Archives for posts with tag: Reading

A former boss and mentor of mine recently referred me to an article on self-publishing. It was written by someone who had been published before, using the traditional publishing routes and methods, and now was publishing his own books. The full post is here. It’s a fascinating read, especially so if you are thinking off putting stuff out there.

This post, however, is not so much an advert for self-publishing as it is a comment or two on how technology has changed how we write, and how we consume what’s been written.

Books are changing. They’re not books any more, much of the time at least. Sometimes they’re ebooks, existing on screen but not existing physically. Sometimes they’re printed on demand, one at a time, Sometimes they’re very short, like a pamphlet. Sometimes they’re simply a blog post, like this one.

Publishing something used to be this mammoth, self-contained, one-off project that ending up with something spitting out off the presses. Now we can publish something very short, very quickly, even charge for it too, and get almost instant feedback on what readers thought of it. Web 2.0 baby, what a wonderful thing.

This same technology has also changed the way we read, our reading behaviours. We have an unending wealth of information and diversion at our fingertips. We now skim read, and have a shorter attention span, so unless what we’re reading is a compelling page turner – digitally or physically – shorter is better.

So maybe this is a misleading post title. Maybe books have already changed.

 

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A spent a few enjoyable hours the other day in the company of the excellently apostrophised and excellent Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2018. This weighty tome’s reputation precedes it, as you probably know, and justifiably so. This was my first owned copy and it is indeed an invaluable resource.

It’s true what they say, and it’s repeatedly endorsed by all the published authors who contribute guest articles: everything you need to know about publishing and getting published is in this book.

One thing that struck me though was this: is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook for young people? You wouldn’t have thought so. In fact, the readership is probably on the older side. All those people who’ve promised themselves to be true to the notion that they’ve a novel in them, now with a little more time on their hands and a still-burning ambition.

My point is this: the book is over 800 pages long and packed with useful information. Packed being the operative word, since…

..the print is tiny, really hard to read, even with reading glasses on. It’s a book for young eyes. I know it’s not simply an option to raising the point size a couple of points and making the book 1,000 or 1,200 pages long, since that might price the book at the point where people are put off. It’s a good job, though, that the information is invaluable since the size of the type is a turn-off.

Also, I have a suggestion for improving this esteemed organ. Why not have a section listing the literary agents by genre? There is a section doing the same with publishers. It should be relatively easy to do, and stops the reader having to wade through every single agent blurb to get to the nub: do they specialise in my area? This might also stop the majority of agents from the lazy, don’t-want-to-miss-the-next-big-thing catch-all of listing that they cater to ‘all’ fiction and non-fiction genres, all of whom I ignored.

Does anyone read any long articles on the web these days?

Me, I love reading books. I like reading thrillers and crime stuff last thing at night before I turn out the light. These are physical books too, with the added thrills to the senses of smell and turning real pages.

I’m only just getting used to reading books electronically. This is in part because a couple of friends have taken the self-publishing plunge and opted for Kindle only, so otherwise I wouldn’t get the chance. In part it’s also because my screen-based reading habits have changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I still read long documents for work, but I don’t read long articles on the web any more. I prefer to read small, pithy stuff and when I see web content that looks long, I give it a skip, or else try and glean the high points.

It’s also why I prefer to blog in small chunks, rather than those who only blog about once a week or fortnight and it’s a War and Peace job. Who has time for that these days? Who has the attention span for it?

The web is primarily for us to glean information, knowledge or insight, and for that we want it immediately, authoritatively and expeditiously.

 

Where do you stand, dear reader, on blog post length? I won’t tell you how many online column inches have ben devoted to this. The consensus is that it doesn’t matter, it depends. One thing they all seem to agree on, however, is that longer posts get linked to more often.

The conclusion they draw is that longer posts are therefore better. I take issue with this and offer a different explanation. The reason is tl;dr syndrome. Too long; didn’t read. People are busy, too busy to read long posts, so they just scan them.

This is how it goes: “Boy this is a long post. It’s good though, at least what I’ve read of it sounds good, but I can’t read any more, so I’d better share it anyway.”

So you get this kind of social media message: “Very interesting, important article on blah blah blah, worth a read.” Does this create a kind of social media maelstrom of mediocrity?

Better to create a blog post that people have time to get through properly, no?