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Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Cheque's In The Ether (Virtual Publishing)

Today a friend pointed me to a three-part series of articles on the recent past, the present and the future of publishing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The articles were written by Richard Curtis, a New York literary agent, and contain ideas worth thinking about.

Publishing, like every business, can be a dirty, ballbreaking, wallet-draining, soul-twisting day-to-day grind. I have empathy for anyone whose first reason for working in the industry is a love of the written word. There is very little return on that love these days; the people I know who have it often live in a nearly constant state of stress from working long, long hours in their efforts to ensure that at least a few quality books will appear in bookstores along with the brand names and flavours of the day.

Are their efforts futile, Sisyphean? Are the efforts of authors struggling today, probably this evening, with manuscripts aimed at the traditional sales arenas of bookstore shelves, airports, drugstores and [in]convenience stores, doomed to be curious footnotes in the future; the titles of the few that get published in the next few years perhaps maintaining a strange half-life by popping up every now and then on websites as hyperlinks to nostalgia? Has, as Curtis seems to think (and as others have been claiming for years was inevitable), the ease and inherent creative control of self-publishing via blogs and auto-eponymous websites brought the internet to a point where it is poised to be the major economic force in publishing, with novels, poetry collections, natural history, biographies etc — in short, all the interesting long forms of the written word — about to be relegated to quaint backwaters of publishing?

I don't know. The web is powerful and omnipresent. For myself the tactile pleasure of holding a book, the ease of flipping back and forth through the pages to reread particular passages, are not things I'll give up until I'm forced to through the non-existence of books. But my generation — I was born in 1966 and have seen my corner of the world move from crank telephones, LPs and eight-tracks, AM radio, and serious network television newscasts and newspapers that carried news to instant messaging, I-pods, web radio, CNN and its clones and independant, alternative online news sources — my generation may be very close to the last one with a true affinity for the written word on the printed page.

Yet here I am, blogging my slowly-aging ass off. What's that about?

Salt And Ice began as and remains an experiment and an exercise for me. The biggest challenge is quality daily content. I think it's important that a thing like this be updated via entry or comment at least once a day. So far I've been coping with that by linking to sites that catch my eye if I don't come up with an entry I feel is worthy of posting, or by engaging in discussions about current entries, if possible.

Yesterday I was thinking that if I can keep this thing going that I will, at some point, gather a selection of entries, refine them, and submit them somewhere as a book of short essays. We'll see.

In one of the articles I linked to above, Curtis claims authors can make money off their blogs. I think his view on that process and its returns are perhaps both optimistic and slightly naive. However, making a little money from this is not something I'm against. I like food when I can get it. The off-chance of it happening is the reason for the minor ads on the sidebar. If enough people happen to click on them, Google claims they will eventually send me a cheque. Putting the ads up in the first place was a whim. I've left them up because the traffic seems to warrant their presence. If anyone's curious about that sort of thing, here are the total numbers since January 15 that gives me at the time of this entry:



Average Per Day34

Average Visit Length3:51

Last Hour2


This Week236



Average Per Day66

Average Per Visit1.9

Last Hour2


This Week460

Another thing I've thought about, and will probably do soon, is to provide links on the sidebar or in the blogger profile to my own books. I've refrained from posting any of my own poetry because I don't view the blog as necessarily being the best forum for that (and because that's stuff I'd prefer to be paid for). One of the reasons for starting this blog was to try and get my prose limbered up. I think that bringing my own poetry into the mix would interfere with that exercise.

That said, I may do a couple of audio posts of poems from the books at some point. Or — and this is something else I've considered now and again since I began blogging — I may just set up a PayPal account and offer to provide readings (audioposts) of things, poems or what have you, for money. People could email with the title of something they wanted to hear. Public domain, of course, at least to start. And if I thought could do a decent job of their suggestion I'd agree to do it, pending payment.

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