Thursday, 6 September 2012

50 shades of post festival blues... no way.



‘The immediate enemies of truthfulness, and hence of freedom of thought, are the press lords, the film magnates, and the bureaucrats, but [that] on a long view the weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves is the most serious symptom of all.’ (Orwell, 1946)

Some said it couldn’t be done. Some said it shouldn’t be done. But we just went ahead and did it anyway. That’s what being an ‘indie’ can mean.  You stop listening to the nay-sayers and the doom-mongers and those with a vested interest in your failure and you publish anyway. I’ve yet to see if I’m damned as a consequence of publishing but I’m damned sure that the First Edinburgh eBook Festival was well worth the effort.

In case you were under a stone, or away on holiday, or otherwise culturally engaged: From 11th -27th August, running concurrently (but in no way connected to the ‘real’ Edinburgh Book Festival’) the first Edinburgh eBook Festival was held.

This was a festival with a difference. The festival that comes to you. Experienced free and delivered direct via the internet to your pc/mac/ereader or smartphone.  Offering up to 8 discrete ‘events’ each day and with 43 contributing ‘indie’ writers participating, it redefined the way book festivals could be thought of. 

Virtually the coolest  festival around
It was bold, it was cool,  it was daring, but was it a success?  If you call 9,000 visits a ‘success’ then yes it was.  One of the big problems for ‘indie’ writers is visibility and certainly the festival offered a platform for visibility.  Stats make it quite hard to assess how many actual ‘people’ visited the site but we raised the profile of ‘indie’ writers during the festival through social media, appearing on The Passive Voice several times and giving a wee Guerrilla Midgie ‘buzz’ to the World Writers Conference as well as incurring the wrath of some individuals and companies who shall remain nameless but who have big problems with writers as publishers.  We may not have ‘trended’ on twitter or got the engagement of a huge worldwide audience but we did it all on a budget of £0 and with just 4 weeks preparation. It was more a guerrilla ambush than a ‘shock and awe’ attack but it proved that it can be done.

A satirist for a generation 
And out of all this arose a new satirist. At times engaging with the wider and ‘real’ publishing world from the perspective of an ‘indieWAP’ feels likes being bullied in the Primary School playground and lest we take it all too seriously, Jack MacRoary (The Bard of TattyBogle) emerged from the ranks of the digital masses to give his take on literature and ‘the making of culture’ in 21st century Scotland.  You can buy his ebook on Amazon or Kobo and more are in the pipeline.

The lesson I hope that has been learned from this eBook Festival is:  you say fight back, we say write back.  As writers our best weapon is our e-pen.  Our ability to just write and publish, irrespective of those who are trying to demolish, denigrate and destroy freedom of creativity which is a feature of the epublishing ‘revolution.’ What became clear throughout the festival was that the days of self-publishing being dismissed as purely vanity publishing are long gone and the rear-guard action of those who decry the notion of the ‘indieWAP’ (writer as publisher) is becoming more and more clearly that, a desperate attempt to hold back the tide through tactics of denigration and at times pure insult!  

The eBook Festival is over for this year (though you can still pick up on a lot of the stories, poems and articles by browsing your way through the site HERE) but will be back next year stronger and more challenging.  A year is a long time in publishing and it’s impossible to say what battles will be being fought and what modes of delivery will be possible. But we’ll be in there, the vanguard of the ‘indieWAP’, showing that there is plenty of quality writing out there and that what makes a book a ‘good’ book is neither determined nor defined by financial ‘success’ or by mainstream publisher ‘acceptance’. We are redefining the marketplace. Our goal is to find new ways of achieving unmediated relationships between writers and readers, to the mutual benefit of both.  No wonder some of the middlemen and ‘gatekeepers’ are keen to silence us. They won’t. We are the future.  Lest we forget, readers and writers are the key stakeholders in publishing. It’s our world too. We don’t want to be in a fight. We don’t relish being on a battlefield BUT we are going to keep on writing and publishing and defending our right to creative expression. For us, publishing is more than a ‘marketplace’ and we think there’s room enough for everyone to participate in the cultural activity that is the relationship publishing mediates.

You'll have said your piece
As part of the eBook Festival 12 ‘indieWAP’s’ gave their views/opinions and thoughts on publishing and these have been published as an ebook (it seemed only appropriate!) We wanted this to be a free publication. Which means it’s not available through the big distributors!  But the Free ebook Writers Pieces is available on request. Just send an email to indieebookreview@btinternet.com letting us know what format (Kindle or epub) you want your copy in and we’ll send you the file to download to your ereader/computer.

And what about IEBR?  Well, hosting the festival now being over, we’ve moved onto a new Autumn schedule. We will still be posting reviews 3 times a week but have opened submissions again via a Facebook Page. We’ve swelled the ranks of our regular reviewers and we will be instigating ‘second opinion’ reviews (where an ebook already has one review, it may have more than one if more than one reviewer wants to post their review) and a ‘browse the bookshelf’ feature on a regular basis.  And coming up in October there is a week long special on Mental Health (7th-14th October) to tie in with World Mental Health Day on October 10th.   At the moment there’s a lot of furore in the media about the ‘gold star’ system, about ‘bullying’ of reviewers and about ‘paying’ for reviews or ‘cheating’ on reviews. None of this comes as a surprise to IEBR (that’s the reason it was set up after all!) But it seems a good time to remind you of the value of IEBR. That reviews are impartial and written without fear or favour. No money is involved. And the peer review system means that writers with experience and track records are reviewing the work of other writers, giving a positive critical appraisal of ‘indie’ published work.   We believe our reasons for running the site this way are sound – and the more you read of the other approaches, the more we hope you’ll agree with us.  So please, don’t forget to tell people about IEBR and what it stands for and what it’s doing for indieWAP’s.  No one else is going to promote us or shout out for us, we have to stand up and be counted ourselves. Time to throw off the cloak of invisibility and work together in a positive way to change perceptions of our ‘sector’ of the marketplace. While preserving our creative right to express ourselves through publishing.

Cally Phillips (Festival Director and Editor of IEBR) 

2 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

Well said, Cally. You are a real champion of all Indie writers.

julia jones said...

I do think attitudes are changing and events like the e-book fest are helping to achieve this. I was chatting to a long-term editor from Granta last week and telling her about the Edinburgh e- events. How interesting, she said, how enterprising, Not a hint of a sneer - and my sneer detector is a highly sensitive instrument.