Arts

Turning a page on future book publishing

Photo: Chloee Detchou

Book publishing has entered an exciting new chapter.

The digital age and the rise of the e-book has prophesied the demise of the physical novel—but the reality is much more promising.

Physical books still account for 82 per cent of book sales in Canada. Technology hasn’t changed the format in which we prefer to read—not yet, anyway—but rather has transformed the relationship between publishers, authors, and their audiences.

Cynthia Good is a leader in the Canadian publishing industry who was appointed the first editorial director-turned-president at Penguin Books Canada. Good now teaches at Humber College, and stopped by the University of Ottawa for a guest lecture on March 5.

Her talk was directed at students who are interested in a writing career to provide insight on how the publishing business has changed dramatically in the last decade. Good described how technology has created a platform on which authors and readers can exchange ideas and create stories that go on to become bestsellers.

She said YouTube, Wattpad, GoodReads, and Twitter are essential Internet tools for aspiring writers to connect with an audience and establish a fan base that can provide them with feedback. It’s a phenomenon called consumer insight; readers are now able to play an active role in the types of stories and novels that are being published.

“It’s a return to traditional storytelling,” Good said during her talk. “The audience can be involved in the development of the narrative.”

Amazon has been the catalyst for this new collaboration between authors and their fans. The retailer has become the authority on many aspects of the industry including sales, book pricing, and what goes to print.

Publishing companies like Penguin Random House and Harper Collins had to refocus and change their branding. Publishing houses are no longer searching for a good storythey want instant bestsellers.

Good said amateur authors should not only hone their skill, but also share their work with the public and build a media presence before their work is even published. Authors now have to be willing to take a proactive role in editing and marketing their book before sending it off to any publisher for review, she said.

“We no longer want hard copies of the manuscripts,” said Lara Mainville, director of the University of Ottawa Press, in an interview. “We want copy editors to track changes, and authors to approve these and comment them in on Word.”

Mainville said there’s indeed a shift in the industry with how work is sent to their publishing house, and how it is stored for future editions.

“We are looking at various options to fully take advantage of technology which would enable us extract print files, e-book files in various formats, and future-proof them for when we need to …  create new editions.”

Long gone are the days of hastily stapling together your first draft and sending it off in hopes of it becoming a bestseller. Authors are expected to be involved an all aspects of the process, Good said. And business intellect plays a crucial role, keeping the author in control of his or her work throughout the publishing process.  It means authors, readers, and publishers come together with one voice to make stories stand out from the page.