Monday, April 02, 2007

Hellish Good Writing Gets an Alternative

The Observer reports an interesting and potentially exciting answer to an author problem discussed here recently, the difficulty of getting one's most innovative or challenging work published in an era of rampant commercialisation.

Rare book dealer Laurence Johns, Faber editor Lee Brackstone and Kevin Conroy Scott of the Wylie literary agency have launched a new project, To Hell with Publishing, which will embrace a limited edition traditional print literary journal, events with music and readings, and independently published books. The mission behind it all is, according to Johns, to create a literary community and to 'make it easer for writers and readers to communicate', as well as to allow authors to 'wrest back their creative freedom from the accountants' and to 'show work that ordinarily trade and mainstream publishers wouldn't publish', all beside finding 'space for new writers.'

This sounds great, and as far as the Bitch is concerned is truly innovative, at least in concept, since up to now, as I have pointed out previously, most alternative 'new writing schemes' have been concentrated on new writers, rather than on writing, and there has been no outlet for the work by more established writers which mainstream publishers, in their wisdom or folly (Who knows? But we should get a chance to judge for ourselves), deem uncommercial.

As the Observer points out, there's a clear precedent in the activities around Dave Eggers' US McSweeney's magazine, but there are already moves in this direction in the UK. My own publisher, Salt, is using innovative techniques to sell poetry and short stories and is about to begin a similar series of events in London's Whitechapel Gallery.

On Friday a standing-room-only Salt reading in Manchester provided the opportunity for several of us Salt authors to get together and plan further events, and seemed to prove that there are audiences eager to interact with writers in creative communities of this kind. (And it's not that it was non-commercial: a fair number of the authors' books were sold.)
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