filed under How To Write A Book.

Every so often, an article is published that sets fear into the heart of writers. The article will point the finger at the digital age and blame it for a range of issues confronting writers. Some recent articles are:

  • Val McDermid’s statement that she would be a failed novelist if she’d started today, because writers are expected to have big first or second books and publishers are no longer patient with the writer who takes more time to find their feet
  • Lionel Shriver outlining in hilarious detail exactly what is expected of a successful author these days, which mostly isn’t writing; it’s about performance
  • A piece from the Australian Society of Authors about why spending time on building a personal brand, which we are all told as authors is important, could actually be a waste of time
  • The Wheeler Centre’s piece on bookstores closing down and the strategies bookstores are using to “survive the digital age”
  • The Guardian’s analysis of Amazon’s launch of an Australian kindle store and it’s dominance of the Australian market as an ebook retailer

I know that all of the points raised in these articles are valid. But isn’t there also a positive side to the digital age for writers? Aren’t there also reasons to be optimistic?

A Special Event

A very special event that’s happening today tells me there is reason to be optimistic. Author Annabel Smith is launching her third book, The Ark. After traditionally publishing her first two books, she decided to self-publish her third because she couldn’t get the publisher interest she needed to go down the mainstream route. Ten years ago, her options would have been limited. Today, she’s been able to bring her book to market.

And The Ark is a book that goes hand in hand with the digital age. It’s a fabulously designed e-book that also has an interactive app to go with it. You can check it out here.

Opportunities for Writers in the Digital Age

And it’s partly seeing what Annabel has been able to do, and it’s partly a result of a shift in my thinking but, eighteen months or so ago, I was the author reading all of the articles about the doom and gloom of the digital age for writers and I was worried. I saw it as a threat, something that would destabilise my future.

I’ve come full circle to become an author who views the digital age with excitement. Without the digital age, I wouldn’t have been able to develop my online Scrivener course that has been selling beyond my expectations (thanks to everyone who’s bought it so far!)

I have so many other ideas up my sleeve, things which wouldn’t have been possible for me to do a few years ago. I won’t bore you with all the details here but look out for more online courses and hopefully some writing e-books over the next year or so, depending on when I have time to put all of my ideas into action!

So I encourage all writers to look for the opportunities we now have, opportunities to have more control over the kind of work we produce, when we produce it, how we produce it. We also have huge opportunities to create ways to thrive financially and creatively as writers by developing other products that go hand in hand with writing books. I’m truly enjoying being able to use my entrepreneurial skills, as well as my writing skills, and having more than one trick on my trapeze!

On Writing in the Digital Age - 7 Authors Share Their Views

What Do Other Writers Think?

I’ve joined forces with my lovely band of writers for this post and we’ve all written a response to the idea of writing in the digital age.

  • Amanda Curtin revels in the ease with which writers of historical fiction can access research information, something I’ve also loved when writing my New York book.
  • Yvette Walker, a new addition to our group, reminds us that to really be a writer, we need to value alone time, something which is at odds with the cacophony of the internet.
  • Sara Foster reminds us of how far we’ve come as writers by telling us about her experience of seeing Jane Austen’s hand-written manuscript.
  • Dawn Barker shows us how the internet can allow writers to connect with others and form relationships in a way that was impossible fifteen years ago.
  • Emma Chapman takes us on a time travel through her life on social media.
  • And Annabel, well today is all about Annabel and her wonderful book so I’ll let her tell you all about that and her experience of using the digital age to its fullest potential.

As a writer, what do you plan to do to take advantage of the digital age? Are you excited or nervous? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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12 Responses to “On Being an Author in the Digital Age”

  1. susandunn54

    I am keen to learn how to utilise the digital media to assist me to (i) write anything at all (ii) learn how to publish for an audience (iii) keep abreast of the preferred media. It is huge! I have taken part in about 3 workshops this year and have one more to complete. I look forward to more of your ideas and courses being published. 🙂

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Thanks Susan! I think that we all just need a bit of guidance and a few ideas about what possibilities there are and then we can set our creative brains working to think of ways to take advantage of those possibilities. It is a huge learning curve for us all, but definitely one I’m enjoying, which is why I like to share what I’m working on in the hopes it will give others some ideas too.

      Reply
  2. Vanessa Carnevale (@v_carnevale)

    Fantastic point Natasha. It’s taken me a while to find my groove in the digital space and I think we’re living in exciting times. I’ve shared some of my plans with you, but I feel there is lots of scope for writers and authors to fully take advantage of writing in the digital age, whether as a tool or a means of connecting more deeply with readers/fellow writers!

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Same Vanessa! I wonder why I didn’t start to find my groove earlier, but, as with all things, we can only do what we have to do when we’re ready. I think I needed to do through the doubts to see the opportunities. I’m also very excited about working with you and keeping in touch about all our new ideas. It’s so great to know someone else who is exploring these new things who I can talk to.

      Reply
  3. littleblackdressproductions

    I’m going to use the digital age and beyond to my advantage by holding onto all my real paper books (especially all the signed by the author ones) and taking them to the Antiques Roadshow in the year 2080 as rare and collectable antiquities. PS: I’m probably still the only person in the world that buys music CD’s. One of my favourite parts of buying a CD (and a book for that matter) is reading the sleeve notes and admiring the cover artwork. You don’t get that on iTunes or Amazon. I am tactile, I need tangible things in my life.
    On the other side of the fence, I embrace the digital age with all its cleverness and life-easing potential. I am a social media addict and everything I’ve written since the digital age is neatly housed in typed transferable documents.
    Still, there would still be nothing greater that seeing my novel sitting on a shelf in a bookshop! Preferably in the best-sellers section. Isn’t that secretly (or not so) what all us writers crave? 😉

    Reply
    • Keeran

      You’re not the only person to buy CDs. I do not have an MP3 player because I much prefer the physical experience of the CD; the booklet, the CD itself, the placing of it into the CD player, the spinning of the disc. I’d still like to see record players, come to that, as I have a bunch of LPs and nothing to play them on.

      Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Ha! I’d love to see that episode of Antiques Roadshow. I’m still very much a paper book reader, unless it’s a research book that I need and I can only get it as an ebook.

      And you’re right, there is nothing quite like seeing your book in a bookstore for the first time. I took photos when both of mine came out! Unfortunately, you can’t get quite that same feeling with seeing an ebook for sale on iBooks.

      Reply
  4. Keeran

    I don’t know how authors coped before the digital age, to be honest, in terms of easily available research. Even if it is just a precursor to more extensive book research, it offers one a starting point when one needs it. I’m worried about the decline of traditional publishers, however, as they have done a lot for new authors. A new author, to get published digitally as their only option is behind the eight-ball in my opinion. More experienced writers with a loyal fan base can make better use of digital publishing. And of course one has to be wary of the traps; with the rise of digital publishing has come the rise of the self-published novel. Some are gems waiting to be discovered, but far more are not diamonds, or even diamonds in the rough, but rather tired prose and tired plots. That said, the opportunities are increasing and I believe that ebooks sales will eventually outstrip hard-copy books. I’m still not adverse to hard-copy books; for example I recently read Robin Hobb’s latest “Fool’s Assassin” digitally donated to me by a friend (I use the free internet program Calibre to read ebooks) but I enjoyed it so much I bought the printed copy. So there is still room for both forms to co-exist, at least at present.

    Reply
    • Natasha Lester

      Yes, ease of research is a godsend with digitalisation. I wouldn’t have been able to access the photos and much of the research material I needed to write my last book without it. I still went to hard copy archives and I still did book based research too, but I was also able to access collections held in the US from my office.

      And I hope both forms, digital and hard copy, continue to exist. Ebooks have apparently levelled out at about 25% of the market, so it will be interesting to see if that shifts in a few years’ time.

      Reply

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