To â€˜eâ€™ or not to â€˜eâ€™? That is the question. Should a writer embrace e-readership or stick to the tried and tested hard copy format? I have been writing for six years now and in that time the book publishing business has been turned inside out. When, as a new writer, I began trying to interest publishers in my work, the established method was to get hold of a copy of The Writers Handbook, (â€˜The complete guide for all writers, journalists, editors, agents, screenwriters and broadcastersâ€™), work through the hundred odd pages of UK publishers, decide which of those listed publish books of the genre that you write, send them a letter, three chapters of your book and (Most Important) a stamped, self addressed envelope. The purpose of the envelope is to ensure that when the publishers return your manuscript with a rejection slip, you know as soon as you see it lying on the hall mat that youâ€™ve been rejected. This process is neither for the faint hearted nor those who find rejection painful.
I did manage to get a literary agent who said she had no doubt that my books would be â€˜massiveâ€™ but, two years down the line, there was no publisher in sight and we decided to go down what used to be called the â€˜vanity publishing routeâ€™, that is, you the writer pay the publisher to get your book printed and distributed as opposed to his paying you for writing it. To be fair, it is a wonderful moment when you see your hard work in print in a glossy cover for the first time â€“ I cried – but the work of writing and the techniques of actually selling books are so different that I defy anyone to be adept at both. If I did manage to sell a few books through the â€˜normalâ€™ distribution channels, then my royalty statement might as well have been written in Chinese for all I understood of it but, every time, the bottom line, what I actually received for all those hours hunched over my laptop, was a tiny proportion of the cover price of the book.
So, the concept of e-publishing, where the writer is much more at the centre of the process, cutting out all those printers, distributors and retailers, each with his own overheads and profit margins, had to be attractive. The problem, as it turned out, was that I had no idea how to turn my hard copy manuscript into what looks good on the e-reader page nor how to load it into the various distribution portals and, when I looked at the various online guides, I became so confused that I gave up in a frustrated rage.
Fate, though, has a way of intervening in my life and, on a rare visit to Harvey Nichols in London when, chatting to the girl who was selling me some perfume, I told her that I am a writer, her colleague shrieked with delight and gave me her boyfriendâ€™s card. Yes, you guessed. He is an e-publisher and I have not looked back since. The boyfriend, Simon, is a co-owner of Autharium which he and two publishing colleagues founded eighteen months ago specifically to provide all the internet and technical backup for writers and publish their work through all the major portals and to give writers a much larger proportion of sales revenue. Working with Autharium has been a refreshing change in that it is all much more open, democratic and simple. This is the wonderful thing about the e-revolution – as a writer I no longer feel like a supplicant approaching the great publishing god begging it to take notice of my work â€“ I can now be in charge.
Book Review – Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds
This month, surprisingly, given what Iâ€™ve said about e-books, Iâ€™ve chosen a book which is best enjoyed in hard copy, Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds.
This is a graphic novel or grown up comic book but itâ€™s much more than that. Posy Simmonds has been around since the 1970s and her serial illustrated stories in the Guardian have delighted readers over the decades with their insight into and observations of everyday modern life. She is a keen observer of what defines the Zeitgeist and the tiny details of her drawings bring a shock of recognition.
Tamara Drewe is loosely based on Far From the Madding Crowd with most of the action taking place at Stonefield, a rural Writers Retreat run by Beth, the competent, long suffering wife of a successful crime writer and serial adulterer, Nicholas Hardiman. It was first published about five years ago and I devoured it in just a few sittings from the urban comfort of my then home in Winchester. Since then we have, of course, moved to the Shropshire countryside and now, when I re-read this book as I do often, I see so much more of Posy Simmondsâ€™ genius in choosing just the right touches to make her point; the kitchen at Stonefield with its Aga, patterned tiled background and the Cath Kidston tea towel slung over the rail is so like my own kitchen that I donâ€™t know whether to cheer or wince.
The plot, too, is well drawn bringing that mix of comedy and tragedy which mirrors life in rural communities. Do not be put off by the recent film version of this glorious book â€“ to my mind it was woefully miscast but I think that it must be nigh on impossible to give credible fleshly form to characters whom we have already seen and come to love on the page.
Tamara Drewe is available in hardback and paperback *****
By J.A. Gordon
More articles by Shropshire based author J.A. Gordon:
J.A. Gordon â€“ Shropshire Writer in Residence
Discovering e-publishing and Tamara Drewe book review
The bane of Christmas Books and Living Life Without Loving the Beatles Review
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon talks about every writerâ€™s nightmare
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ rules for a good book
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – The Loneliness of the long distance writer
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Where do you get your ideas?
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Jeremyâ€™s tweet and the launch party
All about J.A. Gordon
Judith Gordon is a barrister and was an in-house lawyer and long distance commuter for twenty years before redundancy made her see that there is life after the corporate rat race.
She moved to Shropshire in 2007 with her husband and adores the fabulous food and spectacular scenery although recent winters have been a bit of a trial. In addition to her writing, Judith is Strategy Director of face2face solicitors a national franchise. Judithâ€™s books are available online and from booksellers, see www.chroniclesofeternity.co.uk for more information.