The March of the Storytellers

You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it – Margaret Atwood.

One of the privileges of living at this moment in history is the window technology provides onto how trends move. I’ve worked in the “publishing industry” for over two decades and until recently barely ever encountered an author. Now, courtesy of Twitter, not an hour goes by without continual reminders of how authors are speaking up, and shaking up received wisdom on what the process of publishing actually is.

Of course neither the debate, nor the action, belongs to authors alone. This is an upheaval of many moving parts, business models, technologies, intellects, professionals and laymen: all to an extent equalised by communications technology. But what I find fascinating is how, with the vocal contributions and decisive actions of authors like Hugh Howey, Joanna Penn, and many others, we find ourselves in a place where the storytellers are making a considerable part of the running when it comes to deciding how the business of selling original content will look in the future. (At the same time some of those publishers who have traditionally monetised content are running on ahead to curation and contextual services.) Until about five years ago, authors, with a few notable exceptions (for exceptions, thinkĀ Susan Hill and Long Barn Books) , were often more like a publisher’s customers than their content partners, or even their competitors. Since then, the tectonic plates have surely shifted.

I’ve been invited to chair a session on distribution at the forthcoming London Author Fair on February 28th, so I’m looking forward to meeting more of the storytellers who are helping shape a new narrative for the book industry. And in the meantime, if you’re an author I’d appreciate feedback on what you want to know about how the book industry supply chain works and is changing. It’ll help me do my homework and come prepared.

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