Confessions of a Literary Slut

I’m a slut. That is to say, I am happy to bestow my favours for free upon anyone who asks.

You see, I wrote this science-fiction novel called Sybernika which is set in the near future and explores – amongst other things – the impact that faster and cheaper computers will have on society. It is an edgy work, in that it has much that certain people might find offensive – sex, violence, swearing and other fun stuff.

Little wonder then that publishers who were keen to publish the book (three of them) also demanded I make changes to ‘tone things down’ as it were. This I felt I could not do without damaging the integrity of my work. (Precious, I know, but it’s not my fault that I care .)

I was beginning to despair of finding a publisher for my baby when I stumbled upon Philistine Press, a truly remarkable outfit. What makes them different to most publishers is that they give it away.

Yep. You heard. They give it away.

Now why the heck would they want to do that?

To quote from their website: ‘We’re here to publish material that wouldn’t ordinarily be published by mainstream presses, or accepted by the literary establishment.’

Frank Burton, Philistine’s founder and head honcho, thinks giving it away is a great idea. His reasoning being that very, very few books make a worthwhile amount of money and it’s better to give away a 1,000 books than to sell a half dozen for a couple of quid each.

You can see his point, can’t you?

And with the profit motive out of the way, there’s no need to pander to the market place. So you don’t have to follow trends and (more importantly) you don’t have to impose censorship on your authors.

I realised at once that Philistine was the perfect home for Sybernika.

Thankfully, Philistine agreed and now Sybernika is out there – untamed, uncensored and willing to go with anyone who asks.

The book was (kinda) launched last March at the Not the Oxford Literary Festival fringe event held in the fabulous Albion Beatnik book shop in Oxford. After Frank gave a speech detailing Philistine’s activities and rationale, I gave a short reading from Sybernika.

Also present was Banana the Poet whose Endaxi Press publishes poetry.  She was quite adamant that Endaxi would never contemplate selling its books for nothing. Part of her reasoning was that if you give it away, nobody appreciates it.

The lady has a point.

I suspect Sybernika has ‘outsold’ any of Endaxi’s books by a factor of 100. But how many of the people who’ve downloaded Sybernika will actually read it? Very few.

Each Endaxi book, however, will be read at least once and probably several times by several people.

So why go down the free route?

In the case of Sybernika, I had two prime motives. The first I’ve already mentioned: I did not want my baby butchered to suit somebody else’s middle class sensibilities. My second motive was, of course, exposure.

With everybody and their brother inflicting their work on the Internet, it’s very hard to get noticed. Quite frankly, I’m not sure of the best way to go about it and I seriously doubt anyone else does. And there’s no point studying the journey of the best sellers – 50 Shades of Gray etc…– because they make it more by luck than judgement. What works for one person doesn’t for thousands of others and may never work again for the person for whom it did work in the first place.

So what’s a boy to do?

I’ve gone for a scatter-gun approach. With every new book I put out there, I try something different. So I have books that are self-published, books that are published through publishing houses such as Philistine and Musa, free books, cheap books, not so cheap books, ebooks, paperbacks, books on Smashwords and books on  Kindle Direct. On top of that, I have this (woefully neglected) blog and I whore myself on Facebook where I have over 1,000 ‘friends’.

Now all I can do is hope for that elusive breakthrough where some sort of dark alchemy kicks in and word-of-mouth creates a buzz for me and my work.

And in the meantime, I’m more than happy to give it away for free . At least some of the time.

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About Patrick Whittaker

I'm a writer and director of the occasional short film. Although a Londoner, I'm based in Blackpool on the north east coast of England.

Posted on December 23, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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