Novelist Irvine Welsh spies future in mixed-media
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Electronic publishing is allowing authors to be more creative and the best ones are successfully blending video and online content with traditional text, says cult writer Irvine Welsh.
The author of "Trainspotting" and "The Acid House", who has also written short stories and plays, said e-publishing meant writers had to work harder to grab readers' attention in an age when wireless devices are rapidly replacing paperback books.
Welsh, 54, said he struggled to combine marketing of his books with writing, but that a combination of the two was needed if writers were going to break into the e-book world while also writing for TV, movies and traditional readers.
"You can't just be into one thing, you have to be into TV adaptations, movie adaptations," Welsh, whose "Trainspotting" was turned into a hit movie by director Danny Boyle, told Reuters at a conference in Brussels on digital media trends.
"It will come out in book format, it will be shot and come out in film format, and at the same time it will come out in series format. And that will happen instantaneously."
The Scotsman, who burst onto the literary scene when "Trainspotting" was published in his mid-30s, heaped praise on fellow Scot Ewan Morrison, who has wooed the book world by including web links to short films as part of his novel "Tales from the Mall", which examines the seedy allure of capitalism.
Morrison had established an innovative niche between a book and a game, said Welsh, predicting that such a multimedia style would become common practice for tomorrow's e-book producers.
E-book sales have grown rapidly in recent years with the popularity of tablets and e-readers. Industry group BookStats reported that sales were up 44 percent in the United States during 2012, rising to a little over $3 billion.
Sales of regular books remain far larger and have also climbed, although far more slowly, gaining around 7 percent to $15 billion, thanks in large part to blockbusters such as "Fifty Shades of Grey", a book first published online.
In his latest novel, which is not yet named, Welsh explores the relationship between two women living in Miami, a personal trainer and an artist, who are obsessed with each other. The book is due out in April next year and a screenplay, currently under discussion, may follow in November.
"It's a very self-centered narcissistic process. That is why it runs the risk of being crap," said Welsh, acknowledging that a focus on female characters was a departure from his favored gritty, drug-addicted male protagonists.
"You can't really put strong women characters into that world because any strong woman would go nowhere near these guys," he said by way of explanation.
While Welsh is an advocate of digital publishing, his own works are more difficult to translate into e-book form as he frequently plays with font sizes and other techniques which digital readers cannot easily capture.
Whether traditional publishing or e-publishing is the way forward, one thing authors should rigidly adhere to is creative license, Welsh said. Some books start online, others are published traditionally. The only winning ingredient is originality and creativity.
"The success of self-publishing shows that publishers and agents and editors don't always know (what works)," he said.
(Reporting By Claire Davenport; editing by Luke Baker)