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A manifesto for digital freedom in storytelling

8 January 2016

From indie author Carol Buchanan via The Bookseller:

There’s too much grumbling among authors.

Advocates of print books carp at ebooks. Self-published and traditionally published authors snipe at each other. The trade authors accuse the self-published authors of putting out tripe and crap; the self-publishing authors accuse trade authors of snobbery.

And everyone hates digital.

Okay, not everyone.

But some people seem to overlook the wonderful benefits of various publishing modes these days.

Readers and storytellers, alike, have freedom to publish and to read in the manner that suits them best.
Readers can choose among e-readers, audio devices, and paper—hardbound or paperback.
Authors can publish their works in all three formats.
As an author who has been traditionally published and who is now self-published, I feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory. There’s so much yummy stuff that I can’t eat it all.

As a storyteller, I’m enthralled by the possibilities in technological development for storytelling. Development is by no means done yet because the blessed nerds and geeks among us are always innovating, always improving, always tweaking “what is” to encourage it to become “what it may be.”

. . . .

Most corporate entities don’t grasp the principle that innovation such as this happens where there is freedom to put vision into practice, to try and to fail. That means it’s something that may come from visionary self-publishers and from our allies/partners like Lithomobilus. Traditional publishers don’t have an R&D budget; they are risk averse to investing in a “Skunk Works.”

That gives the rest of us more freedom to imagine and to build.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Here’s a link to Carol Buchanan’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Ebooks, Self-Publishing

27 Comments to “A manifesto for digital freedom in storytelling”

  1. Everybody hates digital?


    • Yeah, I lost interest at that point. What indie would hate digital?

    • Everybody hates digital?

      Assumes facts not in evidence. 😀

      • It’s the writer that hates the current ‘digital’ because everyone is doing it — their stuff is lost in the crowd.

        They want a ‘gimmick’ that they think will make their stuff stand out.

        Too bad for them there’s not enough ‘gimmick digital ebooks’ out there to cause someone to make the ‘new and improved’ ‘gimmickal digital ebook reader’ (and when there are enough, they’ll be lost in that crowd again …)

  2. I may be in the minority, but having video/sound in ebooks is not high on my priority list, as either reader or writer.

    In fact, it’s not on my priority list at all. I mean, I have an imagination. It’ll supply visuals and sounds while I read, based on the words on the page.

    Every time someone mentions “advancing” digital books in such a fashion, all I can think is, “So you want to make a movie? Then why don’t you do that instead?”

    • “Enhanced” books aren’t the only form of digital and even there, not everybody hates them.

      The only people who have cause to hate digital are B&M bookstores.

    • Your response is highlighting the attitude that the author is speaking of.

      We all have our preferences, but new developments allow us to try new things.

      I read both fiction and not fiction. Much of the non fiction is travelogues, military/expedition history and vehicle history.

      When I read about a person traveling the Pan American highway by motorcycle I enjoy both the description in the writing of what they saw but also the actual photos.

      When reading about German pill boxes set on the cliffs over looking the beaches of Normandy during WWII, I think its beneficial to see one, and if a short video tour is included I won’t complain.

      I recently read a book about the Lockheed A-12 (forerunner to the SR-71). I enjoyed the various photographs that were included. I felt they added to the book and frankly I would’ve been fine with more.

      Do I want these things in the fiction I read? For the most part no, but I map is oftentimes quite helpful as are simple diagrams.

      • I agree on that kind of enhancement for non-fiction, although for non-fiction I don’t think they’d be considered enhancements so much as standard. I am reading a history book right now that is in desperate need of maps. I did not even know it was legal to publish a history book without maps of the era in question 😛

        I have e-books of Anne of Green Gables and Conan that include illustrations, and if a book is fantasy / sci-fi I appreciate *legible* maps. I don’t think those are considered enhancements per se.

        But, while the Chronicles of Prydain included a written pronunciation guide to all those Welsh words, I suppose some readers wouldn’t have minded an “enhanced” audio guide, or a link to one. And I don’t know how many times I highlighted a word in Austen or Heyer to find out either a translation or to Google what tiffany fabric looks like. I don’t think I would have minded having a footnote pop up to show me.

        That’s about as far as I think I’d be willing to go for fiction, and most authors/publishers could easily serve that need by annotating the edition with links to relevant information.

        • What you said.

          When it comes to fiction, I don’t want distractions. Useful things (a map, a family tree, illustrations, and such) are fine and dandy because they’re pertinent.

          But “enhanced” fiction books with noise/music/video?

          No thanks. Not my cuppa, anymore than websites with popups and auto-start ads are.

        • I do sometimes stop reading to google an unfamiliar word/term. Just last night it was “aspidistra”. Apparently a very popular Victorian houseplant.

      • I think we have to separate fiction from nonfiction.

        Nonfiction has a great future with enhancements. Maps with overlays, interactive graphs, animated processes, etc.

        But fiction?

        • Non-fiction has a pretty telling *past* with enhanced ebooks from the CD-ROM era which saw some spectacularly good releases like ASIMOVS ROBOTS and TWAIN’S WORLD.

          Sales were tepid at best even though they were cheap, they made use of the latest and greatest PC tech of the day, and reviews were uniformly positive.

          Sometimes theoretical benefits fail to materialize at the end user level. Kinda like tradpub marketing campaigns. 🙂

      • @Kevin C, I read two genres that are improved by enhancements: 1) Great War aviation and 2) cookbooks. Both are non-fiction.

        Great War aviation is a specialty market. That means high prices. Last book I bought cost $48.80. All these books have photos in them. And charts. Many have exploded planform plates. These books do not translate well to ereaders, but I can see a market for books to tablets with graphics and embedded videos.

        An example: Casualties of the German Air Service 1914-1920 sells for $21.99 at Amazon, and that’s cheap. A book for British and Commonwealth airmen who died in the war is out of print, and if you own a copy you can name your price. Another book comes out in February that lists ALL casualties for all air services; last time I saw, the pre-release price was north of $200.

        AFAIK all the film footage of WW1 aviation is now in the public domain. I can see the next biography of Manfred von Richthofen containing video of him. Same for the Lafayette Escadrille.

        I thought there would be a market for cookbooks to tablet with embedded videos, but YouTube overtook the field. Sites like food wishes offer recipes on their site accompanied by videos of making dishes on their YouTube channel.

        I do not like having books read to me, but magazines are a different cat. But much of that and travelogues may go to YouTube as well.

  3. Noooooo, not another manifesto! Run for your lives!

    Remember the good old days, when we just called them “blog posts”?

    • Because no one notices ‘blog posts’ — they’re everywhere!

      But call it a ‘manifesto’ and maybe people will look — we did!

      But this is like the brat that cried wolf three times a day, after finding her ‘manifestos’ are no more (and maybe less) than other people’s ‘blog posts’ people will stop bothering to read her ‘manifestos’. And she’ll have to come up with something ‘bigger’ to attract attention.

      • @ Allen F

        “And she’ll have to come up with something ‘bigger’ to attract attention.”

        LOL. How about a GET FREE MONEY!!! tag? 🙂

    • I first heard of “manifestos” when the Unabomber sent one. I’ve forever after associated it with “crazy weirdos.” I consider it a useful shibboleth: Is someone writing a manifesto? Ignore them. Hide the sharp objects. Is someone writing a blog post? Give it a look-see.

    • @Shelly Thacker, Comrade, your refusal to adhere to the proper terminology evidences a lack of solidarity with the proletariat.

  4. The only innovation I’ve seen in self-publishing has been an increase in “Banging Bigfoot” books.

  5. Most corporate entities don’t grasp the principle that innovation such as this happens where there is freedom to put vision into practice, to try and to fail.

    Corporate entities grasp anything a blogger grasps. That’s the easy part. Anyone can do it.

    But the corporation is trying to maximize its own profits within very real constraints, not create an external environment where innovators can thrive. It has to max those profits in the environment it actually faces, not a some potential future that doesn’t exist.

    As I have asked many times before, exactly what should the traditional fiction publishers be doing? Specifics? (Manifestos don’t count. They already realize all the deep stuff bloggers and authors realize.)

    • Individuals in corporate entities grasp things. The entities don’t.

      And wherever there is a person whose phony-baloney job depends upon something not being grasped, there is an incentive for the corporate entity as a whole not to act on its knowledge.

      If you asked me what traditional fiction publishers should be doing, I would be inclined to say: Lay off the editorial department and most of the marketing department, stop publishing new books, and keep the backlist in print as long as it is profitable to do so. But too many phony-baloney jobs depend on the existing model, so it won’t happen.

      Remember what Larry the Liquidator said in Other People’s Money? ‘This business is dead. It’s just not broke yet.’ As long as it’s not broke, the people who killed it will want to go on drawing their pay.

  6. re storytelling as a good idea. I feel like someone just shouted, Everyone should drink Water!!!!!!

    As to why many in publishing keep pushing the books out and playing the c shoot. Seriously, they are trying to keep their jobs, as quite a few have families and when one reads av salary for editors in nyc and then COL, they dont add up very well with av editor being compensated seemingly poorly in comparision to some of the rather ‘ignormous’ numbers in the salaries at ‘the top’ of the pub co.

    Too, how can I say this, there is a culture that is being supported on the back of the authors. Probably it most resembles the king and queen, and all their courtiers, all their sales armies, all their ‘in crowd’ jokes, all their shared vacation spots, all their lunches and fetes, and especially all THEIR publicity on the backs of their authors, all their self-awarding each other, all their galas, all their showing up at BEA on the platforms and forums. Whatever life might be for authors, for those higher in publishing, it is not near the paupers but rubbing robes with royalty.

    Add to that corporate shareholders and private family maws that demand to be fed more and more and more, without cease… y ou have publishing where the royalties for authors are pauper’s compensation, while those at the top take on the trappings of actual royalty in terms of their ‘fame’, their perks,’ their chummy ‘we are faaa millll eeee’ many of them in what looks like ‘first cousin marriages’ and I wont even mention nepotism and publish the spouse/son/daughter of the famous author, output.

    Somehow, it seemed cleaner decades ago, to be pub trad’lly. But then, few authors knew the cadres and cliques and guilds and brotherhoods from the inside. Once inside? Seriously nauseating == not by all or for all, but for some few who are the powers sitting on the thrones. Like ‘the soiled-royals’ as my old man used to put it, meaning not dealing fair hands in poker, each ‘higher up in pub’ has their fav authors and indulges them greatly– as long as they sell. In our back country we call that hail fair weather friend, ‘fifth spade behavior’… in other words, being dishonest in order to ‘squeeze’ the jack [author] into thinking he is a king. Getting as much play out of him, he betting up higher and higher… selling selling building up big house, big bills…Until one day…

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