Monday, 19 October 2009

Choosing will be the end of us all

Have you noticed the lists of new titles on the media’s book pages getting longer? Mrs Thatcher once declared that the British public should have choice. And choice we today certainly have. Thirty flavours of ice cream rather than two. Dozens of versions of each new car. Five hundred and forty-two TV channels and new novels by the absolute shed load.

In Wales this revolution in print is on the verge of drowning us. Gone are the days when getting into print really meant something and the imprimatur of publishers shone in the philistine wilderness. Today publishers outnumber pubs and certainly are more numerous than plumbers and milkmen.

But all is not quite as it may seem. Some publishers turn out to be one man bands, some are amateur shambles, a few are charlatans, and a small number hang on as the traditional culture-supporting article. But many, the majority even, are the outcome of an exponential rise in the availability of print-on-demand. Log onto the website, upload your novel (or memoir, or set of poems or cookbook), add a cover, press the button. Key in your credit card details and a couple of dozen decently printed and well-bound copies will arrive at your house by mail. You are a published author and for not much more outlay that carpeting and decorating a room either. You can do this as an individual or use the technology to set yourself up as a new independent publisher. Small runs of things that interest you are now perfectly economical to do. You’ll have a hard time getting them into bookstores but, hey, this is the digital age. Sell by internet. Everyone else does. Use Facebook and Twitter to publicise what you are doing and then fulfil the orders via Amazon. And if you’d prefer to have your hand held more closely then quite a number of one-time traditional printers are offering similar services over the counter.

Wuggles Publishing in Clydach has used the technology to bring out Chris Thomas’s perfectly respectable More Tales of Pelican Square. This is an amusing, well written helping of nostalgia and non pc whimsy from the housing estates of the Swansea valley. Richard F Jones’s Dancing With The Devil is the story of a financial consultant and womaniser busy evading tax on Majorca. His publishing operation is called Authorhouse. Paul D E Mitchell’s Lever – the Second Book Of The Path Transcendent series (“contains strong language, graphic violence and adult themes” runs the warning on the back cover) is set in Pontybrenin where mining has been replaced by the Church of the All-Seeing Eye. That comes directly from the author in Cardiff. Jean Gill’s memoir, How Blue is My Valley (Lulu), compares Provence with Wales with entertaining results.

An earlier version of this post appeared at The Insider in the Western Mail of 17th October, 2009

Take your pick. The choice is yours.

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