Sunday, 25 July 2010

Finding Traffic

A little while back the sages of publishing predicted that the first thing to go in the burgeoning online world would be encyclopaedias, gazetteers and handbooks. Those textural tomes that break your wrist just to lift them. The AA Gazetteer Of Places To Stay. The Directory Of British Sub-Post Offices. The Whiskey Lovers Guide To The Scottish Islands. The Cyfansoddiadau. Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack. And it’s mostly come to pass. The handbook has all but vanished, although maybe not yet in the case of the last two mentioned. The Cyfansoddiadau, Wisden’s for Eisteddfod-goers, looks as if it will never fade. Wisden’s itself, however, is morphing into an all-sports compendium and has an online version beckoning.

Barry Turner’s enduring and always vital The Writer’s Handbook has just published its 2011 edition. Tome it is, too. At 766 pages it needs a desk just to be read. It’s heavier than the iPad, but just as new and vital. Amid the advice on characterisation in popular fiction, how to get ahead as a ghost writer, how to write children’s books, do your accounts, command the network, produce a bestseller, settle your accounts and handle bad reviewers sits a cogent section entitled poetry.

This is compiled by the man behind Salt Publishing, one of the great short-run phenomena of the noughties, Chris Hamilton-Emery. Among his informative and useful advice Hamilton-Emery hones in on the ten changes he expects to see in the coming decade. In the order he lists them these are as follows: Print magazines will vanish. Criticism will move entirely online. Choice will drive the reader to compile their own anthologies, set up their own internet channels, make their selections the yardstick of poetry commerce. Books as the poetry unit will fade. Everyone will become their own publisher. The bricks and mortar bookshop will disappear. Poetry will become increasingly performance based and delivered by multi-media. Verse will return to its roots, “as the shared imagination of a specific online community”. Creative writing will produce vast and participative infrastructures and almost all poets will work within this industry. Getting published will cease to be the benchmark of success. Being read, “finding traffic” as Hamilton-Emery puts it, will be the indicator instead.

Some of this sounds obvious. Already the review in hard print has ceased to be the point of judgement. By the time your reviewed book appears in Planet, for example, you may well be out there promoting your next. In Wales we have never worried much about immediacy. But instant reaction via the blogosphere is seeing an end to all that.

Other of Hamilton-Emery’s predictions, however, do push the envelope. Will performance really become the only way forward? The Writer’s Handbook 2011 is published by Macmillan.

A version of this posting appeared in the Western Mail of Saturday 24th July, 2010 as The Insider - #157


ian davidson said...

I worry about immediacy in Wales. At least I think I did. Or maybe I still do. And the cyfansoddiadau is a fine example of immediacy isn't it?

ian davidson said...

I worry about immediacy in Wales. At least I think I do. Or maybe that was back then. Although the cyfansoddiadau seems a fine example of immediacy.