Beyond the Limits: A Planet in Crisis has become part of the 2016 Byron Writers Festival. Book and author will be in the Self-Published Marquee on Sunday 7 August from 9.30 – 11.30 a.m. This Marquee is running for the length of the Festival (5-7 August) as part of a very large program at the Elements of Byron Resort.
This Writers Festival has become a large event on Australia’s literary calendar attracting celebrities such as Bob Brown, Helen Garner, Robert Drewe, Tom Keneally, Michael Leunig, Paul Kelly, P.J. O’Rourke, Anne Summers, Julianne Schultz, Craig McGregor, Kerry O’Brian, Leigh Sales and many others as presenters. A big part of the success of this festival is the very strong contingent of politicians and journalists featured on the program - which will certainly attract ABC and SBS audiences. Followers of political heroes Bob Brown and Tony Windsor will also be rewarded by their presence, but Tim Fischer (now a successful author) is there too, so there is some ideological balance – but not a lot. Right-wingers will probably be disappointed. Do go to the Festival website if you are interested at all because my celebrity thumbnail sketch excludes many other famous (and worthy) authors and commentators.
The main point I want to raise in this blog is the importance of self-publishing as an emerging literary and critical force in the worlds of publishing. If you have ever attempted publishing with large publishers, or even wondered about the effects of moghuls such as Rupert Murdoch on an industry dominated by large corporations, then it might be obvious why self-publishing is an absolutely necessary component in today’s media world. If your work is too long, too radical, or just not likely to attract a large audience (in the fairly reliable opinions of commissioning editors) then you could be stymied right there. All that work right down the communication tubes, never to re-emerge . . . or if you are conspiratorial or suspicious, never to re-emerge as ‘yours’.
Not that I have had terrible experiences with large publishers. The biggest issue for all writers is just getting a foot in the door. I had no problem as a professional academic with colleagues and courses that might need a particular line of analysis. In the case of cultural analysis, providing one does not over-alienate a fairly left oriented Australian ‘critical’ publishing establishment, doors may open if one has the necessary fortitude to write a book. Even if you are too difficult for the local scene, there are international publishers with an interest in innovatory work. But it’s much harder if you no longer have the old networks, patrons, and institutional location ‘up front’.
Imagine my relief as a retired academic to find the self-publishing industry not only highly active but also containing genuinely helpful people with an interest in books, ideas and nice design. Things have definitely moved along from an era where self-publishing was simply about ‘vanity publishing’ at quite a steep personal cost (in dollar terms). If you have modest financial means and a strong motivation to get new or challenging ideas circulating, new media entrepreneurs offer much easier pathways than trying to participate in an industry dominated by celebrity authors and publishers all driven to make a profit - and to control the cultural landscape. This ‘old world’ is not necessarily in the best interests of ‘free thought’, challenging ideas (such as climate change and the need for economic, political and cultural change) or encouragement to critical thought as a cultural activity. No doubt a large publisher, or even a medium or small publisher, is able to best pursue distribution and marketing – and, most critically, the review process. But even then the promotional efforts of the author may be vitally important to the success of the process. However, what is lost in that ‘old’ industry are many worthy texts and ideas that just do not fit the mould. So if you are motivated most by the need to get good ideas ‘out there’, I do recommend self-publishing - the path less travelled, but still available in a free world.