The easiest road through life is the one paved with the biggest corporate names. It's a mentality that only buys heavily-marketed brand names at the supermarket even though the store brands are consistently half the price, which leads you to assume they must be inferior. (Hint, they're almost always the same product.) It's the McDonald's approach to hamburgers - easy, generic, familiar.
Think about it, dear readers: How have you conditioned yourself to choose books? Focusing on franchises, perhaps? Author names in billboard fonts above an otherwise small, mundane title? The bestseller lists? Recommendations from friends? Price? (More on that last one, later.)
Some of our most famous contemporary novelists are also brilliant writers and storytellers. Note the operative word some. Many of them are phoning it in, banking on a name that used to represent something new, different, or even innovative but now is simply a formula designed to keep the cash registers ringing and the Checkout carts submitting.
Franchise authors, like reading only one genre, are comfort food. They assure us that the time we'll be investing as readers will be "just fine" because what we've read of those books before was "just fine." (OK, so maybe even "great" from time to time.) So let me ask: Are the biggest names in any genre the only ones producing great stories? The only ones worth your time? (The answer is "no," which I assume you already figured out.) The real question becomes: Are you willing to look through the vast digital landscape of titles to find books and authors who offer something new and different, equal to or better than what you've experienced so far? Are you willing to look through the sponsored Amazon lists of books that are "similar"? Or do you settle only for the familiar?
There are thousands of outstanding indie writers who are counting on you to eat anywhere except McDonald's, to brave the new frontiers of names and titles utterly unfamiliar. The traditional publishing industry rejects more than 95 percent of everything submitted to it - not because all of that 95 percent lacks quality, but for many other (sometimes valid) reasons that have nothing to do with craft. So thousands of writers have ventured into the digital world to offer their work in a dizzying circus that includes literally millions of titles. And there you will find genuinely remarkable work.
So be adventurous, search for the hidden diamonds, provide opportunities for the authors who are striving for brand awareness. They need your help. (That would include me, of course, but I think you already figured that out.) Check out the sample text, whether on Amazon or any other digital platform. Take a journey down an unexpected path. Don't worry, no one will bite. But we might be contagious - in that wonderful way that keeps you reading late at night.
A final note about price: Just because Sally Bestseller's paperback lists for $16.99 and Betty Nobody's paperback lists for $6.99 is NOT (I repeat: NOT) an indicator of quality. You will find countless ebooks by "nobodies" ranging from .99 to 2.99. They're trying to cut you a deal, not suggest that their work has less value. So take the deal, enjoy the savings, and prepare for a hell of a new adventure.
A poor sod like me can write to his heart's everlasting content, but sooner of later comes that nagging sensation that the whole blasted insanity is worthless without a public audience. Thus, time to sell. It's challenging, exciting, and utterly terrifying, if truth be told. The digital world has created endless competition for our eyes and increasingly short attention spans. People can publish anything they damn well please for free. Amazon, the world's most powerful bookseller, features many millions of titles on its site - everything from literary masterpieces to utter dreck. That's a lot of clutter to break through. So what is a writer to do?
So, here's my choice after 25 years of playing it safe: No more time-wasting trying to find notice in the traditional publishing biz. Agents take weeks (and often months) to respond at a rejection pace exceeding 98 percent industry-wide, and publishers tend to be slower and far more inept. Sure, if you break through, then life can take amazing turns. But the reality of reaching the NYT best-seller list and becoming a mega-best-sellling-empire-of-one is much like achieving stardom in Hollywood: Of all the actors seeking work, only a handful will ever command six- and seven-figure salaries. So I rather think it's time to put aside fanciful notions of literary, financial godhood and turn to the trickier, more daunting task of turning the writing into a startup business.
That's the direction I am headed. Although I have published two books on Amazon and received reviews from my first few readers, the journey ahead will be long and grueling. I'll be launching an advertising campaign for those books this summer, followed by a third novel that is currently going through final edits. I'll then turn my attention to more of my back list as well as future novels and short stories connected to The Father Unbound and The Savage Clock. There's the matter of formulating a business plan, developing spreadsheets to track inflow and outflow, and of course design Facebook and Amazon ads.
Ads, of course, cost money. But what is the central adage of anyone daring to make that startup business work? See the headline to this blog.
And so it begins. The next chapter. The down and dirty. The bottom line. Accounting. Taxes. All quite vile. But if it works, now there's an intriguing possibility. And I'm all about possibilities.