THE FEBRUARY meeting of Airedale Writers’ Circle, led by Lisa Firth, took a long and serious look at the state of modern publishing.

Publishing has changed a great deal since the end of price controls and the Net Book Agreement, even more since the arrival of e-books, e-readers, and Amazon.

But first...

Huge congratulations to Lisa, local author and Airedale Writers Circle member.

Lisa, from Harden, writes romantic comedies under her pen-names Mary Jayne Baker and Lisa Swift.

On Monday March 2 she won the 2020 Romantic Comedy Novel Award, at the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association gala dinner.

The award was for A Question of Us — a terrific achievement, especially as her first book, The Honey Trap, only appeared in 2016.

Which also means that, when it comes to discussing the book trade, she knows whereof she speaks.

A few days ago I had a spare evening, and wondered how to use it.

By chance, an advertisement for the Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre popped into my Facebook news feed, and I pottered down there.

Fabulous night of unfamiliar music in a funky basement which seats (by my estimate) no more than 25.

So it’s like — but a lot smaller than — The Live Room in Saltaire, and Keighley’s very own Exchange Arts Centre.

The point being that for every major venue like Leeds Arena there are dozens — perhaps hundreds — of smaller places offering a stage to new acts.

Don’t expect to get rich quick, but use the shop-window cannily and they’re nothing but helpful.

As with the music business, so the book trade: yes, there’s now a focus on a few ‘hero’ titles from major publishers.

You know the ones...

Just look at the 20 or so bestsellers offered by your favourite supermarket, before you panic-buy your toilet rolls and face-masks.

They’re at discounts consumers love (and I confess to taking advantage myself) but which force authors to rent even smaller attic rooms in which to write.

There are more opportunities, though.

The stage might still be as high, but the steps up to it aren’t so steep.

There’s a whole new group of publishers devoted to digital-first: they’ll prepare a title for publication and promote it in a virtual format, without setting print to paper unless it’s a runaway success.

Writers who don’t want to confront the soul-destroying grind of trying to find a conventional publisher for their work can arrange to have their books produced at their own expense.

This production can be either/or in an e-book format or as a professional-standard hard copy.

And obscure old titles remain current, when once they’d have been lost and buried under layers of dust; the adventurous reader can find them online or have them printed on demand.

So: what money’s going round is spread a little wider.

And after all, we don’t write to get rich, do we? We do it for the love, and to get the inky demon’s claws off our backs.