone in Balimar seeming to have an agenda, the King commissions Dashiel, a man outside the establishment with legendary inquisiting skills, to investigate.  But Lowmar Dashiel has his own motives for solving the crime.  Zarna is the woman he loved and lost, and he is even more determined to save her life than he is to prevent a war.

Inquisitor Royal, the sequel to A Sorcerer Slain, will be available soon.

You can find more about Dave and his work via…his website: www.davesivers.co.uk, Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you Dave. Although I don’t read (or write fantasy – but listening to my Monday night writer who does it’s certainly not easy!) it does sounds like… er, fun? You certainly have a wonderful imagination. 🙂

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow morning (UK time) with poet Kerry Hammerton – the one hundred and ninetieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. Dave will be back for our interview on Wednesday 21st December.

And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

 

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