Ok, maybe it hasn’t gone that far yet, but there has been a breakthrough in the way novels are written and promoted. It’s called The Novel : Live! and it involved 36 authors coming together for six days in Seattle and completing a novel. Basically, it’s awesome. And to keep things interesting, after each 12-hour session, writers, fans, and on-lookers all got to partake in Happy Hour. There was a live streaming of the novel-in-progress, and the end product will be an enhanced e-book, edited and all, with interviews with the writers and video clips of the writing process–soon to be sold on Amazon. And to top it off, all net proceeds went to Seattle Arts & Lectures Writers in the Schools program and 826 Seattle, which encourages and helps kids with their writing.
I hope this becomes an annual event. I’ve been studying piracy issues in the new digital book age, and it seems in a lot of online circles, publishers and writers are getting a bad rep. Readers seem to think that because it doesn’t cost as much to produce an e-book (since there are no printing costs), e-books should be super cheap or even free. Unfortunately, these people don’t take into account all the work that still goes into publishing a book, whether it’s digital or in print. Some writers spend up to 20 years to completing their manuscript, and once it is finished, it takes at least one year for an editor to polish it. And of course there is at least a year spent designing, marketing, and finding suitable distribution outlets. Plus, in the new digital world, especially with enhanced e-books, there are legal issues regarding all the enhanced features (music, videos, etc.) that must be worked out, and then formatted correctly.
I’m not saying some things shouldn’t be free. Several authors have managed to build up their platforms and make a living by giving away some of their material for free online. But people should remember that, digital or not, it takes a lot of time and effort to create a book, and writers especially should not be punished because readers feel they should have free content.
The Novel : Live! seems like it would help reunite writers and their readers. By showing people how much work is actually involved, and by reminding readers that the books they enjoy are written by actual human beings, I think we can minimize piracy. Ultimately, this will help the readers. The less publishers worry about piracy, the more time and money they can spend on cultivating good writing, which after all, is the main purpose of being a publisher.