Friday, August 10, 2012

No Really, It's Awesome

As anyone who knows me could easily affirm, I am a bibliophile.  I love books, bookstores, libraries.  If I had the space and money, I would have an entire room of my house lined with shelves and filled with hardcover editions of every book I've ever read and plan to read.  I'm the type of person, and to many of you this will make absolutely no sense what so ever, who reads a book on Kindle or Ipad, likes it and then goes out and buys a physical copy, essentially purchasing the book twice.  You're welcome Suzanne Collins and Joe Abercrombie.  The reason I decided to share this personal tidbit is because it was in a bookstore, wandering around and looking at book covers that I had the thought stream that has led to this post.
As an author, I have achieved the overwhelming majority of my success through Amazon and that wondrous little device, the Kindle.  And yet, even seeing my name and books on the Amazon Top Seller List was not as exciting or fulfilling to me as the day the proof copy of the new hardback editions of Scarlet and the Keepers of the Light and Dragon's Burden arrived at the house.  Now compared to the convenience and affordability of the Kindle editions, these Hardback copies are not going to sell to many more than a few collectors like myself (and my mother of course) and so in this new era of electronic media they serve little purpose beyond my own self gratification and possibly for distribution at the local library.  But as I walked around the Books-a-Million, I was surrounded by a collage of colorful dust-jackets just begging to be opened and used as book marks.  Some of them are only on the shelf because that's how traditional publishing works and the same copy will no doubt still be on the shelf the next time I peruse the store.  Others, say Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for instance, flew off the shelves like their title character on a broomstick and are still disappearing even today.
As an indie published author I have a bit of a bittersweet relationship with the electronic publication medium.  It has enabled my work to reach an audience after many years and that is an amazing feeling.  At the same time, I've never gotten to walk into a bookstore and see a kid reading one of my books in an over-sized chair while his mother is waiting to get a Starbucks.  Very specific I know, but it's the type of thing I always imagined when I dreamed of becoming a writer.  And with the change in landscape does not necessarily follow a change in dreams.  After all, when something has been with you the most of your life, it tends to stick around. 
So all this made me think about how and why some books and authors achieve such enormous success, while others never even as much as the mild success I have achieved.  The obvious thing to say would be that they aren't very good, but that's not really true.  Someone, and not usually the readers, at least at first, decided that this author was worth money and this one, not so much.  Not to take anything away from the Koontz's, Collins's, Rolling's and King's, they are all fabulous writers and I am grateful for and have been entertained for years by the fantastic stories they have shared, but I didn't decide they were great writers.  Someone told me they were and hypnotized by the New York Times Bestseller List, as many of us are, I followed.  For some reason it never seemed strange to me that a book could debut atop this prestigious List.
You see, I can tell you my book is the greatest thing since sliced bread and who knows, it very well may be, but it doesn't matter what I say, or even what a few humble readers say, we are not usually a voice that counts.  So what then does the indie author do to get noticed.  To get readers attention.  The simple answer would be to get Random House to pay attention and the rest of the world will follow.  But for the vast majority of authors it's just not going to happen.  These days, getting noticed by a big publishing house is a little like winning the lottery.
Unfortunately I don't have the answers.  I don't think I've achieved the degree of success which qualifies me to dole out advice in the publishing category...yet (what a great word).  It's a challenge, I know.  There are millions of authors out there and there is no guarantee that they are good at what they are trying to do.  I don't begrudge the New York Times and Random House, aside from the fact that they are so exclusionary; although partly by sheer necessity, at the very least they do provide a manor of quality control.  A reader who wishes to venture into the sometimes rewarding sometimes frustrating world of independent novels has no such guarantee that at least some Senior Editor out there somewhere thought the book they were buying would make money. 
Ah, but there is an upside.  Putting on my avid reader hat for a moment...the ball is kinda in our court now.  Because although my opinion might not carry much wait compared to Scholastic or Penguin, my opinion...with yours and several hundred others...that's an entirely different story.  That is why independent reader reviews on sites like Amazon are so important.  While it really doesn't matter all that much if you post a review on Stephen King's latest novel (although I would not discourage you as he probably still appreciates them) you could make a tremendous impact on that great indie author you stumbled across the other day by posting a review, telling a friend, or updating your Facebook.  It's an opportunity to be connected with authors in a way that really wasn't available before, as by the time most authors were discovered the machine was already in motion.  How great it must feel to have been one of the early readers of Amanda Hocking who reviewed her book and then watched as she soared to author superstardum.
Well, that's enough of me for one post.  In closing, I just say that my books...they are awesome.  I'm pretty sure that Random House and the New York Times would tell you so, but they are busy, so I'm telling you.  August 30, Scarlet and the Keepers of the Light and the Dragon's Burden are being re-released, newly edited, newly covered and in hardback, kindle and trade paper.  The first two books in the Scarlet Hopewell series, they have reached as high as number 8 on the Amazon Top Selling List in epic fantasy (unfortunately, because they have to be downloaded first, they couldn't debut there).  If you're a reader, thank you for making what I try to do, tell great stories, so much fun.  If you're an author, thank you for the many hours of entertainment and inspiration.    

1 comment:

  1. I love the photo!! You are a great writer and your books and blogs are more than entertaining - they are inspiring...... Random house----are you listening?????? Keep writing and I'll be proud to place those hardback editions on my shelf!