One of the most interesting panels I was involved in at SheKilda was Brave New World: or the death of the book, which looked at the effects of the digital publishing and social media on the book world. Fellow panelists were PD Martin, Vikki Petraitis, Kylie Fox and Lindy Cameron and the session was chaired by Jane Sullivan. I was very much looking forward to this panel as there had been a flurry of great email between us all before SheKilda.
My fellow panelists had jumped into this brave new world boots and all. In fact Lindy Cameron's reaction to the oncoming age of digital books was in part to form her own publishing company, Clan Destine Press, which publishes print and ebooks. This may seem counter intuitive in an age when many writers are going it alone and self-publishing, but Lindy recognised a need and opportunity to publish great books that were out of print, and new works too. She used the example of her company publishing Kerrie Greenwood's Medea, the first in her Delphic Woman Trilogy, and Vikki Petraitis' The Frankston Serial Killer. Lindy was also invaluable in clearing up some of the fallacies out there about the cost of publishing ebooks, which some larger publishers had used as a reason to sell ebooks and what we all considered to be too high a price, which sparked a great discussion on the pricing of ebooks. It wasn't expensive, software did the work.
Kylie Fox had a different take on the digital world as she and Amanda Wrangles had co-written Arabella Candellarbra and the Questy Thing to End All Questy Things on Facebook! They had taken social networking and used it in an exciting and fun new way to create an epic spoof, which had now been published and was fresh off the press at SheKilda.
One of the interesting points Vikki Petraitis brought up was that in the new digital era traditional large publishers shouldn't be seen as the gatekeepers of what was worth publishing, that their commercial decisions were not an indication that what they published was the only thing worth publishing. The relative ease of self-publishing and the emergence of smaller publishing houses gave opportunity for books on many fascinating topics that larger publishers may reject because they didn't deem them as being commercially worth it. The success of Vikki's The Frankston Serial Killer was a fine example of this self-published book selling very, very well thank you, when the big publishers hadn't thought it would and rejected it. Of course a progression of this is realising that with self-publishing being so easy there is an awful lot of poorly written crap out there, particularly fiction, but more importantly, there is now the opportunity for a lot of worthy work to find a place, particularly special interest, local history and non-fiction books that would not be considered wide enough appeal for big publishers.
P.D Martin talked about epublishing and how that changed how authors get paid, which launched onto an interesting discussion about where the profits go when the author has done all the work and gets a pittance. The opportunity for the author to get all of the profit in self-publishing is one that can't be overlooked! This also lead onto how to get your ebook noticed out there, amongst a sea of millions of them and how the use of social media was invaluable.
One of the most interesting discussions resulted from a question from the floor from Tara Moss about how ebooks can be value-added? We all got to flinging ideas around, from the ability of ebooks to incorporate things like more detailed background information and bibliography material, to the use of more interactive platforms such as iPads, to chucking in a walking tour map of where events in the book happen for anew slant on holiday tourism, to value adding to your print book purchase, buy the book, get the ebook free.
It was a fascinating session, which I learned a lot from, and actually acted on, because I was the only dinosaur in the panel who wasn't using social media and on facebook, so as a result of being nagged by my wonderful fellow panelists I did embark upon that brave new world...