Taking advantage of some of the amazing technology that has helped make the self-publishing revolution possible, I’m posting up today the text of the speech I made to launch the Alliance of Independent Authors’ groundbreaking new book, “Opening Up To Indie Authors”, which I’ve co-authored with the wonderful Dan Holloway, under the wise editorship of the visionary Orna Ross.
More detail will follow on the ALLI blog tomorrow, including an extract from the book, but for the moment, sufficient to say it was a really successful launch, kindly hosted by the fabulous Kobo team in their vast and elegant stand at the heart of the exhibition hall. The picture of me here looking unspeakably pleased with myself is the result of having self-publishing superhero Hugh Howey congratulate me straight afterwards, saying “That was the best talk I’ll hear all year.” (I’d just read the closing chapter of the book, after my speech.)
You can read that chapter on the ALLi blog tomorrow, and I’ll add a link to it here once it’s gone live, but for now, here’s my speech. (You can also read Dan Holloway’s, which preceded it, on his blog http://www.danholloway.wordpress.com, where there’s also a great group selfie that he took of the team with Hugh Howey and Jessica Bell.)
Dan mentioned his theological training, which, although now overwrittten by atheism, provides valuable reference points for the Open Up To Indies campaign. I’d like now to touch on my own background, because it’s shaped the way I approached the task of co-authoring this book with Dan and Orna.
As my bio in the back of the book explains. I fell into self-publishing almost by accident. Like the curious Alice falling down the rabbit-hole, I stepped out one day and found myself in this extraordinary Wonderland in which old laws had been overturned, new rules were rising up, and I could never be entirely sure of what was coming next.
The Alice analogy is particularly apposite because not only are Alice’s adventures my favourite books of all time, but also Lewis Carroll self-published them. And having discovered self-publishing, my life, like Alice’s, will never be the same again. This has to be the most exciting age ever in which to be an author.
Sadly, I was persuaded by my school careers advisors. Long before the heady arrival of the modern self-publishing age, that my childhood ambition to become an author was unrealistic. I therefore channelled my love of writing into a career largely spent in public relations.
Public relations is all about fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between clients and the various parties who determine their success – not only the end-user of a product or service but anybody who may influence that end-user’s purchasing decision: the rest of the industry, the trade media, national press, Joe Public -whatever.
Co-authoring this book required me to tread that same old PR ground again. It was an exercise in stepping beyond my self-published author’s mindset to empathise with the parties that influence that important end-user of all authors’ products: the reader. It was about viewing the bookshop from the other side of the till; seeing the literary festival from the frantic desk of the event manager; perceiving librarians as mire than just the people who stamp your ticket.
Empathising with others is something that comes naturally to authors. But empathising is not always easy or straightforward, as I learned very early on in my first flirtations with PR: when I took on the role of playground peacemaker.
As a child, I instinctively wanted to help people get along. I wanted to unite people in friendship and cooperation and eradicate playground conflict. I remember spending one school dinner time being pursued round the school playing field by two angry groups of previously feuding girls. They were cross with me because in the hope of restoring their friendship, I’d told each separately – and inaccurately – that the other one wanted to apologise for the conflict. Appreciating their former adversaries’ apparent conciliatory attitude, they immediately made up. And then were after my blood when they realised I’d duped them.
Back to the present, I don’t think that my part in this book will inspire aggrieved gangs to chase me around the aisles of the London Book Fair. Instead, I hope I’ve helped build ling-term partnerships between all those parties who aim to bring great books into readers’ lives. Because books change lives. Books change lives for the better. And ultimately, the desire to do that is what unites all the parties served by this book: the desire to present great reading experienced that will change the lives of book lovers all over the world.
I’m confident that ALLi’s Open Up To Indies campaign and the Opening Up to Indie Authors guidebook, will only do good in making the wider world more receptive to self-published authors’ books, and so enable us all to change lives for the better through the power of the written word.
So let’s get out there and spread word about the campaign, and then – spread OUR words. Because together we can.