SXSW Dreaming

The deadline for submitting panel proposals for South by Southwest Interactive kind of snuck up on me. I learned just before midnight last Friday that the deadline was midnight on Sunday. It turned out that I had a bunch of stuff to do on Saturday and Sunday, so only spent a few hours Sat & Sun evening working on my panel proposal. The hard limit for the proposal was 1,500 characters. My first draft was twice as long. So as the clock ticked towards midnight Sunday I took out my trusty machete and started hacking.

I’m not really happy with the final proposal I submitted, but I thought the 3,000 character draft wasn’t that bad. In any event, it’s a panel that I would like to be on, or, failing that, attend.

So anyway, below you’ll find longer draft, the “before machete” version. Soon enough, I hope, you’ll see my “after machete” version on the SXSW website & I’ll bug yzall for your votes. Thanks.

Self-Publishing Novelists 2011: A Report from the Trenches.

We’ve been hearing for a while that new technologies for authoring, designing, printing, publishing, marketing, distributing and consuming books will disrupt the traditional book publishing business model and empower the everyman self-publisher.

According to this narrative, the combined effect of new technologies will be to blast open the floodgates that have been simultaneously protecting readers from hordes of hack writers and arbitrarily keeping down literary geniuses whose works don’t fit into obvious conventional pigeonholes.

With Print-On-Demand technology for paper books, services like Smashwords for converting electronic books to different ebook formats; with distribution channels such as Amazon and the Apple Store to connect book sellers with book buyers, and with devices like the Kindle, iPad and Nook for readers to consume books anywhere, it has become fashionable to say that writers no longer need publishing houses, that the poisonous stigma attached to self-published books is losing its venom. But is it true?

This panel brings together four writers who are explicitly concerned with the novel/novella form. We’re not merely self-publishing writers, we’re self-publishing novelists. We are thus custodians of an art form that many observers consider under threat by the very technologies that open the marketplace to anybody at all who claims that their manuscript is a novel.

For every J.K Rowling, a hundred marginally successful novelists have thrown in the towel. As sales of electronic books catch up and surpass sales of paper books, as the number of android phones and iPads dwarfs the number of big-screen personal computers, and if traditional publishers die, how shall novelists and the novel itself survive?

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