Internet Authors Live In The Present

Internet Authors are living in the present? They have to. In fact, any author needs to think about what’s happening now, right now, this minute. Whether it’s thinking about how to finish a chapter, or whether their character suddenly became unbelievable, or how the dialogue sounds. When they’re hunched over their new creation, they need to be there, really be there, in the here and now.

Traditional Publishers, on the other hand, are lurking somewhere in the 1950s, most of them. Some are still back in the ’30s of course, and you can usually tell them by the way they dress and the elaborate and affected manner in which they speak. The majority, however, are there in the days before computers and Elvis Presley. They tend to like large desks, they fill them with parcels and piles of paper, and imagine themselves deciding the future of ‘culture’ in the Western world, with their exquisite taste and rare educated sensibility. Quite specifically, that places them before the advent of mass television and before electronic means of creating text. It also makes them insensible to the growth of the internet, a medium which has made the purchase and dissemination of the written word at once far easier and also less discriminating in its choice of material. The internet allows anyone with a story to reach a readership. Publishers are no longer the Gatekeepers, the people who have the luxury of deciding what the public has the opportunity to read. The readers, those most underestimated people, are now able to make such decisions for themselves.

Which is odd. A canvas of local creative people that I know came back with the assumption that writers live ‘in the future’. The paradox is caused by an assumption that authors are always thinking ahead, whether it’s planning the finale of a novel, or trying to decide which of their many ideas should they bring to life next. Also, once the work is finished, there’s the hard work of selecting a suitable agent or publisher to parcel off the paper and send it to. Then there’s the imagining of what the reaction might be, anticipating the best outcome, and planning how to spend the new-found wealth (really). That’s all fine, and true to a certain extent, but I’d argue that such planning (and predicting) is still based on a keen appreciation of what’s happening now. If the novel is finished, then sure, it starts to hunt for an audience. But that means living in the ‘now’, seeing the book ready and willing to go. If the creator was really addicted to the world to come, then they’d be living there, happy and contented with their dream of success, fame and riches. The book, on the other hand, would never get as far as the Post Office.

There’s another reason that authors to live in the present, and that is that the past is usually a painful and disappointing place to be. That’s certainly true at one level, judging by the vast output of recent books in the ‘Troubled Childhood’ category. There’s plenty of people out there, it seems, who have had traumatic and harrowing younger years. But I was thinking of the more recent past. For most authors, (and that means the 99% who aren’t basking in the affluence of a six figure publishing deal), that consists of trial and effort. Mostly, in fact, failing. Because, strange as it seems considering the humiliation and degradation involved, most would-be writers still feel compelled to go down the route of seeking publication by the ‘tried and trusted’ method of dispatching their hard-wrought efforts out to a publisher’s office. Inevitably, given the immense odds stacked against them, the likelihood is that the parcel is returned, (sometimes unopened, usually unread). That means disappointment, sorrow, dejection. Who’d want to wallow in such bad feelings? Far better, as any self-help guru will advise you, to ‘pick yourself up’, forget the bad experience, and move on. And that journey – moving on from the past – brings you not to the future, but to the present.

In other words, if you want to survive in the creative industries, get used to the idea that yesterday is where you failed and felt bad. Today is where you have to get on with it, finish the next story and post off the last one (maybe for the second, third or fourth time), and tomorrow is where you start a new work and – maybe, if you’re very, incredibly lucky – you will get recognition for all the good stuff you’re doing now. Maybe. That’s one way. One method. There’s another. And that is – forget ‘tradition’ and explore the internet. There you will find companies that will publish your work on a ‘print on demand’ basis and won’t charge you upfront fees. You’ll get published. You’ll see your work in book form and be able to distribute it to your friends. And there’s no grinding, humiliating put-downs involved. It’s here. It’s now. It’s technically hard to believe, but it’s come about and it’s happened. It’s what those of us in the know call ‘the present’.