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Publish thy self: what’s shaking up the literary world

Publish thy self: what’s shaking up the literary world

As the digital age encourages more and more authors to self publish, how are the literary gatekeepers going to keep themselves relevant?

November 16, 2011 2:41 by

We are happy to find out our friend, Alexander McNabb of, has just come out with his latest novel, Olives – A Violent Romance. The novel is now available in Kindle Edition and the print version will launch on November 20 and is hopefully going to be in UAE bookstores by end of the month.

This being his second novel (a third one is on the way), Alex has long discussed the author’s option of self publishing. While he has a literary agent, he has finally opted to self-publish after the manuscript (MS) was shopped around and eventually passed by a dozen editors.

Alex talks at length about his experience of getting his MS to editors in his blog. His more recent posts here, here and here. He talks about a number of interesting elements and options authors and would-be-novelists must weigh now weigh.

Aside from telling you about our good friend’s novel (book description here, btw), this discussion coincides with the Sharjah International Book Fair, which starts today and runs until November 26.

So now with more than a few ways for authors to reach readers directly, how is the literary world coping with these changes?

In true McNabb fashion, he starts one of these posts with a friend’s quote that hits the nail right on the head:

“Literary agents are like eunuchs in the Ottoman court. They know it’s done, they see it done all around them, but they’re damned if they can do it for themselves.”

A clear benefit to readers is the accessibility of different concepts, stories and ideals. But on the other hand, it may be more challenging for serious, dedicated authors, like Alex, to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

One could argue of course that the point here is that an environment where more writers self-publish would evolve into a free and open market, where anyone can publish and the readers get to decide for themselves whether they want to read a certain kind of book or not; the readers become the gatekeepers themselves. It’s a thought that we suspect worries agents and editors.

But some could also argue that literary agents could reshape their role to help the balance of accessibility and weeding through all this content. But is that really a sustainable role?

Here’s Alex’s take on the matter in one of his many posts on self-publishing:

“I’m glad to still have Robin on board, despite my decision to self-publish. But looking back on it, I do rather regret having spent so much time, effort and money on trying to sell my books to literary agents. With the changes in today’s publishing industry, the disruption of Amazon and e-books, the role of a literary agent to an author is no longer as critical as it was when I first started on this road.”

(*Robin Wade of Wade and Doherty is Alex’s agent.)

Any authors out there who are experiencing similar issues with publishing? Where do you see the literally world in five years? Or maybe even two?

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