Over recent years David has seen great success in making many of the titles from his extensive back catalog available for eReading devices, particularly Amazon's world beating Kindle device. And so The Archive, forever on the trail of a good story, sat down to talk to Dave about eBooks and how they are helping bring about a resurgence in genre fiction.
TA: You seem to have embraced digital publishing, but how did you initially feel about eBooks? Did they scare you a little?
DW: : Not really. I was more excited than scared, because here was a means of making one’s work available to a worldwide audience and frankly, at what I considered to be a very fair and attractive cover price. Then I started trying to learn the intricacies of formatting and at first I thought it might be a little beyond me! But I had a very good teacher, a Black Horse Western writer named Cody Wells, a.k.a. Malcolm Elliott-Davey of West World Designs (THE MAN WHO IS CURRENTLY OVERSEEING THE RETURN OF GEORGE G. GILMAN'S EDGE TO EBOOK. TA) , and after he showed me what I had to do I was off and running. But I’m still learning, even now. That’s the thing about eBooks – you never stop learning.
TA: were you tempted to revisit any of your books before publishing them digitally?
TA: It seems that the conventional wisdom in publishing was the western was dead, but eBooks are proving this to be false. Do you see the western having any future in the digital world? Is it finding new readers or is it just as old codgers who are getting eReaders and keeping the genre alive?
DW: : Everywhere I go I always try to check out the local bookshops, used bookshops, charity shops. Whenever I ask if they have any westerns for sale I always get more or less the same reply. “If I could get my hands on them, I could sell them. But I just can’t get my hands on them.” This is one of the truly great things about e-publishing. Instead of relying on what publishers think we want to read, we can now actually go out there and find what we want to read. This was the feeling I got very early on, when it first became possible to self-publish in a manner that was not dismissed as mere ‘vanity’ publishing. Instead of discarding an idea because I didn’t think I stood any chance of selling it, I could now write the book, publish it and actually get it out to an audience. This was enormously liberating and I remember those early days with great affection, because all of a sudden the sky really was the limit. And I never self-published a book I lost money on.
I don’t believe for one minute that the western readership is made up of old codgers. That is the popular conception. I’ve had my share of “Oh, my Dad used to read those,” which, of course, has more recently turned into “Oh, my Grandad used to read those,” but the truth is that there are a lot of readers out there of all ages who like fast-paced action and adventure and, I believe, who pine for the morals and values of that period. I mean, why do we really enjoy reading westerns? Overwhelmingly, it’s to see the bad guy get his comeuppance and to see justice done. That is a very powerful, very important, very satisfying and very laudable message, and one that western readers in particular enjoy buying into.
TA: Was this why you and Mike Stotter formed Piccadilly Publishing?
DW: It wasn’t the main reason, but it was certainly an important one. There is a great deal of nostalgia for those heady days of the 70s and 80s when every UK publisher had at least one western series to its name. They were exciting times for western readers like us, and when Mike suggested we do something about trying to recreate it, I didn’t even have to think about my response. We just went for it, and have some very exciting (but presently hush-hush) plans for the months and hopefully years ahead.
It’s funny, though. Every time we add a new book to the schedule, or see a new piece of cover art for the first time, I still get that same feeling of excitement I had all those years ago. I can only hope readers will feel the same way.
TA: As eBooks become more and more common, it is bound to have an effect on the way we read, the way we write. Could we see serial fiction becoming popular again? Publishing times are almost instant with eBooks and there is a possibility for a writer to build a huge following and have readers waiting eagerly for the writer to press publish, perhaps delivering on a weekly schedule. What are your thoughts on this?
DW: We’re already seeing the emergence of serial fiction. There are some excellent examples out there, not the least of them JACKIE O’, by my friends Steve Hayes and Andrea Wilson, who write together under the name ‘Kelly Robbins’ and have deliberately conceived their ongoing series as episodes in a TV show. Same with the YESTERDAY’S GONE books by Sean Platt and David Wright. This is an exciting development that really encourages reader involvement, and that is all to the good. The people who proclaim proudly that, “I’ve never read a book in my life,” or “I’ve never read a book all the way through,” don’t know what they’re missing, and now is a fantastic time to find out.
TA:- And by the same token will books become shorter?
DW: : Again, there are already a lot of titles that are little more than short stories or novellas. But it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s what you, the reader, wants to read. In an editorial capacity I was recently dealing with an enormous book, almost 700 pages long. It was a book that was very difficult to classify, and as such one that was really in search of a format. As a traditional book it might have been off-putting because of its length, or maybe difficult to market. But as an e-book ... ? For once, size didn’t matter! And neither did the subject. And interestingly, it went on to be a very, very respectable seller.
TA: There are many writers who are sitting on a backlist and are unsure of how to proceed to get their titles to the market. What was your own experience in republishing some of your older titles into electronic format?
DW: On a purely personal level, I have found going back over my earliest books to be a revelation. I believe that if you’re clever about it, you never stop learning. Consequently, when you look back over the stories you wrote almost thirty years ago, you’re bound to cringe at this scene or that turn of phrase. But I was very pleasantly surprised by how well my stories and style have held up. So far, I’ve only really taken one of my old books apart and revised it to any great extent prior to e-publishing. I’ll mention no names ... or titles, in this case. But overall they’ve held up well.
You can find out more about David at his website HERE
Piccadilly Publishing HERE
RELATED: David Whitehead is a member, as am I, of the Black Horse Western forum and following the interview I decided to post a few open questions to members of the group. I'm sure you'll find their answers very revealing.
The questions were:
1 - Does the western have a future in eBooks?
2-In what ways can the genre evolve to take advantage of the full possibilities provided by the new medium?
3- How many of us here have bought any of the Black Horse eBooks from HALE?
4-How many of us own eReaders, Kindles etc? And how many are planning to get a device shortly?
Some of the answers I received were:
Yes. Big YES. Easier to find for those who want to buy a western. When was the last time you saw one in the average bricks & mortar shop? Also, there may be a crossover from the Mills & Boon ereader syndrome. M& B sales have rocketed (apparently) because other commuters now cannot see what is being read by their fellow travellers when there is no book jacket to give away the genre. Chris Scott Wilson
Definitely! Mike Morgado
. I think it definitely does. Most publishers are now embracing eBooks, albeit perhaps with some reluctance. In the USA some western writers like Bob Randisi are having their backlists issued in eBook format, others are doing their own and marketing them very successfully. Keith Souter
In what ways can the genre evolve to take advantage of the full possibilities provided by the new medium?Some authors will add bells and whistles, bits of video and photography links, etc., but in the end, the story is for the eyes and ears and should settle down to visual and audio books. The day may come when you download a book you automatically get an audio version, and the audio is always in sync with where you are reading in the ebook. So if you decide to listen in the car, for example, the audio version will look for your last read page, and start the narration from there. (Kindles do this. I read on my iPhone, then my computer says "you have read to 0000000 on your iPhone, do you want to start at that point?" Could be done with audio too, I think.) Charles Whipple
The western will always have a future, no matter what the format. Ray Foster.
Every so often you hear of someone writing a story with hyperlinks and multi-media interactions, and I can't say I've noticed them being anything more than a brief fad for a few interested parties. So again I can't see westerns changing much. It's the subject not the medium
that's important. Ebooks aren't just being taken up by the young and hip so they're just as likely to be used to read Latin poetry as modern tales about angst-filled, spotty teenage vampires written using plenty of text speak. Leigh Alver
All genres, styles, authors old and new have a future in ebooks. I don't think westerns have more or less of a challenge than anything else. If there is a benefit for westerns, it'd be their usual shortness. Ian Parnham
I've had a Kindle for over a year, but judging from the people I talk to, many of the younger readers - under 30 - use their phones to read on. That could well be the future. I love books, but I love my Kindle too. I can take a whole library with me anywhere, alter the point size so it doesn't matter if I've forgotten my glasses. Us writers have too many books. It's a given. I only keep the ones I enjoyed or will use as reference, and I've still got too many. Far too many. The overflow is even in boxes in the loft on the off-chance I may have a bigger house one day. Then again, I might not. But I can't bear to part with them. Chris Scott Wilson
I absolutely believe that westerns have a future in both ebook and print. Ebooks, especially, offers the potential to get older and out-of-print books back in the hands of readers. As the western section continues to shrink in bookstores, ebooks will allow fans of the genre acess to books
they would have otherwise missed. Bobby Nash.