To the tune of Love Shack by the B52s.
Yes, after months of pondering and the odd Twitter poll, I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of Salman Rushdie, Chuck Palahnuik and many others and see what this Substack thing is all about. My reasoning, and my plan, can be summarised thusly:
Publishing as we know it may be irretrievably broken. Even before the plague times and Brexit, the system was failing. This is the fault of nobody in particular and I won’t be on here ranting. Systemic failures are everyone’s fault. Publishing is full of wonderful creative people who come together over a love of books, stories and words. The fault lies with capitalism, and changing that takes time.
But like the music industry before it, something has to give. The music industry has gone through – and is still undergoing – turmoil, from home taping through Napster and file-sharing to Spotify. Through all these contortions, at the end of the day it’s always been the musicians who lose out.
I save my music buying for Bandcamp Friday or live shows (remember those). I want to make sure my money goes directly to the people who make the music – not just the musicians, but the studio engineers, the design artists, the people who need to be paid before a song ever hits the internet. Each month I find myself Tweeting some variation of “Why isn’t there something like this for writers?”
I don’t know if Substack is it, but I’m impressed enough to find out. I’ll still be using my social media outlets, YouTube channel and my website. I will also still be publishing through traditional channels. The motivation for this move is that I write a lot of things that are neither commercial nor in any of the standard forms the current iteration of the publishing industry favours. Until now many of these pieces found outlets in literary journals, but that leaves the work disparate, autumn leaves blown across the world. Some are no longer available to all but archivists. Other things just languish on my hard drive, taunting me like the tell-tale heart. At root, I am a collector, yet I’ve given up hope of ever having a traditional Collected Writings bringing my short fiction, my poetry, my creative non-fiction pieces together.
So that is what I imagine Substack will become. It will undoubtedly evolve over time but my plan, as of December 2021, is to begin with a bi-monthly newsletter – somewhere between an update and an epistle from the lonely writer’s desk – and to bring you my work, new and old, unpublished and long forgotten. I will also be posting reviews of books I’m reading, films I’ve seen, music I’ve encountered.
If that all goes well, then I will move to a mixed-method model – continue the free content but introduce paid subscription. I have unpublished novels and non-fiction books that I plan to serialise. Drawing on my work as an editor I plan to write a series of articles on aspects of the novel, on memoir, on writing in general. At some point, there may even be a podcast. All under this forest canopy.
For now, let’s ease into things gently. Start slowly so it sounds like a loch, to steal a phrase from the Pastels and the Tenniscoats. If any of this piques your interest, please subscribe for free by clicking the button, and on December 1st, let the first snowflake fall.
As I say, this website will continue to exist but mainly as an archive with links to everything I publish and everything published about me. A scrapbook, if you will. Updates will now come from Substack so if you want to keep up to date, please head over there and subscribe for free. See ya soon!