3 Reasons Why Writers Should Be Grateful for Technology

By Desiree Villena

Technology, in its many manifestations, is usually the object of our writerly lamentations, complaints, and not-so-literary rants. Working with technology can lead to unexpected technical difficulties (cue incensed writer screaming at impassive printer), and the Internet can also be an all-saturating source of mental noise and procrastination keeping writers from their projects.

Yes, all of us occasionally complain about tech — but seeing as there’s already enough negativity in the world at the moment, I’d like to try something different. In an attempt to mindfully acknowledge our automated, mechanical blessings, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on three unbelievable technological perks we all tend to take for granted. The book industry would be a much, much more difficult place without these advantages of digital tech!

1. Online sales

Perhaps the most obvious way tech contributes to the workings of the book industry is the ability to sell books online (certainly one we’ve all relied on during the pandemic, as readers!). And I’m not just talking about print books; a whole new dimension of the industry has opened up for authors willing to learn how to publish an ebook, as digital sales are now crucial to the market.

But technology hasn’t just revolutionized the way we buy traditionally published books. Alongside ebooks, it’s brought fantastic opportunities for authors seeking alternative ways into the industry. Say what you will about Bezos, but the Amazon self-publishing initiative has helped countless authors reach the public.

The company has given self-publishing authors a truly innovative way of accessing would-be readers. What’s more, publishing an ebook with Amazon is incredibly easy, and turnaround is dramatically faster than the many months it takes traditional publishers to produce a book. (That said, of course, you first need to make sure your manuscript is edited to ensure that your writing is of the highest quality.) 

Without technology, none of this would be possible. 

2. Online promotion

With the Internet came the rise of digital communities of readers keen to discuss their favourite books, new releases, and recommendations. An excellent example would be this very blog, where you can read specific posts such as ‘5 Books For a Healthy Mind,’ or articles on broader concepts related to books, like ‘Worried About Self Isolation? Get Into a Good Book.’ Blogs, BookTube channels, and Instagrammers who discuss their reading habits or craft thoughtful book reviews: all of these are now valuable tools for the promotion of books. 

In our current socially distant world, online promotion has, in fact, become the only tool available to authors whose books were released during lockdown. In this respect, technology has been nothing short of miraculous, as it has enabled book launch events, author interviews, and even book festivals to go on in a safe and responsible manner.

In fact, I’ve personally been able to ‘attend’ a significantly larger number of book events during lockdown, because so many more are held online than the small town in which I live. All of these online discussions around books are incredibly significant in helping drive sales and sustain the book market, so it can continue to be the happy place we rely on for our fictional and nonfictional escapades. In yet another way, then, the Internet is truly invaluable.

3. Online communities

So far, I’ve focused on the publishing side of things — but most of the time, writers are busy actually writing their books. And when someone’s writing, they need a community that fosters and encourages them through their project.

Again, blogs like this one can be genuinely life-changing for authors who are feeling stuck, as they allow writers to connect with each other and foster a sense of solidarity. If you’re struggling to enjoy your writing, for example, Duffy has you covered with a post on ‘7 easy tips to enjoy writing a book’, and there are countless writing forums and critique circles for you to choose from.

There are also writing exercises, prompts, and mutual aid writers’ groups; voluntary beta readers; professional editors, even! There’s an incredibly rich trove of writerly guidance and writing support, all available for free on the web. It’s nearly impossible to wrap your mind around, that ridiculous numbers of people channel their free time into creating resources to help each other. 

Sure, technology can be stubborn, hard to use, and often not particularly user-friendly when you need it most. Complaining about it is fine, and totally understandable. But maybe, just maybe, it’s worth remembering that its exciting offerings to the world of writers greatly surpass the practical issues it poses, thanks to the many wonders encompassed in the Internet.

Especially in this difficult time of COVID-19, it seems appropriate to pause and take a moment to be grateful for the fact that we now have a way to be home, safe from a contagious virus, and still maintain our connections to the world of books and writers.