At present I am in a situation where I have to listen to Radio 4 in order to understand the way in which my book is being published. Crowd funding is just so new that everyone, even those in the thick of the process, do not quite know what it is that they are doing.
So I was interested when I heard Paul Kingsnorth talking on the radio. His book 'The Wake' was published (crowd funded) by Unbound and became the first ever crowd funded book to finish up the Booker Long List. So what did he have to say about the experience?
The word he used was 'micro-publishing.' He employed that word to try to explain the difference between buying a book in a bookshop, or purchasing an e-book on-line, and subscribing (or pledging) to a book which has yet to be published through Unbound (or another crowd funding publisher).
So what is the difference? Well, on the face of it - very little. In both cases you finish up with a book. If you buy a book, or an e-book, in the normal way, you get it immediately. If you pledge / subscribe through Unbound you might wait nine months or longer for the book to be produced. But you do get your name in the back.
Does getting your name in the back make a difference? Paul Kingsnorth clearly thinks it does. He says everyone who puts their name in the back becomes a 'micro-publisher.' They haven't just bought a book, they have made a decision about whether a book should be published or not.
I know from talking to my subscribers that they like that experience, they like making a choice, deciding what to back and what not to back. Certainly I'm sure there are some people who signed up for 'The Wake' who are cheerfully telling friends in the pub. 'I signed up because I knew that would be a really amazing book' We all like to be part of success.
But what of the wider picture? I don't want to be disloyal to Unbound. I really like them and I like what they are doing. But is it right for the general public to decide which books are published? I just don't know.
What I do know is that 'quiet books' seem to be getting little chance anywhere. Every form of publishing is about 'the pitch,' or 'the sales hook.' Of course, to some degree that has always been the case.
But if I take the example of a writer I love - veteran American novelist James Salter - then I just wonder how he would have fared if he was starting his writing career now. The pitch for most of his books would read. 'Bunch of Americans you don't like lead pointless lives, behave selfishly and die.'
But somewhere in the prose there is something extra-ordinary, dazzling, which captures the essence of being alive. I can't help but think that the only way books like his can be published is by an editor who is going to back that book no matter how quiet and uncommercial it is.
But where are those editors? And how else can those quiet books be published? I'm assuming that independent publishing won't help those books but am I right? I'm aware that many of the people reading this blog have a lot of knowledge of independent publishing and would be genuinely grateful to hear their views.
The question matter to me because I want to read those quiet books.