by Will Viharo
So you’ve written a book. Congratulations. That is quite an accomplishment.
By this time tomorrow, it could be a published product available to a global audience in the online marketplace alongside both famous and obscure works by hundreds of thousands of other authors, mostly names no one would recognize.
So why even bother? Good question.
Once upon a time, if someone said they had just finished a novel, they might be greeted with accolades and even astonishment, since it seemed like such a rare feat of creative courage.
But given the DIY indie publishing revolution, it seems almost anyone is capable of at least completing a book-length project, and then actually getting an ISBN assigned to it, just like any book by any author. That once exclusive cachet has diminished.
To the indiscriminate reader browsing for literary distractions, at first glance this author’s book may seem rather appealing to their tastes, regardless of the fact it was self-published. Most readers really don’t care so much about the publisher anymore. They only demand quality literature, by anyone, from anyone.
But then once this casual potential customer checks out the first few pages free to read on Amazon, they realize this is either an undiscovered masterpiece, or the nonsensical, grammatically incorrect drivel of an amateur hack exploiting the same tools accessible to professionals, publicly promoting and pedaling work that should never have seen the light of day. Basically, it’s Not Ready For Prime Time. And if the author lacks any actual talent, it probably never would be.
And yet, there it is, for all to see. Or ignore.
For years, industry veterans have been lamenting the fact that anyone with a computer and an agenda, whether creative or ambitious or downright hostile, can churn out an unlimited amount of published work that typically would have no business in any respectable marketplace. And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it now. The gatekeepers have been permanently circumvented. There is no corporate oversight. It’s a virtual free-for-all now.
Of course, the good news is that many talented authors whose work is too unconventional or simply not commercially viable enough for profit-motivated agents and publishers can now take their work directly to an appreciative audience, and let them be the judge.
And judge they will. That’s their role as customers. They are the ultimate arbiters of contemporary commercial culture.
Since anyone can “publish” their own book, merely boasting this as a credential is no longer all that impressive, sad to say. What gives any author distinction, both amongst his or her peers and most importantly with the consumer, is how professionally their books are not only written, but also edited, designed, and marketed.
It is possible for a single person to wear all of these hats and still be a success, keeping most of the profits throughout the process. But take it from me: it is very, very hard and challenging. But also rewarding, especially when you’re treated with the same respect as a seasoned veteran that achieved their notoriety via more traditional avenues.
Don't Write Yourself Off (the Island)
Basically, you work needs to speak for itself, as loudly as possible, so that others can then speak for it as well. Generating positive word of mouth is the smartest, most cost effective way to promote pretty much anything. But it must be organically developed and nurtured.
That’s where proudly inventive self-promotion comes in, whether you’re self-published or not, since even mainstream authors are left to their own devices and networks to spread the good word. How you sell your book is just as important as how you wrote it. One should reflect the other.
Your goal should not simply to be a “published author.” That’s become far too easy now. Instead, your ultimate aim should be to be a “good writer,” maybe even a great one, by any standard, not just your own.
And that’s not something any old “published author” can truthfully claim.
PHOTO: DAVID CHILDERS
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New Orleans, LA