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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Does Indie Book Publishing Let Authors Write in Multiple Genres?

Caxton Showing the First Specimen of His Print...
Caxton Showing the First Specimen of His Printing to King Edward IV at the Almonry, Westminster: With Edward are his wife, Elizabeth Woodville, and their children, Elizabeth, Edward, and Richard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Publishing is an ancient industry. Ever since Caxton ran the first press, publishers, in many and varied guises, have intervened in the process of the author getting his book to his readers. In the early days, such intervention was necessary. It wasn't possible for an author to write and to get to know all those people who would be involved in the complex machinery of designing, producing, marketing and actually selling a physical book.

In those early days, and right up to the turn of the 21st century, the traditional publisher was seen as a vital part of the process. In fact, in many cases, books were actually initiated by publishers; authors being employed as jobbing writers by the book producers. For most authors, the prospect of getting their book into print was daunting and often became no more than an impossible dream. It's unknown how many great books never actually got published, but history is full of examples of those books that publishers, often in large numbers, turned down on various grounds, only for them to become best-sellers or even classics once a publisher with vision got hold of them. For the author in those not so long-gone days, it was generally the publisher who dictated what the writer would produce next. Genre was everything and woe betide the crime novelist who wanted to turn his hand to mystery, science fiction or, heaven help us, fantasy! Women were shoehorned into writing romance even when they had talent that developed character and story in a way suitable for literary novels. Men were forced to turn out series of adventure stories, even if they had a gift for displaying relationships and emotions.

Okay, I know I'm generalising, but this was more or less the state of the industry for all but the most fortunate and talented of writers. Many very good writers never had a book published. Some didn't even get as far as submitting their work because the process was too daunting for many sensitive souls. And when an author was fortunate enough to be recognised as having some talent by a publisher, often they were required to abandon their hopes of telling their own stories and made to turn out books that fitted into the narrow confines of the publishing house's list.

Nowadays, with the advent of both POD and digital book production, the publisher has become irrelevant for many writers. Not only does the lack of that publisher give greater freedom of expression but it also allows many writers to make more money from their creations than was possible in the past. One straightjacket from those early days, however, seems to persist into the modern field of writing. It seems that many authors continue to be caught in the genre trap. They believe they must write a series of books that all fit into a particular pigeonhole otherwise readers will be confused and won't know what they're buying. But is this true?

My belief is that readers, as a bunch of individuals, are generally amongst the more intelligent of human beings. I think they're perfectly capable of examining the blurb, character, and selling points of a book and determining whether they're looking at a murder mystery, a soft romance, a spy thriller or a historical romp where bodices will be ripped with gay abandon.  In other words, readers do not necessarily expect authors to write in only one vein. Publishers and their literary agents did expect this, because it made life easier for them, not for the reading public.

But is it true that an author can write in various different genres, under the same name, without confusing his readership? I believe it is. And I intend to prove it by doing precisely that. I've already published a romantic thriller, a sci-fi novelette, an anthology of dark speculative fiction, a collection of soft love stories and a short comic tale, all under the same name. The next book will be a collection of erotic stories and that will be followed by a comedy thriller and then, probably, an epic fantasy trilogy. I don't intend to alter my name or online presence in any way for these books, relying instead on the intelligence of readers to decide whether they're interested in the subject of the stories. The writing quality will remain the same throughout, i.e. the best I can possibly produce. The style of writing, however, will naturally suit the subject and the type of story I'm telling.

No one expects a painter to specialise entirely in one field, or an architect to design only sheds, or a musician to play only rock or pop or classical jazz. The whole point of being a creative artist is to produce and create those things that matter most to you as an artist. So, that's what I intend to do. I'd love your company as I travel this road. But whether I succeed commercially or not, I'll continue to do my own thing. Otherwise, what's the point in being creative? Oh, I know I could probably make a lot more money if I was willing to write formulaic fiction to fit in with some preconceived idea of what a good story should be, but it wouldn't really be my story, would it? In any case, I've spent my life going my own way, often rejecting opportunities to make more money simply because I refused to compromise along lines set by men who had no idea of my personal priorities and goals. If being a creative artist means anything, it means being true to yourself, doesn't it?

So, I invite you join me on my journey and, hopefully, to inspire you to do the same yourself. Let's show those who fear to take a step beyond the boundaries of convention that such steps often lead to the greatest adventures. Are you with me? Let me know what you think. Commenting is free and easy, you know.

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