Since I published a book on kindle a few months ago, I entered a very different world; a world which many UK people have no real concept of.
In this world, many authors publish exclusively or primarily in electronic format. And many readers say it is their preferred medium for reading books. In fact, in this world, e format is so much the norm that print copies are referred to as Dead Tree Books - or DTBs, for short. The name suggests they are already perceived as quaint ancient artefacts.
Market research in US (currently the hub of e publishing) suggests that in a year's time, twice as many people will own ereaders. So, presumably, twice as many books, whatever their publishing history, will be bought in this form.
In a month's time, kindle is officially launched in UK. It will be interesting to see how quickly we consider our carbon footprints and realise that you don't have to kill a tree to buy a book.
There have been several online posts recently, where authors, describing themselves as successful or best-selling, made statements which, at best, were very arrogant.
Now, I'd not heard of the authors concerned, and that may be because they're not as famous as they like to think or it might simply be because of differences in nationality or genre. However, to summarise for people who didn't read the posts, these writers caused controversy with views such as the opinion spelling and grammar are unimportant (because that's what editors are for) and declaring that 99.9% of published indie writing (produced by the community in which they'd recently been 'socialising') was rubbish.
Needless to say, these comments, within the context and company in which they were published, provoked strong and mostly unpopular reactions.
At the opposite end of the scale, I have met or corresponded with authors who very definitely are well-known and best-selling. And in each case they have been friendly, humble and helpful, beyond the expectation of diplomacy or manners.
Personally, I find arrogance ugly. And I find humility (not to be confused with lack of confidence) and friendliness appealing. I'm more likely to read and enjoy a book by someone I like and respect as a person. I think this applies to other branches of the arts as well as literature.
Established, famous authors are now saying they are expected to join networks such as Twitter, and interact with their readers.
And while online networking may seem easy, compared to meeting people in person, it's very easy to inadvertently cause offense in a short online post.
So, do you think personality matters? And in a world of increasing internet marketing, does the way a person conducts themselves in this medium impact on their success?
I absolutely love being an indie author. When I first made the decision to self-published it was carefully thought out. It wasn't a desperate last resort to get a novel into print - because I'm already traditionally published in non-fiction and to be honest I hadn't tried very hard with the agent/publisher route. But what I had done was to keep a careful watch on other authors for the past couple of years. I noted who was signing publishing contracts, in what genres etc, and I decided that in my genre, in UK plus a number of other factors, it wasn't going to happen. I'd come very close to being accepted by what I considered was my best bet in terms of reputable established publishers, and I'm sure, had I approached some very new or small presses, I would have found one to publish me. But, on balance, and with readers waiting for the printed book, and, of course, with the offer to publish as a member of Year Zero, I decided I was better off being indie.
But every so often I get this wave of anxiety that I've made the wrong decision. Every time a new author scheme is announced, or one of my friends signs a contract or is offered an advance, I worry that I should have waited. Much of this worry is financial, because it wouldn't just be a dream come true to reach more readers, it would enable me to earn a living - something which, because of circumstances beyond my control, I can't adequately do in other ways.
I think much of indie author anxiety (I'll call it IAA) arises because the publishing business, media and marketing are in a state of flux. No-one can really predict where the business will go more than a few weeks in advance. Indeed, I think epublishing took off much more quickly than its market leaders could have predicted.
Maybe, in a couple of years, it will settle down into a more predictable pattern. For now, though, many of us will have to learn to live with IAA!
This lunchtime I've been selling copies of my book at a market held in the garden of a pub in a nearby village. And very civilised it was too. On a sunny day it certainly beats sitting at the computer for 3 hours, pretending to write.
When I say selling, that's rather a generous term. The market was very quiet today and I didn't sell many. But that doesn't matter. In the past few weeks I've come to regard ebooks as a source of income and print books as a luxury optional extra for fun.
However, what's really good about having a bookstall at a market is I get to chat to readers. People choose to come to my table because they see the books. They may well not be people who would go to a specific book event such as a reading. And I get to chat to them about what's happening in publishing, about how they can read book extracts online, and about how electronic downloads are becoming popular in US and are likely to do so here.
I see it as a bit of a PR mission but I do it because it's fun.
I've just realised that I haven't written a blog post for a week and am making the excuse that it's been too hot!
But the truth is, there have been lots of other writing-related things to do.
For many writers who epublish, the focus of this week has been opting into kindle's 70% royalty scheme which came into effect yesterday. Like many things requiring computer updates, it hasn't gone entirely smoothly. However, it brings the possibility of earning a living as an indie writer that bit closer.
The other thing I've spent a lot of time on this week is reworking and editing my novel Going Underground. This is an unusual story in that much of it is set down caves - one cave in particular, most of the time. This book will doubtless have some future blog posts all of its own, but there is one spooky thing about writing it that I'll mention now. The curious thing is that the fictitious Quarry Cave, where most of the action is set, has become more real in my mind, in all its detail, than many of the caves I've explored for real.