Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Is Kindle Changing The Way We Write?

The parameters and particular form of the Kindle reading experience is shaping the way I approach those works I intend to sell digitally, and I can imagine it must be doing something similar to other writers too.

One key factor in making a Kindle sale is the free downloadable sample.

The sample represents 10% of your book.

This indicates to those savvy in the ways of making Kindle sales that a "hook" should be built into the story at around the 10% mark. If you know how long your book will be and therefore where the first 10% will end, you can write your hook into the plot, and it should be quite an organic process.

But if, like so many, your book is written in fits and starts, or rewritten at various points, you may have to go back afterwards and massage the beginning so your "hook" falls just before the 10% mark.

Frankly, although this approach may be anathema to some purists, it's no worse than rewriting your first page or chapter to make it bolder or more enticing to an agent or publisher. And it may make your book better. There's nothing wrong with an early hook, and it will at least ensure that the plot-thin literary style is more rapidly put aside for a more commercial approach.

On the downside, it may encourage lazy writers to put all their effort into that first 10%, and then sink into a typo-riddled morass of repetition and continuity errors for the remaining 80%.

Another side-effect of writing for the digital market is a growing awareness of the size of screen on which your book may eventually be read. Readers are not merely reading digital books and other material on Kindles, Nooks, Sony ereaders or the more comfortably-sized home computer screen, but also these days on iPads, iPhones, Blackberry etc.

We can improve the reading experience - and make our books more attractive to consumers (whoops, I mean, readers) - by shortening our chapters, paragraphs and even our sentences.

This has already happened, to a certain extent, in most forms of the novel, due to our advertisement-inspired love of the soundbite. In many genres, the crisp or telling one-line paragraph has become the author's new benchmark for stylistic prowess.

Brevity being the soul of wit, this may be a force for good.

All that doesn't even cover the uneasy shifts between publisher, editor, agent and writer, as more people self-publish and get to grips with editing and formatting issues, self-promotion, marketing strategies, product descriptions, cover images and how to survive in an unpredictable and increasingly economically troubled industry.

I don't share the gloom of many when looking ahead to the future of the great digital age. Anything could happen. But I'd like to be flexible enough to run with it when it does.

And hopefully make a few sales along the way.

Please see comments for other remarks on how digital publishing is changing the way we write.


  1. I currently have The Earl and His Tiger open on my Kindle. I hadn't thought about changing styles to suit the digital reading experience, I write my books in exactly the same way as I always have, but I do see what you mean. And perhaps some of those self publishing out there ought to think about it, too!

  2. Thanks, Lesley. I hope you're enjoying The Earl & His Tiger. How thrilling that you're reading it! Do let me know if you spot any infelicities.

    There's another thing about the self-publishing gig on Kindle - does it encourage a sense of collaborative writing? In place of editorial input, self-publishers have reviewers' input and can rewrite to order if required.

    Another fascinating possibility for the future of writing ...

    Thanks for stopping by!