Monday, 9 September 2013
Edinburgh Ebook Festival 2013 - our contribution
We launched two ebooks as part of the Edinburgh Ebook Festival 2013, Pervert by Mr If and Dead Letter Office by Anonymous.
I'm reproducing our three blog posts which appeared on their website, starting with my introduction to Philistine Press and our two books...
A couple of decades ago, giving thousands of books away for free would have been completely unthinkable for the vast majority of the population. The considerable expense would put off even the most well-meaning of philanthropists. Nowadays, e-publishing allows us to give thousands of books away for free at virtually zero cost. What’s more, anyone who has internet access can do it.
Non-profit publishing is yet to be huge, and yet to be taken seriously by its critics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next few years, many more writers begin to consider the possibility of giving their work away for free. At present, there are only a handful of non-profit e-publishers. It’s only a matter of time before more small presses have the same idea – particularly the ones that don’t make a profit in the first place.
With so much hype about the potential fortune that can be made through e-publishing, it’s unsurprising that so many small presses have chosen not to go non-profit. With the potential for your books to be purchased by millions of readers throughout the world without printing and distribution costs, it makes perfectly good sense to charge readers money, even if it’s just a token amount. However, in such a crowded marketplace, the chances of a small press or self-published author making millions through e-publishing remain slim.
Is it better to make a relatively tiny amount of money from a book which is read by a handful of people, or to make zero pounds and zero pence, but reach an audience of thousands? I know which one I’d choose, because I’ve chosen it. I’m a non-profit publisher, and proud of it.
The two ebooks Philistine Press are launching as part of the Edinburgh Ebook Festival – Pervert by Mr If, and Dead Letter Office by Anonymous – are fine examples of the beauty of non-profit literature.
Pervert is a work of confessional prose, which is – or at least claims to be – a factual account of a short, explosive period in the author’s life. Mr If writes with no regard for the sensitivity of his readers, and with no fear of being censored. This is the third book we’ve published by Mr If (it’s part three of the Entertainment Trilogy, and apparently the last book he’s ever going to write). We’ve had a great response to his first two books, despite – or, perhaps, because of – the author’s complete lack of subtlety. There are no metaphors, no hidden meanings, no ambiguities, and no apology for their absence. When Mr If says he wants to have sex with his mother, he genuinely means he wants to have sex with his mother. This would be a difficult book to sell to a mainstream publisher. Mr If isn’t interested in being mainstream, and makes every effort not to be.
Mr If may have a secret identity, but at the very least, we know he’s a "Mr". The author of the sublime poetry collection, Dead Letter Office is so anonymous that even I don’t know whether the person I’ve been corresponding with is male or female. With "Anonymous," it’s all about the work, not the author. Dead Letter Office and the author’s previous collection, Exiled on Main Street, which we published in 2012, are accompanied by the message:
“You are encouraged to use this work in any way you see fit. Steal it, borrow it, take parts and make something new, rearrange it, riff on it, send it out over the internet, blog it, post it on telephone poles, throw it away. There is no copyright, no expectation of credit. Poetry should be free.”
As much as I admire this approach, speaking as a writer, I’m somewhat less revolutionary. I wouldn’t want anyone to rip off what I’ve written, alter it and pass it off as their own work. I’d imagine the majority of writers wouldn’t.
But, as Pervert and Dead Letter Office demonstrate, non-profit literature isn’t about the majority. It’s there as an alternative. It may be revolutionary, but its intention isn’t to destroy the industry. It’s there to provide an alternative which didn’t exist until relatively recently. It’s for people who can’t find anything on the bestseller lists that appeals to them. It’s there who wouldn’t ordinarily read books. Above all, it’s there for anyone who loves literature.
I can’t claim to be purist when it comes to being non-profit. I’d never advise anyone to firmly commit themselves to one form of publishing or another. My short story collection, A History of Sarcasm (Dog Horn 2009), and my forthcoming novel, Winter is Better Than Summer (Aqueous Books 2014) are both paid-for titles. I published my novel, The Prodigals, through Philistine Press in 2011 because the opportunity was too good to miss. My advice to writers is, take whatever opportunities are available to you. If a print publisher wants to sign you up, go for it. The opportunity to self-publish your work online is always there, and in many cases it’s a better option than going through a conventional publisher. Make your choices wisely. Dismissing the idea of non-profit publishing altogether means there’s one less option on the table.
One final word on the subject: not making money means not having to worry about how many books you’re going to sell. It offers authors the freedom to take more risks. You can say whatever you want in whatever way you want. Readers should take note as well as writers. The highly-recommended self-published writer pixelnyx (http://pixelnyx.com) is a prime example of an unrestricted author.
Of course, an author’s work doesn’t have to be controversial, experimental or “cutting edge”. A good book is a good book, whether it’s free or not. If it’s available for anyone in the world with a computer to read or download without paying for it, all the better.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Philistine Press, visit www.philistinepress.com for lots of free stuff.
Feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next wave of submissions begins in January 2014.