Thursday, 3 January 2013

Sparks:A Year in E-Publishing by Authors Electric. Review by Penny Dolan.

Hello. There’ll be a review by Adele Geras along tomorrow, but for the moment, having now read the whole book, here are a few more thoughts on the Sparks anthology I mentioned when opening Awfully Big Reviews for 2013.

The Sparks anthology was created from a selection of posts from the Authors Electric blog, so is, appropriately, an e-book. Now there have been many books created from personal blogs and journalist’s blogs before. Nicola Morgan’s helpful “Want To Be Published?” is just one example.  I am sure there are some by bread-bakers, avid knitters and railway enthusiasts as well as others by people who just lead what could be called Interesting Lives. The Sparks anthology is one example of this phenomenon.

What I most enjoyed about the Sparks anthology was the diversity, which made it ideal for a page-or-two-before-sleep reading or a quick moment during a sandwich. Sparks is not a single voice following through the incidents of a life but a collection of post contributed during the time Authors Electric, a co-operative blog, has been running. The pieces come from writers who work mainly for adult or Y/A/teen readers, so this is not a children’s book.

Excuse me – I still struggle to find indexes and headings on my kindle – but each of the chapters, headed by the famous Blott cartoons, offer a selection of opinions, experiences, histories and reflections on the future of publishing and obviously, the posts come from committed e-book enthusiasts.

Collected together, so one doesn’t have to click or search through the AE blog, the pieces have a fresh, lively and sometimes confrontational quality. The posts – or should they now be called articles? – cover a variety of topics. A well-argued post in support of Amazon. A rightly angry post on cyber-bullying. A post that declares the e-book arena should be home to experimental and un-edited writing but having seen some un-edited writing, I am not sure I agree with this opinion. The tale of a new e-published historical series. An urgent call for e-book writers to be generous and review other e-books. And many more. The anthology is not an amateur thing, though it was clearly made with love and enthusiasm. Sparks was written by many acclaimed and award-winning authors who have opted for publishing o/p titles electronically, with or without help, as an alternative to publishing silence.

The Sparks anthology is not perfect but it should certainly be celebrated as a bold brave and interesting publication model – and a lot of work on several people’s part.

I did wish there could have been more posts, more ideas raised in the pages, but maybe that would have involved the whole issue of selection rather than a post per person – or maybe the posts don’t arrive daily? In addition, some posts still carry the marketing angle of their blog-post origins, but there is a honesty about this, and the final section – the biographies – did have plenty of information about the contributors.

All the same, reading through the variety of experience and wealth of publishing histories, I did wonder once again quite what publishers do want just now and why such writers - just search out the names - are having a hard time. Sparks is a grand and honourable experiment and offers a valuable glimpse of one future of publishing worth exploring.

Recently, I have been using my kindle rather than idly buying magazines – though other magazines are available – and feel that 99p or so was a small sum well spent downloading a very interesting idea. Well done, Authors Electric.

Hmmm. There’s definitely a lot of work involved. Not sure if it would be worth doing this for Awfully Big Blog Adventure, although it is an idea . . .

Penny Dolan



Nicola Morgan said...

Hi Penny - big thanks for mentioning my book but do you mind if I correct the title? It's Write to be Published... :)

Susan Price said...

Hi Penny - Sue Price of the Authors Electric blog here. Thanks for the generous review! I know the rest of the team will be appreciative.
The Authors Electric Collective are a team of 29 writers, who each post a blog a month at the Do Authors Dream of Electric Books? blog. The one or two days at the end of each month are kept for guest bloggers.
Our subject is writing, publishing e-books, writing, and, er writing. We can be followed on Twitter @AuthorsElectric, and found on Facebook. We also have a website, where you can find details of all our e-books.

Susan Price said...

Oh, and I should say that producing the Anthology WAS a huge amount of work, and thanks should go to Julia Jones, editor; Stephanie Zia, publisher; Pauline Fisk and Kathleen Jones, proof-readers - and to my brother, Adam Price, for providing the Blott cartoons.

Penny Dolan said...

Thank you, Sue & Nicola, for filling in the information and correcting my mistakes as well as putting some names and titles into the gaps.

My excuse is that I wanted to get the post up in the gap before the next review arrives!

Pauline Fisk said...

Hello Penny,

Really pleased to read this thoughtful review, though not so sure about the bit about publishing silence. My feeling is that Authors Electric, more than anything, reflects an enthusiasm to seize new opportunities. Some authors may be in it because of a downturn in their fortunes in the traditional publishing marketplace, but others are here simply because this is the chance to try something new [I'd place myself in this category] and yet a good number of others because the e-book future is something they feel passionately is here and they want to be a part of it. I hope Sparks reflects all these views.

Alexander Coder said...

This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

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Digital Publishing Expert said...

Your review on these books is greatly appreciated. More reviews please! :)

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