Tuesday 5th May Marcus Sedgwick will be running a course on writing magical realism (from Bloomsbury Publishing house, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP). I want to attend, and I intend to attend, but the £35 ticket cost does sadden me a little. I know that writers like Marcus are often hand to mouth depending on the market, and writing is a difficult job, particularly financially. However, I don’t think that he will be receiving that money. As the event is held at Bloomsbury Publishing house, and he is an author, it’s possibly a part of his promotional contract already.
Book publishing isn’t doing great, and I will support it with my £35 as well as my book buying obsession (sometimes I have to force myself to avoid a bookshop due to funds, and, man, it hurts). However it’s talks like these which get more people involved in the literary community, and in an economic sense as well as a cultural sense also boost that community. One of my favourite books of recent years is ‘Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ by Eimer McBride. It took her 7 years to publish. Publishers believed that, due to its experimental nature, people wouldn’t want to buy it. Now, it has sold in huge amounts, and adverts were even run along buses at some point last year, announcing its success.
The music industry has found many ways to adjust to the online marketplace, but their product is easier to digitalise, and recently records have seen a boom as a clear distinction is made. E-books alone, however, won’t satiate an active readership who want to attend speeches, read a physical book, and remain able to eat and pay rent.
There are so many exciting writers, creating complex novels online for free, as funding is rare. So many people self published, and so many ‘experimental’ authors kept at arms length for profits. The McBride test (as it will now be known) proved that the public enjoy and can handle experimental fiction – all fiction. Instead of paying Katie Price for her brand, and a ghost writer, as with many celebrity memoirs (which publishing houses are consistently churning out), you can get a fascinating new author who may revive someone, somewheres, love of reading. You may also be able to lower ticket prices, or link them to E-book sales, for events. As with records, it’s the physical thing that makes the difference, and as they often come with exclusive samples, tracks, reading materials, photos, maybe free tickets and a photo of whoever’s it is. The publishing industry could learn a lot from that example, making the expense of a book, or a reading, include more access into a reading community, or perhaps a deal on their next similar publication.
I will feed the Bloom my money, as I want what I can get from these tidings, and what am I but a lowly consumer, but I hope it sticks a little in their throat, like a question. A question about readership, trusting and investing in them, and which way they are going to go. Maybe the Bloom will bloom, with some kind of magical realism, and use its resources, while watching independents styles, to grow into a body that can give and receive within our reading cosmos.