Tim Stead - Fantasy Writer

The Future - 29th March 2014

There are no prophets, or if there are they achieve their success by chance and their repute in retrospect. It seems, however, that some things are changing in certain ways and the directions are clear.

Iím talking about books, of course.

I love books Ė the physical feel of them, their presence, their smell. I still think of a physical book as a proper book and an e-book as ephemera, but the trends are against me. The e-book has so many advantages, not least for the writer. They are cheap to produce, easy to publish and above all inexpensive to buy.

There is also a certain egalitarian character to them. Here in New Zealand a new book costs between NZ$30 and NZ$50. Thatís a lot of money. You can buy on Amazon, of course, but then you have to rely on chapter samples and the book blurb which are often not especially helpful.

Add to this that publishers and agents donít really know whatís going to sell. They know what has sold in the past, and they will generally continue to push the same fare until someone breaks the mould, and then they all chase the new trend. At NZ$40 a book readers are in the same trap. Itís a brave person whoíll try a new author at that price, and so we all stick with what we know.

Now we turn to e-books. Priced at US$2.99 they cost less than a cup of coffee Ė and there are a lot of authors who are happy to self publish at this price. Such an extraordinarily low price could, and I hope it will, begin a new age of literary exploration for millions of readers.

Itís worth noting than a self published author gets about the same payback at US$2.99 as a traditionally published author gets at NZ$40. What you donít get are the sales.

I believe that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of writers out there whose writing compares with todayís bestselling authors, and e-books might just spread the jam around a bit so that many more of us can make a living from this most wonderful of professions.

So would I say no if a publisher offered me a contract? Probably not. It comes down to vanity, I suppose. A friend once said to me that it would be great to see my books on a shelf in a bookstore, and so it would. Thereís the financial lure as well. I canít afford to publicise my books, and frankly I lack the talent to do so. So yes, I would go down the traditional route. It would put my name and work out there and I would enjoy the not inconsiderable benefits, even when I believe that the party is coming to an end.

To paraphrase George RR MartinÖ

The future is coming.