Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Repercussions of Indifference

The lovely Alison Gaylin of First Offenders gave me the perfect opening for something that was already on my mind.

The most serious issue in the publishing industry today is not quality of work or distribution. The most serious issue in the publishing industry is indifference.

We’ve all heard the saying actions speak louder than words. There is truth in that expression, and it’s also true that the lack of action speaks louder than words. Consider if a man tells you he wants to marry you, but never proposes and then moves out of the country and doesn’t give you his address. Logic infers the declared desire to marry was a lie, or if not a lie, there were other competing interests that overshadowed any desire for a permanent relationship. Waiting for him to return and propose would be considered by most foolish.

What does this have to do with Alison? Today, she writes on the blog about getting a billboard for her latest book, and how that’s helped boost sales. And then she adds in a bit of commentary about the growing onus on authors to handle their promotion. ”So many people have come up to me, a look of shock in their eyes, saying they saw the billboard and, as a result, bought TRASHED that I'm wondering -- why didn't NAL get me one of these babies? (Oh yeah, because they're not friends with the billboard people and it would actually cost them lots of money.)”

That connects with something Steven Torres said in a comment on a recent post here, and with his permission I quote:

"Publishers generally refuse to see the books they publish as cultural events - unlike movie producers or even music producers. Publishers prove that they don't think the books are relevant when they refuse to spend advertising dollars saying - rather weakly - that no one buys things because they see ads...Movie/music producers are happy to run ads claiming that their product will "change the way you think about XYZ." Publishers don't run ads at all. What is the public supposed to think about which is more relevant?"

Let me be emphatic about the purpose of this post: It is not to attack publishers. What these comments actually got me thinking about was the culture of indifference, and social conditioning. No, I haven’t been smoking anything illegal this morning…

It is a very simple reality that in our society, we follow trends. We reference cultural shifts, such as the fashions of the 70s, the music of the 60s, the sexual revolution. Anyone remember when Cabbage Patch Dolls were all the rage, and the stores couldn’t keep them stocked long enough?

The reason that I believe JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series was such a success was because the release of a new book became a cultural event. It was anticipated, widely discussed, publicized and promoted.

In the publishing world, we typically seem run counter to the norm. With movies, they tend to spend a lot of money making the movie and, unwilling to then not recoup the investment, they promote the movie. Here’s a question: How many movies that are released to mainstream movie theatres have a zero advertising budget? How many movies will Famous Players (or whoever it is now) show this weekend that didn’t have a TV ad?

I think we probably all know the answer. And yet, this same week, dozens and dozens of books will be released that will have no promotion behind them at all. In the book world, the theory seems to be make money by not spending money. Refer back to my recent post citing Jeri Westerson's, and the reality of publishers not shipping out books for signings, thus rendering author events ineffective. And one would truly think that in order to make money it would be important to get the books out to stores... In the movie world, advertising generates awareness of the existence of a movie and the release becomes an event. Compared to the release of Harry Potter, I’m struggling to think of any other book launch that’s been so greatly anticipated. For individuals, we can all name our own, but I’m talking collectively.

Yet I remember lining up for the new Star Wars movie, how anxious people were to have tickets for opening night. I remember the line-ups for Titanic, which was sold out long before I got to the ticket booth, which is why I never saw it. (I’m going to get back to this in a minute.) And I most definitely remember the anticipation of The Lord of the Rings and going on opening weekend to see each of the movies. Indeed, as Steven said, movie releases become cultural events. I can scroll through the news articles in the Toronto Star today, and they’re talking about two music artists. Yesterday it was ‘must-see TV’. On the weekend, the latest films. On a daily basis other arts are discussed and celebrated, and the very act of discussing those releases increases public awareness and, consequently, their significance to the public. Do you want to be the only one at the water cooler not talking about the latest Bond film, or who doesn’t know what happened in the last episode of Seinfeld or hasn’t heard the new Bruce Springsteen album yet?

And really, what is it that’s different about CDs, movies, TV shows and books? There seems to be a tendency to discount interest in books, saying they’re a luxury item, nobody needs it to live.

In short, I think it goes over to social conditioning… and access.

I grew up in a small town. In the summer the Muskoka Theatre was a busy enterprise, providing live entertainment to the tourists. I lived in Muskoka for almost twenty years of my life, and it was not until that last year that I took my cousin to a play at the Muskoka Theatre. Why? Because as a local resident I was far too busy working to indulge in the entertainment the tourists enjoyed. Locals made their bread and butter off of the tourist industry. The tourists played, we worked. It isn’t that simple for everyone, but I remember friends saying how lucky I was to live there year-round. They visited, on a holiday, and had a picture of paradise. I remember the long winters, the fact that we had no mall, a furniture store sold a small selection of records and tapes, there was no bookstore but the pharmacy had a few racks of titles and the grocery stores had a small selection as well, and by the time I was an adult the one, lone movie theatre was gone.

It was easy to feel as though the world was a place you only heard about on TV, and occasionally people who lived in it visited. From the perspective of a teenager it was isolating and dull, and yet we weren’t far from other major cities. Orillia was half an hour south, Barrie about an hour’s drive, and half an hour beyond that you were on the outskirts of Toronto. The nature of our location, and access, made a sixteenth birthday an enormous cultural event, because it marked the age at which we could drive, and being able to drive meant being able to gain access to all of the things we didn’t have in our town.

As a result, you also would not commonly hear people talking about going to the opera, the ballet. People made events of going to rock concerts. I will always remember going to see Les Miserables, an event followed by a visit to a city bar where we spotted famous actors. I was with my sister and future brother-in-law. Since my BIL had family in the city, they knew the spots to visit, and his father and step-mother introduced me to a different world, his step-mother a cousin to Timothy Findley, and she actually possessed the letters which had inspired The Wars.

Since I distinctly remember a childhood thinking life was what was happening everywhere else, I remember the transitions in my own thinking. I didn’t think I would ever travel and see the world. Books were a window, and an escape, and therefore treasured. We would drive to Orillia or Barrie to go to the mall and my mother and sister would go to look at clothes, while I went to the bookstore.

Through TV, even through newspapers, we’re subtly and sometimes brazenly conditioned to consider certain things important. If other people are talking about it, it must be significant… even if what they are talking about is nothing more than Britney Spears losing custody of her kids. How is that relevant to us, as individuals? It isn’t. And yet it was marked as ‘breaking news’ yesterday. We have a culture that is built on the creation of idols, and our media (and consequently many individuals) assign significance to everything they do, even if it has no bearing on any of us. Why should Britney Spears be newsworthy? Why is her divorce, or her shaving her head, more newsworthy than the recent releases of The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen, Mark Billingham’s Death Message, Ian Rankin’s Exit Music?

The answer is, simply, that we’ve been conditioned to think her behaviour is significant. While it’s unlikely that regular readers of this blog assign much value to her as a source of news (other than, perhaps, as a cautionary tale) clearly the media believes putting her on the cover sells newspapers and magazines. Hollywood is a physical location, where multiple ‘celebrities’ can be tracked (in the same way multiple country stars can be found in Nashville) and therefore, it is easy to have a few reporters there to follow the latest news and gossip because it is easy to access several “newsworthy” people with limited resources. Their antics are newsworthy, and of the dozens of books released this week, few will ever receive even a review in a newspaper, never mind inspire a column or article.

The importance – or lack of importance – a culture puts on the printed world says a lot. Consider what was said of the formation of schools in the early days of colonizing America:

”More than any other device,” Lewis Mumford wrote… “the printed book released people from the domination of the immediate and the local;…print made a greater impression than the actual events… To exist was to exist in print: the rest of the world tended gradually to become more shadowy. Learning became book-learning.” In light of this, we may assume that the schooling of the young was understood by the colonists not only as a moral duty but as an intellectual imperative. (The England from which they came was an island of schools. By 1660, for example, there were 444 schools in England, one school approximately every twelve miles.) And it is clear that growth in literacy was closely connected to schooling. Where schooling was not required (as in Rhode Island) or weak school laws prevailed (as in New Hampshire), literacy rates increased more slowly than anywhere else. (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, page 33.

The printed word revolutionized society. It brought knowledge of other places, people, beliefs, to others. Shared knowledge could become a strength, and conversely, keeping knowledge from others became a means of control. Think back to the history of the Church, to maintaining the practice of performing Mass in Latin – a language which exceptionally few people have any grasp of – and how that isolates. People can be classes as in the know or not in the know. Knowledge becomes a source of power. Just consider how desperately scholars try to decipher hieroglyphs and ancient symbols. Why? So that they can attach meaning to the organization of strokes connected to represent some shape which had significance to a culture, even if that culture no longer exists. We want to know what they knew. Curiously enough, we live in a society replete with contradictions. We do not want to think of others knowing what we do not know. Did ancient Egyptians know of life on other planets? What happened to the Anasazi tribes? Is there a mystical key to immortality in some remote jungle on the planet?

Civilizations have killed, and been killed, for the knowledge of their secrets. What was the quickest way to suppress a people? Take away their language, destroy their culture. We need think no further than England and Ireland. In the seventeenth century, under English rule, many Irish chieftains and teachers were forced either to emigrate or go into hiding, and for many people education continued only in the illegal 'hedge schools', in fields, barns and sheds….
It was also at the beginning of the nineteenth century that scholars, notably Germans, began to unravel the mysteries of 'Old Irish' and Irish studies became a recognized scholarly pursuit. Towards the end of the century the Irish cultural revolution, or 'renaissance', began. Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) was founded in 1893 with the principle aim of reviving the Irish language, which was showing signs of decline.

TV now means that you do not need to read to be able to know, and we have come full circle, with students now able to graduate from high school and college remaining technically illiterate. The printed word is not afforded the same significance by society at large, which is odd, because to be immortal is still to exist in print. That's why people cut out newspaper clippings about themselves or loved ones, it's why people still publish obituaries to mark the passing of a loved one. You can be on TV and your appearance over in a heartbeat, without ready ability to recapture that moment and share it with others, but being in the newspaper is something that can be framed, referenced... It is permanent in a way that TV is not.

And yet, I am left referring back to what Alison Gaylin said, and could cite example after example that demonstrates that awareness does generate interest. It is not that people do not have the time or money for books. Let me go back to Titanic. Sold out the one time I tried to see it, so I believe I saw a Bond movie instead, and never saw Titanic. Why? It really wasn’t that important to me. I was with someone who wanted to see it, and since attending a movie was really more of a social event (let’s not touch on the contradiction of socializing while sitting in the dark with strangers watching a movie and not talking) than anything else, it lost significance for me in the absence of that person. I had no individual desire to see the movie.

The point there is that people will spend $20 going to see a movie (by the time you drive to a different town, buy book and tickets, probably more) for entertainment, even if they have no overwhelming desire to see the movie. People are often willing to dispense with money if they feel they will be somewhat entertained for a few hours. We make excuse after excuse for why people don’t buy more books or read more – too busy, books are too expensive – but if you examine our consumer habits I would say that an overwhelming majority of what I see advertised on TV is not anything essential. You don’t have to advertise groceries, because people need to eat to survive. (And yet some products are advertised – local potatoes, Milk. I note that many of the items advertised are either local or ‘special’ in some capacity… or are items that have become a subject of controversy as people debate the health benefits. Eggs and peanut butter are good examples.) No, what is advertised on TV is not what it essential, but what is regarded as desirable, items of convenience that are going to make your life better. Movies you should want to see, because everyone else does. TV shows you shouldn’t miss. New albums you simply must get your hands on. The latest fashion trends. Beer. In fact, the most memorable commercials for me, for some reason are beer, coke and Canadian Tire ads. God only knows why. But I remember that Barry Eisler had an ad in the NY Times…

Last week I saw an ad on TV for a book. The new James Patterson. It is not that advertising doesn’t work, or that there’s an unwillingness to invest in promotion. It’s that it is done for exceptionally few items. I think back to the summer and the Edinburgh Book Festival, which received plenty of media coverage, based on an over-hyped comment blown way out of proportion… which was soon followed by a joke that got out of hand (about JK Rowling and her “new” book) that earned Ian Rankin headlines in the national news here in Canada. One remark, well-placed, earned enormous free press coverage, simply because of who he was talking about and the cultural significance she’s considered to have.

Meanwhile, review space declines, and we mourn its loss, while not grasping the cultural shifts that have brought it to this place or what the implications for the future are. Michael Connelly was one person I saw who dissected the issue with intelligence, talking about how newspapers were doing a disservice to themselves in the long-term by undermining the importance of the written word by not covering books. His thoughts on the topic (which if someone has a link to, please do share in the comments) came closest to a discussion of communication theory and the culture of literature. I could digress and go on whole new tangents and easily be here day after day, week after week, on the subject because it fascinates me, but instead am reduced to trying to whittle down my thoughts into one semi-coherent post. What reviewers fail to understand is that yes, all forms of the written word, have merit. Going back to Postman (page 51 this time): To engage the written word means to follow a line of thought, which requires considerable powers of classifying, inference-making and reasoning. It means to uncover lies, confusions, and overgeneralizations, to detect abuses of logic and common sense. It also means to weigh ideas, to compare and contrast assertions, to connect one generalization to another. The very act of reading conveys a level of intelligence not needed to watch TV, listen to a CD or even watch a play. We translate lines and curves into letters, and again into words, which we assign meaning and when words are put into sentences it can alter their meaning. The act of reading is one that requires knowledge and intelligence. I am not suggesting that there aren’t intelligent people who can’t/don’t read, but when someone can read we assign certain merit to them. Reading is a skill. Watching a movie isn’t.

And yet, what do we celebrate as a society? What gets discussed? The latest books… or the latest movies? Why do I review primarily genre fiction? Because reading is what is important, and if people find what they will enjoy they will continue to read. Some want humour, some want drama, some want romance, some want purely to be entertained and others to be challenged. We make the mistake of denoting significance to things based on content. One of the main reason ‘literary’ types are thought to snub their noses at genre fiction is because of the ‘fluff’ factor, and so we categorize things based on relevance… but there can be as much merit in making a person laugh as in making them think about an issue.

This is not all about publishers needing to do more promotion. What I fear has become lost in the recent push for authors to do more and more to promote their own books is the bond we share as people who love the written word, and love writing and reading. It’s been replaced by necessary competition, to get our work noticed ahead of others. I read on a blog a few months back a candid admission from an author that when someone walked into a bookstore, they wanted people to buy their book instead of anyone else’s. Believe me, when What Burns Within comes out I hope a lot of people buy it and read it, and more than anything that they enjoy it… but my first love does go to reading, and recognizing that individual tastes vary, more than anything I want people to find the books that will speak to them. When they find those books it will ignite their love of reading, and have them seeking more and more books. This is what one author did for me at a critical point in my life, and as a result I discovered so many other authors.

I look to the UK. I’ve had a long-standing love affair with British fiction, and have to applaud their culture, for it is a culture that indulges the love of books. The press takes note of literary festivals. I can tell you about Hay-on-Wye when I’ve never even been to it, or to Wales. I read the news about book launch parties, the Edinburgh festival and others, and feel a new sense of isolation, because we do not have the passion for literature here to sustain those types of events.

I look to the CWA who, in recognition of the fact that much of what we give significance to in society is attached to a dollar value, and made the top prize at their annual awards £20,000. They created a newsworthy event that in turn conveys significance to the awards, and raises awareness outside of the industry. And that's critical, because we are far too good at preaching to the converted, and ineffective at reaching beyond genre insiders.

What is needed is not just clever marketing gimmicks. What is needed is a culture that stands up and says that books are to be cherished and celebrated, that inside on those pages is a story worth reading, that opening a book is like opening a window to the world, allowing you to see inside the minds of others, to experience what they experience, to feel their pain, their joy, their conflict.

The author organizations can invest in the future of their industry by making a stand that books are relevant. We need to get over this apologetic attitude that treats books as luxury items that aren't important.

Or, we can carry on, everyone out for themselves, and still fail to spark the awareness of the many, many great books out there well worth reading.

In closing, I’m going to quote myself, from something I contributed in the comments to a post Patti Abbott made.

At some point in your life, you pulled out a book, held it in your hands, and fell in love. And it might have been right then, or maybe a little while later, but one day you thought, I want to see my name on a book some day. And that was the dream.

And it isn't the same achievement self-publishing. It's the difference between getting a mail-order bride and having someone genuinely fall in love with you - that's the feeling when an editor says they love what you do, and want to publish it.

That's the moment to write for. I know there's everything else (believe me, I know) but to be able to hold a book in your hands with your name on the cover is the dream. We just have to try not to let it be overshadowed by the nightmare.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Again, I say it. You are a romantic. And that's a good thing.
Hold on tight to your dream. (ELO, 1981?)

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Patti. Spreading the love of books is something I can get behind. The value of the written word is something I believe in.

And if that makes me a romantic then I guess I am, and that's not a bad thing!

Steven said...

Now, to say something nasty...

I think many writers also approach their books as though they were NOT culturally significant. Just entertainment. Entertainment is fine, but on its own, I don't think it is enough to gain a wide audience (of Oprah Winfrey numbers).

The Da Vinci Code is perfect for what I mean. A decent enough thriller. Good as entertainment. But...I think a major portion of its huge success is attributable to the fact that many people thought they were going to finally get to the bottom of the meaning of life - was Jesus God incarnate or just a nice guy with a wife and kids? Loads of people upset that the Priory of Scion was fake. Still, millions of discussions started, an entire cottage industry rebutting...REBUTTING...a book that Dan Brown started off happily enough disclaiming. Culturally significant? You bet your bottom dollar (or at least $24.95).

I think many writers today go into writing a novel without even wanting to start discussion on any topic under the sun...except discussions that begin and end with "buy this book!". Entertainment has to be the starting point, but if there is no THERE there, then really, what's the point?

Sorry to co-opt your blog for my semi-coherence.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, no need to apologize Steven. I agree with you.

In fact, this is an issue down to taste, but I'm upfront about prefering more serious, dark books. I love issues-oriented books. You're dead on the money about the significance of The Da Vinci Code - it had nothing to do with quality of writing and everything to do with subject matter. And people are still buying religious thrillers. Sarah Weinman recently mused "I'm surprised there hasn't been a thriller "tracing origins back to Paganism" or "tracing origins back to the Greek Gods" yet, but I'm sure that bright idea will come along eventually..." which prompted me to think about it, and I must respectfully suggest that I disagree. (I suspect Sarah's comment was more about assuming someone would try that as a new twist on the religious thrillers, not because she necessarily thought it was a worthy direction.) Why? Because the majority of the population in North America still traces back to a "Christian" heritage. We have the remnants of that religious base woven in our culture and our lives on some levels. Catholicism is probably the dominant religion... and Christianity has at its core an act of selflessness - God becoming human and giving his life to save manking - which makes any revelations that affect the way we view the Christian church as potentially relevant to our heritage and even culture. My grandmother was Catholic, my father and grandfather members of the Orange Order, the Ruttan family traces back to the Huguenots. Paganism doesn't carry the same cultural weight because it doesn't have the same bearing on how we view ourselves as individuals, as families, as societies, and people don't know as much about it. Dan Brown knew exactly what he was doing when he went at Christianity, and the more symbol-oriented side of the equation.

I personally agree that a book should say something worth saying. You see, religiously I'm sorted, so I have no interest in fictional religious thrillers. I could probably write one that would kick the ass of them all, as someone who's studied church history, world religions and graduated from Bible school. I just have no interest in that.

But I read the deal news and often find myself wondering about what is getting published. Some books are pegged as being so fringe it's a wonder anyone would want to read them. It's like someone sits down and says "PI books are passe, so we have to reinvent the PI genre. Okay, let's have a PI... and let's have him working in Cairo, because that's exotic and we can have covers with pyramids and stuff...and let's have him be bi-sexual, because then everything with two legs is a potential love interest so it gives us more to work with and for good measure let's make him a cross-dresser, oh, and because of something that happened ten years ago he's an amputee with one peg leg and we need some deep, dark secret, so maybe he was raped by his father, but being a drunk is too common so... he used to get high sniffing gasoline and is still struggling with that. Oh, filling up a car with petrol now has meaning. In his spare time he likes to race camels, and he collects Pokemon cards."

I don't know... sometimes I just think they're trying too hard to be commercially clever, and it's a very fine line between being clever and being extremely stupid. And I mean, if people out there want to read it, great for them. I'll read about a character who's gay, straight or otherwise so I don't particularly care, but at some point all the quirks become just another character trait that seems to have been manufactured to make the character unique. And that risks crossing the line to unbelievable.

But for me, I like entertainment with substance. I wrote What Burns Within to be an action-packed, entertaining read with high stakes and plenty of tension... but woven in it is a bit of commentary. To sum it in a word, the book is about sex. I'll save expanding on that for later.

I have no problem with books entertaining, although personally I like a bit more too it. But more than anything, I just want to see people support the love of reading and good books.

JamesO said...

As ever, a very thought-provoking post, Sandra. And it occurred to me in relation to the slow death of book reviews that publishers' reluctance to advertise might be one small reason for this.

Newspapers aren't in the business of reporting the news so much as making money - sad and cynical I know, but true. A large chunk of that money comes from advertising revenues. So when, for instance, Dreamworks take a full page advertisement for their latest movie in a paper, that paper is going to make damn sure it reviews that movie - maybe not on the page opposite, maybe not in the same issue, but it will be flagged up. Likewise for music, new TV shows, theatre.

But as publishers constantly reduce the amount they spend on advertising, so the review editors talk to the marketing people and think - why bother? Net result, fewer and fewer reviews, and so the publishers reckon that money spent on advertising is a waste. Cue vicious spiral downwards.

Well, it's a theory.

Sandra Ruttan said...

It's a theory that potentially holds water, James. I know it was discussed, and that some publishers maintained they couldn't afford to adverise... others argued they couldn't afford not to.

And you're certainly right that the world turns on economics, and people pay a certain amount of attention to their sponsors. This is why when celebrities get caught in scandals sometimes they lose their endorsement deals.

Getting back to Patti, I was 10 in 1981, and not allowed to listen to rock and not yet rebellious, but didn't ELO do Rock 'n' Roll is King? Really showing my ignorance here...

Barbara said...

I read your post soon after reading the New York Times and noticing two full-page full-color ads for books, thinking "wowsers, that cost a lot!" Probably each one cost more than ten times the size of the average advance. (The books were by John Sanford and Jimmy Carter, I believe.)

One reason publishers don't spend a lot on advertising is that the average book has a small audience relative to a film or television show. It's possible that new modes of advertising (geared to individual tastes - a mode that requires a disturbing invasion of privacy, but that's where it's going) will be more hospitable for finding the niche audience.

I don't buy the argument you often hear that papers shouldn't/can't review books unless publishers pay for more advertising. I don't see a lot of ads for sports teams, but most papers have a sports section where their exploits are reported. I like Carl Romano's recent argument in the Philly Inquirer that book reviews are good business. Makes sense to me.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You know Barbara, I have mixed feelings over the advertising thing. I mean, I know how much it costs to co-op shelves in Barnes & Noble and it's outrageously expensive... and then I see on Tess Gerritsen's blog about how often the stores don't follow through, although they've been paid for it.

And it raises a weird feeling for me, because on the one hand I can see the effectiveness, but you still need people to walk into a bookstore to see those displays. And then, aren't bookstores supposed to be like any other store, that displays things that are of pertinent interest to their consumers? What we're suggesting is that there is universal taste, if every store has the same books co-opted. Okay, I can see it with JK Rowling. But after that, there's a whole bunch of variables that factor in - things that are local, topical, in the news, etc.

And it bothers me a bit, to know that the books at the front and on the end displays aren't there because of anything other than marketing. That's my reader side talking: I never buy books from the front of the store. In fact, I'm atrocious for never wandering outside the mystery section, unless I'm looking at travel or reference books.

Like Alison, I can cite examples of people seeking out my work because of something external. And you look at the magazines and see big ads people pay for in there. Some of the presses seem to take out full page ads and put six books on the page. I notice them all.

In reality though, I'm not really going to spin a big argument for ads. The real issue many authors face is that there is zero promotion. If you skip back to the post I made that touched on Jeri Westerson's post about Bouchercon, and about ARCs and how a lot of publishers don't send them out, that's a biggie with me. I'd argue one of the reasons people see no need to invest in reviews is because it's often the same books being reviewed over and over again and in part, that's because it's the same books that get review copies sent out. I mean, we've had multiple e-mails offering us the same book by a popular author, and you'd think after passing on it the first time, they'd let it go. I'm not going to take the book. I don't want to read it and don't have the time, Kevin doesn't have time, our other reviewer has issues with certain content. And it's been reviewed 10 zillion other places already.

But some books I said we'd take haven't been sent.

So authors produce their own ARCs and pay to mail them out, pay to attend conventions to get their name known and do whatever else they can manage, spinning the same wheels, feeling frustrated... because most of us didn't become authors because we love marketing. We became authors because we love writing.

I loathe it because every day my spam load increases, and I get as much spam from authors as I do from people wanting me to have a bigger penis. It annoys the hell out of me. Yet I can see how desperate authors are and how they either a) don't know any better or b) have been led astray by certain idiots who indulge in bad behaviour and publicly gloat about it.

It all drives me mad, and leaves me feeling frutrated sometimes.

Barbara said...

It's a puzzle isn't it? One thing that publishers could do is promote reading one the whole more effectively. The reason you see ads for things like eggs is because ... well, I'm really not sure where the money comes from, but I'm guessing people who sell eggs, who compete with each other to sell eggs, get together to try and get more people to eat eggs regardless of which brand of egg it is.

Publishers (and writers, too) seem to worry more about getting people who already buy books to buy a particular book rather than think about how to get more people to be interested in books in general.

I absolutely hate the idea that what I will see promoted in a book store is paid for. This is a concept borrowed from grocery stores and it sucks. But that's partly why I don't shop at chain bookstores. When I go to a small indie bookstore and ask the owners what they recommend, I know they aren't getting paid for it - and I trust them. The publishers should pay them for promoting ALL books, but of course they don't get a dime and barely make ends meet.

Which maybe ties to what Steven says, that we have to think about books as if they matter rather than that they're entertainment and/or product.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Barbara, here the milk commercials are done by Dairy Farmers Associations. From money people pay for membership, I suppose, they promote milk as a product.

I find myself wondering why the writer groups don't do that. I've participated in a few groups and in one case really felt like my money had just been thrown away. The group had no cohesion, didn't do anything together, unless you lived in certain cities you didn't even get a say in leadership and I never really knew what was going on.

I'm not paying $100 a year for a monthly newsletter. And then with being told you need to be a member of so many different groups that turns into $600-$700 a year. Couldn't we just have one North American Crime Writers Association that does it all, and so much better? Okay, I understand the reason for SinC and don't lump them in on this - they have a reason for being and are worth joining but I'd rather give $200 to one group that was going to use the money to promote books and reading and the genre OUTSIDE of just promoting them to the industry.

I mean... why do so many authors spam other authors? The point is to reach readers.

Pulling money together, we could do more of that. When I hear how much money some organizations have in the bank I wonder why we don't see this happening already. Mild rant over.