Publishing is in the thick of great upheaval. Proud legacy houses, the tastemakers of all our reading choices for a century, are strapped today. That means developing new writers has been curtailed across the board. Advances to authors are smaller, sometimes nothing. Book marketing funds are invested very carefully by the publishers at first to see if titles can find their own audiences. Short of a breakaway success soon after a book’s release, marketing dollars for a new author can disappear faster than rainwater in the desert.
At the same time, independently published authors are rounding out the roster of titles that the legacy publisher used to control almost completely. With social media, readers like you now have the power to recognize, advocate for, and promote new and excellent voices that the legacy houses have had to ignore. Where it used to be that a reader voted with her wallet, now she can ramp up her own private crusades as a tastemaker with both wallet and the keyboard.
It’s a brave new world for literature. When I decided to independently publish my thriller, DEADRISE, it meant turning down a decent legacy offer, and committing personal resources the way any entrepreneur would invest in his own business. That does not mean I scrimped on effort to research and write the best possible book that I was able. How many times would I get the chance to publish my first book? So I made sure my work was professionally edited, and enclosed in a story-specific, kick-butt cover by Brian Boucher. Then Telemachus Press did a smashing job formatting both the paper and the ebook versions. Shelton Interactive got me squared away with a beautiful website, and made introductions to some great interviewer/bloggers, like www.Cozy-Mystery.com. The rest was up to you, dear reader. And you really came through!
Let me acknowledge you right now. As a reader, you comb the web for titles you like the sound of. You research extensively, just as I did, to make sure the book is a fit for your personal taste. Then you invest your hard-earned money, and entrust precious hours of your free time to the stewardship of authors like me.
Today, you don’t have to stop there. Realizing your tremendous influence to define a book’s future, and in so doing, the future of an author, you reach out through your book club websites, and other compendiums of reviews, like Goodreads.com, and Amazon.com, to let the world know what you think. Now, you can even communicate directly to your favorite authors, sharing your opinions. Your reviews are like clarion sirens helping to direct other readers to new worlds inside books where you have found gold.
On the other hand, what if the book you just read was not completely to your liking? Perhaps, given this wild west of publishing, you have encountered an author’s work while she, or he, still has some development of style, voice, character, or plotting yet to do. Perhaps, in spite of reading sample pages available on line, the book was not quite what you hoped for in the end. So get your money back. It’s fair. That act is a statement of your opinion. Also, if I may suggest, perhaps you can offer some constructive criticism through the author’s website, or in a kindly worded review. Not for a minute do I believe that any author ever musters the courage and the resources to publish independently with the intention of annoying, or in some cases, enraging you. We truly hope only to please you with our ideas and inventions. If we ever fail, remember we tried, especially if you feel passionately that the work was not ready for prime time. Just let us know. Remember, your words have the power to help a writer do better next time. Your tougher words unchecked can blow an author with unrealized potential completely out of the game forever. Instead, I encourage you to partner with your authors with your valuable counsel as close readers to make their next outings better than the last.
Some authors might not admit this, but these days, we need more than the cost of the book from you. We need the real investment of yourselves as contemporary arbiters of taste to make our work relevant to your life. You see, we authors no longer serve the ivory-towered critic who can damn us from on high without mercy. We serve you directly, gentle reader. Join our righteous quest to make your leisure hours of reading the best they can possibly be. And as always, thank you for your time, in reading our work, and in writing to us about how we can improve. If you like Deadrise, shout it from the rooftops! If there are areas for improvement, let me know at email@example.com. It’s the digital age. You can reach your humble servants personally, and help us become brilliant. Please don’t surrender that newly discovered power to anger, or worse, to silence. You, personally, can shape this stark new landscape of literature. Grab at this wonderful opportunity, and I for one will truly thank you from my heart.