These days, in the new world of book publishing (and if you didn’t know there was a new world, look here and here) things are a little different. As a writer and newly published author who chose the so-called “partnership” route, my world has become all about building a digital platform, promotion, marketing and social media. I am getting a new education in publishing; the old world, the one I dreamed about when I was young where Mr. Big Publishing House came along and scooped me up, printed my words and set me up to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson no longer exists. Yes, because Johnny Carson is dead, but also because of the new way books are published.
It is an exciting time for people in the book biz. Authors are getting their work out there like no other time before due to independent publishers, self-publishing, partnership publishing - whatever you want to call it. It’s out there and it’s exciting. But most of the education is aimed toward the new author-- all the how-to articles, websites and other new books help the author stick her or his toes into the fast running current of self-publishing and keep their heads above water. I myself have been treading water as fast as I can. Dory from Finding Nemo is my new muse: “Just keep swimming!” All that help and support is well and good for me and all my new peers and colleagues, because it’s a big learning curve. But I wonder who is going to tell the public how to navigate in this new world, because as it stands now, I don’t think they’ve noticed the change.
This occurred to me this morning as I sat down to check on my platform architecture - just to see how it’s holding up. Last night I posted another plea to my Facebook friends and followers to write a review of my book. “If you review it, it will sell,” I said cleverly to my friends and one of them responded within minutes and my Amazon reviews grew to seven. I was overjoyed, as I am every time anyone says anything nice about my book. Writing and publishing a book (aka having a dream come true) is not exactly like leaving your first born child on the first day of school with a bunch of other people you don’t know and learning how to stay away for the whole day, but it’s a little like that. Obviously, you want people to like it and it feels good when people say nice things, but in this new world, it matters that they do for more vital reasons and not just to make you feel good. In the old days, publishers sent the books out to stores and libraries, and people would buy them, read them, love them (hopefully) and didn’t worry whether or not the author was feeding his family or making the insurance payment on her car. The publisher took care of the author. The reader took care of the reader.
It’s a little more symbiotic than that now, but nobody told them. Readers are still behaving like they always have (god bless ‘em) reading voraciously until their next favorite author comes out or finding some new author through a friend. The advance of technology has given readers a little more connection with the authors they were reading. One didn’t have to wait for a university or a library to have a Famous Author come and give a talk; just pop on the internet and check out Famous Author’s website. Even as Amazon carved its own enormous space in the market and allowed members to “review” their book purchases, I don’t think anyone really realized that their review made a difference. As with Goodreads, which is solely an online community of readers and encourages member reviews, I think the typical reader feels like their review “won’t count”. How in the world can Ms. Jane Smith’s review impact anything except her book group’s next novel or her mother’s next birthday gift, not when Publishers Weekly, The New York Times or Kirkus are out there with their authority and clout.
I think it surprises most people to learn that writing a review about a book makes a difference to the author. Reading behavior, like writing behavior, is an individual and solitary experience. Even if you belong to a book group, the actual reading of a book is an intimate process, much like writing it. To transfer that experience to one that is written and public in larger community is part of the learning curve. It’s part of the learning for the writer, and, I also believe, for the new reader.
When I talked to my husband about it, he said, “Be direct. Just ask people to write a review.” So I said, “Will you write a review?” It didn’t even occur to him that he could write one. Everyone can write one. My family, my friends. Even with the disclaimer that a review was written by a friend, family member or colleague, a review will help to guide the next reader to choose your book. And then tell another reader, and another. And that, boys and girls, is how to be a part of the new book publishing world. Come on in. The water's fine.