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'The power has shifted'

21 January 2013

 'There is an idea that the birth of the self-published writer implies the death of the agent and publisher (sometimes one and the same person, nowadays). It's not uncommon to hear it said that editors in big corporations are so pressured by the bottom line and bean-counting suits that they no longer take risks: only the editor/owner of a little independent press can afford to take a chance on a new writer or support him/her through the long-term business of establishing a reputation and growing sales.

I wouldn't like to think this is true. Personally, I know and admire many agents and writers who sincerely love quality writing, who promote it with true passion and will stick with a writer in hopes that the next manuscript will be the breakthrough book. But what I do think is true is that the writer now has the power to disengage from the traditional publishing process, to put the work out there as a matter of faith (and, frankly, luck) that it will find a readership. It probably will, and the chances are that it will fare as well in digital form as it would have fared in hardback or paperback. Like most things, a book will find its own level.

The power has shifted from editor to author, from writers being reactive to the authority of editors to authors being proactive in their own interests. The slush pile, for sure, has moved of its own volition. In the great slush pile that is Kindle, Nook, Kobo or any other digital dung heap, there are - as there have always been - jewels to be discovered. It's just that they no longer come automatically, as the sole point of entry, to the agents' or editors' desks. Googling for the next generation of writers who are launching themselves into cyberspace on blogs, websites and social networks, the editors are out there, star trekking, boldly going in search of new literary life forms that are have already begun to invent their own survival strategies.'

Iain Finlayson, author of Blood Month in Bookbrunch