Obscurity

24 10 2008

So tonight was the Neil Gaiman talk at the Open Rights Group event in Clerkenwell.

I spent this morning writing but to be honest it wasn’t happening. I produced a short story of around fourteen hundred words but it wasn’t very good and I had been aiming to produce a piece of flash. I guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Hence no flash today, apologies.*

I spent the afternoon generally hanging around central London with my sister, S, before heading over to Clerkenwell where G joined us for drinks. From there it was a short stumble to the Crypt where the talk took place.

We were fortunate to be near the front of the queue and so got good seats with a direct view of the stage, good for S as she hadn’t seen Neil speak live before. The talk set out the argument that in the current media landscape the greatest threat new, and indeed existing, writers face is obscurity rather than the risk of their material being distributed for free. Neil argued, with nods to Cory Doctorow where appropriate, that pass-along-readers are how the majority of people discover their favourite authors. Although those people may not pay for the initial read they’re quite likely to then go out and buy most of said writer’s back catalogue.

As a case in point Neil talked about the effect his American Gods and Neverwhere experiments had on his sales at independent bookstores around America (it increased them). He also pointed out that releasing The Graveyard Book for free in the form of video files of his reading tour did not seem to have hurt his sales in the US. It was a remarkably cogent talk for a man who only got off a plane a few hours before and had spent the afternoon in a cemetery.

The floor was thrown open to questions. I was particularly interested in Neil’s view of what new writers needed to do versus what he’d had to do in order to try and get his material read. Aside from a totally inappropriate urge to wave the Friday Flash banner, Neil’s answer did make me realise that I should probably capitalise on my digital marketing skills rather more than I do at the moment. Neil did a particularly good job of handling an awkward question around his past views on copyright and trademark.

And then it was done.

*Although I am riffing around with stuff now and so who knows?








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