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Arthur Plotnik on the future of e-books

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Interview with Arthur Plotnik

Arthur Plotnik was kind enough to answer a few questions directly for Down the Writer’s Path. This segment continues an interview that runs the rest of the week. Plotnik is the author of the newly released, Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style. Copyright Vikk Simmons, 2006.

Digitized publishing is growing. Libraries now actively acquire e-books. Any thoughts on the future of electronic publishing? Will it have any influence on writing style?

I think e-books will take hold—given how the industry is pushing them and improving the reading devices, and how Gen-Y is conditioned to the medium. Libraries find they fit the research parameters of many of today’s students—“Dude, like if it don’t be on the screen, it ain’t worth checkin’ out.” Publishers would love e-pubs to displace print and all its costs and bizarre logistics; but, with the help of Barnes & Noble, Borders, and beautiful readers, e-books will remain only an alternative to bound books for some time.

Again, good writing is good writing—more spunky and bitey today, perhaps, than was necessary in a less frenetic media environment. In e-books, however, readers may be inclined to skip around more, auto-searching names and topics and following links. All that painstaking development writers put into an idea, a character, an ambience, may be lost on such “viewers”—but there will still be readers who come to writing to be stimulated or transported by cumulative effects.

A cautinary note: When signing a publishing contract, make sure e-book terms and royalties are spelled out, including what happens when the publishing house is sold.

Self-publishing and now POD (print on demand) books are two growing avenues toward publication that entice many new writers. What are your thoughts on this part of the industry? Should writers be cautious?

Cautious yes, but not dismissive. “Cooperative” or “collaborative” publishing has improved so much since the “vanity”days when writers were bilked out of ten grand or so for a pile of hideous-looking, unedited books.

Publishers like iUniverse seem to be pretty up-front on terms. They’re affordable and efficient. The production quality is good, the POD a great alternative. Extra services, for extra fees, are well delivered. The sole illusion, perhaps, is marketing. I think the only marketing that’s going to sell such books is your own—an intrepid campaign of appearances, e-mailing, blogging, begging, and strategic shipping of press releases and copies. Although self-published authors have to live with the stigma of second-class citizenry, some mainstream reviewers (such as Booklist) are starting to respond to (deft) appeals for attention. It all sounds daunting, but hey—it’s pretty much do-it-yourself marketing with trade publishers, too, at least until you’re a brand name.

There are still a few few scoundrels out there, by the way. Beware of little-known publishers who ask to see your manuscript, then send a series of letters expressing their mounting excitement over your work, each time hinting that you’ll have to take a greater part ($$) in this can’t-fail cooperative venture. Who can resist someone getting all flushed and trembly over their novel? But, of course, it’s a faked orgasm.

If you’ve come to the interview late, be sure you read the previous posts this week and the one by Brigit Ganske from last week. Check out Spunk & Bite and see for yourself why so many are praising Plotnik’s latest work. You might also want to check out Art’s website, Spunky’s Blogrr, and, Plotnik’s official bio. If you haven’t already, read my review of The Elements of Authorship then return for more soundbites from the Great Plotnik!

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