Monday, June 27, 2011

Pottermore and the Rise of Author-Publishers.

Last Sunday’s Age contained a story about how J.K. Rowling has retained the digital rights to her work, and plans to start a Pottermore website containing 20,000 words of previously unpublished material from the Harry Potter series and additional information about all the characters:

It will be a combination: part social-networking forum, part computer game in a website containing additional encyclopedic-like details. It will allow fans to continue interacting with their favourite books, but more importantly, it will make the series relevant to a new "digital generation" of readers who may not have been as prepared to read printed books in future.

A very shrewd business move. Having worked in copyright law for about five years (two and a half of them with visual artists), I’m fascinated by Rowling’s foresight in retaining the particular rights she did, and the opportunity she's now created for herself.

Interestingly, a representative of Melbourne University Publishing’s was quoted in the weekend's article as saying that Rowling's move won't start a new trend because 'authors generally want someone between them and their audience so they can focus on their writing'. these sound like the somewhat illogical rantings of a desperate member of a soon-to-be-extinct profession to you?

Writers are, of course, increasingly seeking more direct contact with their audience, not less.

How else to explain the rise of author blogs, twitter accounts and the like? How else to explain the rise of spoken word and performance poetry here in Melbourne, the world's second only UNESCO City of Literature.

How else to explain you, landing here, reading this?


  1. yeah this guy is looking for a life boat...connection is what it is all about...

  2. I consider that... I am a writer.
    __The definitions of -writer- and -Author-
    are not the same in my mind. I'll never be an Author, that would be a Joker that is not in my deck of cards.
    __I am, though, always so pleased when some readers... identify with, and appreciate what I scribble. _m

  3. Really Magyar? I'd say you're heading for the author-tag no matter how hard you resist it :)

    You're write (right) Brian - connection is where the writing journey both begins and ends, for me at least.

  4. That quote from the MUP rep does sound rather illogical. I'd say Rowling's move looks like an example of a trend that has not only started but continues to challenge traditional ideas about publishing.

    "This was all in my head. So at that time the only way I could imagine ever putting that material out there was in the form of a printed book", says Rowling.

    Well - just look at what's possible now! yay! Though I noticed Rowling also said it would be "an online reading experience unlike any other", because "readers will be able to help shape the stories."

    I guess Rowling hasn't yet discovered online reading experiences like the ones that happen in this community. I'm betting that will change as her involvement grows :)

    Great post maxine. Thanks.

  5. Someone between the writer and the reader? Interesting. Maxine, have your people contact my people regarding your post and my pending comment!

  6. You crack me up Mark. Personally, I'd love to have 'people' - but to sharpen my pencils, sort out my anti-virus and coffee pot rather than to hold all those teeming crowds of readers back...though true, having the literary paparazzi camped on the doorstep all night is a bit tiring...

  7. Well said Maxine. But Mark is right, all poets should have people. You should get people.

  8. This was an interesting post Maxine. I do agree that most writers want to be in some sort of contact with the people who read their words. Those who consume the words we write are affected by them and in a way this makes the author more responsible for what they put out there as the possibility for litigation is a concern for writers who are doing it on their own. Most writers are not going to be mega-millionaires like Rowling and when she herself was faced with litigation re plagiarism, her publisher was front and center so she has never truly gone it alone.A lawsuit can destroy a career and put the average writer in the poor house. Freedom of expression always comes with a cost to the person doing the expressing. It is a double edged sword not to have an entity with a legal department behind you and someone to weed out those readers who are unstable. Stephen King comes directly to my mind which is interesting as he is a good friend of Rowling. His own experience with a couple of unstable readers is food for thought as is his story 'Misery.' I'm all for contact with readers, don't get me wrong, but it would be naive to think that everyone who reads your work is mentally healthy. There has to be some sort of filter between fans and writers and to ignore this is very foolish.

    As for Rowling's new website, it's a cash cow and she is milking it. I'm STILL waiting for this broad to produce that adult novel she said she was writing a decade ago. Somehow I don't think she'll be brave enough to put her talent out there to be judged in an area where she has yet to prove herself. To each his own.

  9. Hi Val, thanks for your insightful comment. You're right - the litigation is a concern if you go it alone. If something goes wrong - or even if your works somehow ends up on the bestseller list, I guess you'd probably appreciate that distance, so thanks for raising that point.

    As for Rowling's adult novel, it will be very interesting to watch whether it ever surfaces.

    I don't know about the Stephen King experience with unstable readers but it sounds fascinating, so I'm off to googleville to find out more :)

    Oh and Cat - are you volunteering to be my 'people'?