… as near to you, that is, as your nearest computer, or tablet, or Kindle, or Nook, or Sony e-reader, or what-have-you. Because, in a few short weeks, The Chronicles of Iona: Exile, my historical fiction novel about the two men who “founded” Scotland in the sixth century, the saint Columba and the warlord Aedan mac Gabran, will be available on Amazon.com. And this blog. And anywhere else e-books are sold.
That’s right. Exile will soon be off my desktop and in your hands. To say that it’s been years in the making is not hyperbole: the idea for this book-series came to me very sweetly one day while at my desk in the sun-soaked porch of my narrow row-house in Cambridge, U.K. … in 1994.
I’ve learned a lot since then, especially in this past year. The most important thing I’ve learned, as far as this book business is concerned, is that we live in a New World. A brand-new-spanking world. All do to with the internet, of course. Many things are not as they were. Book publishing is one of them. To pretend otherwise and go about business as usual is to miss the sheer awesomeness of the opportunities now available to anyone who has ever taken pen to paper.
Because of the internet and mammoth marketplaces like Amazon.com, book publishing is no longer solely about getting your book in that coveted window display of your local bookstore, but about landing virtual shelf space. How people are buying and reading books is changing. How authors are making their books available is too. Not that I think that the printed book will ever die. Indeed, I fervently hope that it does not. But e-book sales are up. And 75% of e-books are purchased through Amazon.com. I didn’t know this. Not until recently. That’s a statistic that simply boggles. It demands attention.
Digital publishing, and print-on-demand, is a revolution in the printed word akin to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1440. Just like in 1440, digital publishing has multiplied the output while cutting the costs of printing books. Books don’t have to be printed in “print-runs” anymore—tricky for both the author and the publisher to offload, and the cause of the downfall of many a talented writer who simply couldn’t shift 5,000 copies of their book, try as they might.
Now books can be printed one-by-one. Or not at all. And still be read. Think about that! A book—which isn’t a book. A book which is not ink captured on bundled paper, and then jealously guarded, but a series of 0s and 1s, floating freely in space and passed back and forth between you and me via nothing more strenuous than the press of a button. Extraordinary.
I love this New World.
As for the monks whose job it had been to meticulously hand-copy all books in the Church’s scriptoria over the sluggish centuries of the Middle Ages, I don’t think they’d mind so much. Their bosses, the abbots and bishops, might—not wanting to lose what amounted to near total control of what knowledge was considered canonical. But not, I think, the monks. Indeed, I think Columba would be rather pleased—for the whole enterprise is downright revolutionary. For readers. For writers. For the sheer exuberance and rightness of the democratization of art and knowledge and culture.
Now it’s not so much about the tortuous act of getting published, but about reaching your demographic—who, in my case, could be just about anyone who likes to read: about history, about Scotland, Ireland, the Dark Ages; about all the stuff that goes into good story: war and love and treachery and desire and monsters and gods, both light and dark, and the loss of faith and the regaining of it again … (Exile’s an epic, so the list does go on a bit.)
All this to say that, come April, you’ll be able to download the e-book version of Exile if you like. I’ll post the link here when it’s ready; or you’ll be able to buy the book directly from Amazon.com.
Or go whole-hog and treat yourself to an honest-to-goodness printed version of Exile. We’ll print and mail it to you, on demand. Just because we like you, and you deserve it, and we can. (Besides, we should do it for the monks.)
Be part of that 75%. And I hope you enjoy reading Exile as much as I’ve loved creating it.