Southern Author Ponderings on Publishing Today

Authors and social media–an arranged marriage benefiting one and sucking the life out of the other. One garnishes all the attention, the other screams to be heard. One, an unsated polygamist, the other, another trophy in the crowded harem. I often wonder, how might the notable, best-selling authors whose careers began long before the internet age would have faired if they launched their first novel today.

I imagine the gatekeepers prefer such thoughts go unnoticed, but I sense such thoughts exist all the same. More and more readers invest their precious time and money to be entertained but end up scratching their heads at the so-called best-sellers. When they dive deeper to discover a good read, they struggle all the more.

Vanity publishing has transformed itself into being called “independently published” thanks to KDP and Ingram who tantalize the egos of authors into believing they too can become the next bestseller. Mercenary book contests, awards, promotions are sucking even more from the lifeblood of naive, eager authors. Independent publishing likewise has morphed into hybrid publishing while disguised small publishers, often begun by frustrated authors, reap royalties earned by other unsuspecting authors. Then when the individual author figures out they cannot get a real publishing contract they create their own quirky-named publishing entity to self-publish.

In the meantime, mainstream publishers devour one another attempting to hoard what meager profit they can squeeze from each contracted author. They end up churning out cookie-cutter novels faster than Henry Ford ever imagined possible on his assembly lines. The pressure of the most popular authors must be intense. Some now turn out a new title every 3-6 months. Of course, it’s their name that sells not the story he or she hardly writes in solitude anymore.

So, what can be done? The best gatekeepers in the publishing world exist in independently-owned bookstores. They survive because of their reputation to recognize truly worthwhile books for you, their valued customers. Unlike the big internet booksellers, they cannot clutter their shelves with drivel, whether big-name published or self-published. They build trust by listening to what you find to be good books.

In the end, readers should determine by word of mouth what are the current best books to read. Mercenary marketing to bolster sales seldom works if readers feel betrayed after buying a certain new novel promoted in a glitzy ad campaign.

Therefore, I believe, a groundswell of reviews and personal referrals among friends and family urging them to get a copy of an author’s latest book offers the purest form of promotion any author should hope to receive.

I suspect a few will read this entire diatribe. If you have and have an opinion or comment, please feel free to offer it. You are encouraged to share it as well.

“Every author should remember the reason, the motivation, the muse, that stirred him or her to pen their story in the first place.”

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