Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If I can be serious for a moment.

I think there might be something in this RANAM idea. (RANAM is short for Read A New Author Month, which I have unilaterally decided will take place in April each year.)

It’s well known that publishers don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing books by new authors. Through RANAM, they could pool minimal resources and make a bigger splash that helps everyone involved.

It’s hard, too, for new authors to get noticed in the bookshop, or sometimes even just to get in the bookshop. This way, they could be part of a themed display, or promotional area, similar to the way the Booker short-listed titles are sold together. Which RANAM books are pushed would obviously be up to the booksellers, but we could produce a RANAM catalogue, or magazine, giving details of the books involved. There would always be some books by new authors that bookshops were going to take anyway. RANAM would just provide a theme to help give those books a boost for a month.

Even if a new author doesn’t make it into Waterstones (it’s not guaranteed), he or she can benefit from being associated with RANAM. Especially so. There will be a website, you see, giving details of all the books that publishers have put forward to be included in RANAM. You, the reader, will be able to search this valuable database by genre, title or author. Or price.

The website will list the participating publishers, giving details of how many fiction books by new (i.e. first time) authors they have published in the twelve months up to and including RANAM. I see a league table. It will be obvious to us all, then, who really is committed to new writing.

I think an important part of the website would be a discussion forum, where readers can leave recommendations and comments about books in RANAM. We might also be able to include a book swap facility. Whatever helps to introduce more readers to an author’s work has a place. The website could also hold, or provide links to, published reviews of books.

As a new author myself, I would obviously benefit from being part of RANAM in 2006. But what I would like to see, in the long term, is that the idea takes root, and grows to be a major and permanent fixture in the literary calendar. Even when I am no longer eligible to be a part of it, I hope it will be there to help others.

I also think that established authors will get behind the scheme. After all, they were all new writers once. If this support can be mustered, I think it may well help to drive the publishers.

It’s not a case of new versus old. And I don’t believe anyone should read a book just because it’s written by a new author. It has to be a good book in its own right.

But I do believe that readers are missing out on the opportunity to discover books they might enjoy, purely because they are written by new authors. From a business point of view, it makes sense for publishers to spend most on established, already successful authors. They know they are going to get a return. New authors are a risk. But they are a necessity too. Without new authors today, who will be the established, successful authors of tomorrow?

And who will there be for readers to read?


rashbre said...

A great idea. And April it is.
(Though I may cheat)


roger said...

Thanks Rashbre. Of course cheating is allowed - if by cheating, you mean reading new authors in other months than April. Just so long as you tell everybody about what you've read and enjoyed.