New Online Literature
Anyone who wants to become a writer needs a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of staying power. After all, it is very rare for someone to be 'discovered' by a publisher, immediately enter a best-seller list and start earning millions. No – in most cases budding writers have to send off lots of manuscript copies at great expense to the publishers' editorial departments, where they will sit in a huge pile on a desk and turn yellow – or be sent back unread.
Vanity publishingThere are precisely two alternatives to this fate: You can try to get taken on by a literary agency, which may one day find a publisher for you. However, by that time you will definitely be poor. Or you can turn to a 'vanity publisher'. These are the ones with small advertisements everywhere saying things like "We will publish your book!". However, with these you will have to pay a considerable contribution towards printing costs. This is another approach that will make you poor.
Overnight successSuccess: "Soon afterwards Apple included the podcast subscription with its iTunes software. I put my podcast on there more for a laugh than anything else, and soon forgot about the whole thing. But then I suddenly started getting emails from people who had heard my podcast and wanted to know when the next one would be out. So I had a look at iTunes... and discovered that I was in the top ten, between the news and Schlaflos in München. I have never managed to get such a good reaction with my readings!" says Heinke, commenting on his Web 2.0 success story.
Speed is a good argumentHeinke did then find a publisher for his thriller independently of the podcast, but believes the podcast "certainly didn't do any harm". Cortinovis is still hoping his podcast will help him find a publisher, because "several hundred or even thousand listeners per week are a strong selling argument." But are people not selling themselves too cheaply if everything has already been available free of charge on the internet? Heinke disagrees – he does not put complete texts on the web. Besides, he is convinced that publishers have little capacity, if any, to look for new talent on the internet. Cortinovis sees the appeal and the challenge in combining lively literary forms like poetry slams and club readings with podcasts. Publishers are inevitably slower than the Web: "Most of the impetus will probably start with the users and writers themselves. On the other hand, the podcast cannot replace the printed book."
At the moment, however, the publishers are trying to gain access to the 'social web'. Bertelsmann, Germany's largest publishing house, is working on its own internet platform based on the MySpace idea, with the aim of reaching new young target groups – groups which, the publishers now believe, no longer spend their money on teenage magazines like Bravo and on trips to the cinema, but instead spend it on internet offers. Weblogs, Wikis and podcasts were an important topic at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair in October, with eight events and a blog dedicated to the book fair.
The new Dresden publishing house Voland & Quist set up its own blog a month ago to enable it to "get closer to its readers." Voland & Quist also has its own account with a photo stream on the photo site flickr. The publishing house has evidently understood the character of Web 2.0: all things to all people. It's the network, stupid! At least Christian Heinke can now almost live from his writing, thanks to the internet. And Herzfassen was in sixth place on the podcast culture charts on iTunes in September, with 2500 listeners. So in future the new generation of writers would be better off investing in a fast internet connection than in postage.
The author is literary editor for the Hanover city magazine STADTKIND hannovermagazin and regularly writes about contemporary literature for a wide range of media.
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Translation: Ros Mendy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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