Welcome to The Writing Platform! Our aim is to provide neutral information and informed opinion on digital transformations in writing, reading, and publishing. In the build-up to the launch of this site, we’ve been surveying writers on their digital needs; a complex, fascinating picture of writers today has emerged. For more on the results of the first phase of the survey, go here.
We writers live in interesting times. Great change is taking place throughout the interlinked industries we rely upon for our livelihoods – publishing and bookselling. Reading and writing themselves are changing; new devices and new platforms proliferate. Phones are as powerful as computers; being online means you can publish yourself freely, no matter how big or small your audience. While the ‘end of the book’ has long been predicted, pundits are now predicting the death of the e-reader as tablets come down in price. Bookshops are vanishing from the high street, libraries struggle to redefine themselves while fending off cuts in funding, and a battle worthy of Star Wars rages over our heads between the three major tech corporations whose rapid infiltration of the world of books threatens to overwhelm even the largest of publishers.
On the other hand, books sales continue to boom. We are living through a Golden Age of reading; the ‘heavy reader’, that figure so beloved of all writers (and described for us here by Kassia Kroszer), has greater access to a larger variety of books, at lower prices, than ever before. Passionate readers around the world make use of both local and online book clubs; writing and reading continue to be activities central to the way we define ourselves as people. Good books still find their way to readers.
As well as that, opportunities for writers who are interested in moving beyond the book are also proliferating. Away from the world of traditional writing and publishing, new hybrid forms of literature have been emerging over the past decade, and with them, new business models are appearing.
And writers continue to write. But whether we are well established in our careers, or at the very beginning, or somewhere in-between, we are all part of an industry that is in extreme flux, an industry that will, no doubt, continue to shift and change for the foreseeable future. And this ever-changing landscape is difficult to navigate. Established writers have a tradition of out-sourcing their knowledge of the publishing industry to their agents; the recommended trajectory for most writers remains as follows: write that book, get that agent, let the agent worry about the rest. Our survey has thrown up a number of interesting trends: when asked ‘Where do you find out about developments and new opportunities in writing and publishing?’, writers listed websites (85%), other writers (63%) and live events (36%), with less than ten percent mentioning publishers (9.8%). The rise of self-publishing has disrupted the writer-agent-publisher trajectory; the one key thing that the successful self-publisher possesses – and that the successful traditionally published writer often does not – is an insider’s knowledge of how to publish a book.
All writers need to be bettered informed. We need to have access to clear, neutral, information about digital transformation and how it affects us; we need access to informed opinion and debate. The internet is full of information, of course, and a new future-of-publishing event or conference takes place every couple of minutes somewhere in the world, or so it seems. But very little of this information is aimed directly at writers. And that’s where The Writing Platform comes in; a website for writers, created by people who are dedicated to sharing knowledge and information. Please feel free to get in touch with us with your questions, comments, and ideas. We are commissioning content: tell us what you need to know.