Sunday, July 20, 2008

Experiments - Further Thoughts

So, my Friday post about some experimental book formatting by the Lulu author Crusade Redux prompted some discussion. I was going to respond in comments, but thought that my response was general enough to merit a post.

First, I'm not against experiments. But, they need to be labeled as such. Especially if the experimenter is not known. Self-publishing has a credibility issue and always will. Second, the nature of this experiment (formatting) runs up against "the gate effect." If you are traveling down a road and come across a gate, the logical assumption is that it was put there for a purpose. Until you understand the purpose of the gate, it's probably not a good idea to rip it down.


meika said...

Unfortunately the gate is best understood from the inside and if you are not allowed into the gatehouse then ripping it down is the best way to analyse it. Not everyone in the gate gets that, nor perhaps can they if they have carved an economic niche from it.

But if the landscape changes (think new technology as a rise in sea level) then the gate might be in the wrong place. It might be more than just rising damp. So long as people haven't noticed (or don't want to notice) the change in sea level then the gateway will provide some sort of cultural focus, and thus some economic leverage until people do notice.

Example. Me, I don't buy newspapers anymore.

It's no longer a gateway I use.

It's a useless gateway, of historical notice only.

Newspapers came out of pamphlets, an era of experimentation (followed up by new laws on who can print what).

We are in another era of experiementation and the old gateway keepers are still going on about the best way to trim goose feathers.

If gateways are important then gatekeepers need to reinvent their role/s, not defend these from there high dungeons of decaying pomposity.

I fart in their general direction.

Recently my aunt had her novel reached the desk of a NY publishing editor who personal went through all the platform issues with her as an author (not personally you understand) and in looking for that elusive publishing sweet spot decided that her publishing platform was 'too academic'.

My aunt has no degree in anything, but she knows what she is talking about.

This was a superstitious decison by a gatekeeper (who probably does have a degree.)

Now either way it's not really a rational judgement. The critical faculty here might be gatekeeping but understanding it doesn't really help when your are misunderstood by those you do in fact understand but are powerless to influence.

Take up sculpture was my advice.

chris-gerrib said...

Exactly - you understand why the gate was there. It may no longer make sense to be there, which is a different discussion.

Will Entrekin said...

Except that the purpose of the formatting in question, i.e., first-line indents, is to make apparent the separation between paragraphs. In which case, the extra space serves just as well, and is, generally, something more readers are becoming used to, anyway, because they read so much online.

My only point previously was that it seems much ado about nothing. It doesn't even really seem like an "experiment," certainly not in the scientific sense. It's just formatting a handful of people aren't used to.

Finally, I'm not really all that certain about the "credibility" issue. Readers don't care how a book was published so long as they can read it. Really, the only people for whom self-publishing has a credibility issue are writers and publishers.

Emily Veinglory said...

I am highly familiar with block paragraphing and use it all the time in my business correspondance, but would not buy a book using it. I don't think the use of indents in novels is arbitrary but relates to how we read this kind of prose--specifically advance scanning which is stopped dead by a blank line.

Am I one of a handful, or a majority? That is an empirical question. I'd be happy to run a poll. I read Lulu previews with an eye to buying and the first thing that put a break on my purchase was the font.