I love to read.
Please let me repeat this because, in my opinion, it addresses the conundrum of publishing every writer faces, sooner or later: I love to read fiction and non-fiction, novels and short stories of every genre, mystery, drama, fantasy, science fiction and on and on. I have been known at times to read poetry and under pressure may even admit to have written some, not well perhaps but just the same. I do not read at record levels but one or two full-length books a week tend to satisfy what I consider a voracious appetite for the written word, one after the other, spinning all sorts of ideas and concepts into and around the insides of my head.
There clearly exists an obsession in me with such reading as I find myself completing a book or story even if I am not particularly enamored with the writing, the style, or the idea or the content being developed. For example, I read “Mein Kampf” in German because I wanted to know how such a popular book in those days by a writer named Adolf Hitler, who undoubtedly published his own since he declared himself a publisher as well, did not alert the German populace and others of the insane moron in the making. Such a book could be considered a warning to everyone and should, therefore, have sufficient exposure to achieve such purposes (perhaps Germans did not really read it since they mostly claim that they had no idea).
There are others whose books or stories I used to love to read but, over time, they appear to have lost that special something which attracted me to those authors in the first place. So I do what millions of others will do in such instances: I no longer read their stories and find some new writer who may challenge my preconceptions and bring new ideas to the surface. In the USA, it is said that every year about 190,000 new books are published and I simply love this diversity of writings, whether by known or unknown new writers.
By now, there must be over 2,000 books-I don't really know since I have been reading for decades- stacked everywhere in our little house, in the computer room, in the bedrooms, in the living room and, of course, in the garage because we are running out of room. I dream of living in one of those old fifty-bedroom English-style houses with wall-to-wall shelves to eliminate the sad necessity of ever having to give away or sell those timeless treasures, no matter their individual values.
Here is a great big “Thank You” to ALL the writers who have managed to get their works out there into the public eye so I can read it, good, bad or indifferent. Because, as I have said, I love to read!
All writers read but not all readers write, as we know. What has happened in the last few decades to help change that substantially is, of course, first of all the Internet, which is blowing aside so many barriers to publication of any writer's work. Through websites made possible for anyone, it has enabled thoughts and ideas to mushroom across the globe and in the minds of many readers who have, all of a sudden, discovered a very irresistible urge to reach out and to write, something, anything and to share what has germinated in their minds and in their souls with others, saying clearly: we are not alone.
No question, there are plenty of human trolls littering on the Internet, sad perps looking for easy money or worse. But this is not a treatise on the Internet, rather it is intended to address the worthwhile efforts of any writer having something, anything to say.
How do I choose what to read? This is such a personal choice for anyone to make; thus, do not assume that I presume to be speaking on behalf of others. First, I look for content-do I feel like reading this genre today? Second, I look for story line-does it sound enticing enough to keep me reading and interested for a few days? Then I review the author and his/her interests and if it is an author whose work I have not previously encountered, even better. I do not check the price since that will never determine whether or not I shall purchase a book or story. And finally, the point of this whole paragraph: I cannot recall EVER having checked to see who published the book, who printed it and from which country it originated in making my choices. The only time I ever look for that type of information behind the covers is to find out if I have read it from a prior printing or edition. Again, maybe that's just me but I do not purchase a book based on who printed/published it and I think there is a message in that to writers who are looking to get their manuscripts out of the dusty drawers in their study or out of the digital content of their computers.
Long before the inventions of printing presses and ink, I can imagine fifty monks sitting around a table, writing the same story or treatise fifty times for distribution to a larger audience than one. These original publishers had to rely on the swift feet of others for distribution to those exalted few who could read and just might be interested in that year's subject matter. Calligraphy was of prime importance in those days and some very beautiful documents have survived into the 21st century.
God wrote, or rather dictated, and Moses published, the Ten Commandments. How many editions have been printed to date by subsequent printers?
With the invention of printing presses, self-publication became the norm. One would pay the press' owner to print a document and produce a number of copies. Once again, one could engage others' services to deliver the writings to the large cities where there were likely more readers than elsewhere. These press owners never claimed, as they did in later centuries, that they had a much finer appreciation of these writings than the writers. Over time, however, all that changed since these now-called publishers discovered the fine art of money-making to the point where they would waive their fees from the writers and simply collect from the readers, of which there are now millions.
The rest, as is said, is history. In today's world, these “traditional” publishers-a misnomer if I ever heard one- make much out the fact that they no longer accept writings directly from writers and refer them to “agents”. The agents typically respond to approaches by new writers with a message of consolation “not for us”, unless the writer has a proven, money-making track record or the easily perceivable potential for huge profits. It is estimated that about eighty to ninety-five percent of the publishing market functions in this realm. Not exactly an encouraging environment yet writers persist and some do break through this wall of rejection. Bravo to them but one must wonder how any writer keeps trying and trying, despite the odds against them?
Writers write because they must, what with all those words and concepts doing a maddening dance in their heads until these words have been put on paper or some other media, have been constructed into a story with some semblance of structure and have, thereby, become a true child of the creator to live forever. Perhaps it is simply a desire for immortality in some fashion or, perhaps, it is simply because writers have something to say to others and are willing and driven to share. Is it logical that readers become infected with such determination and become writers? Of course, it is inevitable eventually and hopefully for many or all. That will give the “traditional” publishers even more to twiddle about: “we are just so busy.”
Guess what? The writers, rebels as they all are or are learning to be, are in large numbers becoming non-traditional, seeking alternative sources to display their children of words, finding them and utilizing these marvelous inventions: websites upon websites, paying presses to print their works (the true traditional), hiring others to construct their books in a totally understandable urge to break through any real or imagined barriers. It is, at the same time, a defense mechanism against “traditional” slush-piles and endless waiting for an editor's or publisher's response and an economic principle-supply and demand. One keeps knocking at NY publishers' door but the supply of available writers is growing while “traditional” publishers are not keeping pace with that.
And what about the nay-sayers, the endless bloggers criticizing every effort at publishing which is not New York related? What about their assertions that paid presses will publish anything, garbage or not, as long as they get their money up front with no risk attached when it comes to sales, or the lack of it? Is it their money? Are they afraid that their own writing or their genre will become polluted? How quaint.
And what if the writing is not garbage? How will anyone ever know unless each writing is exposed to the light of day, one way or another? Perhaps they are right but I get very suspicious when publishing houses themselves make those kind of noises. In a final analysis, however, I have come to the conclusion of “who cares?” I love the first amendment and in this land of opportunity, no one person or group with a mind-set will or should be allowed to let their elitists views run rough-shod over any writer wishing to bring their writings to the light, any way they wish or can. I am inclined to just ignore these negative attempts to direct writers what to do and let the readers decide what is good and what is not. We have the technology to accommodate all points of views and the selection process is firmly in place. Writing should rise or fall based upon its content, concepts and structured story, not on who prints it.
I can easily foresee that the publishing industry will be remade in this 21st century, whether they like it or not, this
will not be an option. Opportunities are multiplying and some far-sighted people appear to want and see a brighter future for all writers, making their expertise and facilities available to more and more writers. The criticism of PublishAmerica is abating a bit but yes, they need to get into marketing. Amazon is filling another gap with its Amazon Shorts and, despite the fact that Lulu is a technology company and not a publisher, they manage to get many of their books on prime listings and managing respectable sales and standings. Do you care? I do not but, of course, I am as yet one of those unpublished writers with a will of my own but no sales so it is easy for me to talk. It's the right place from which to start, n'est pas?
I have now also begun writing a book and guess what will happen when it is finished? I shall probably wish to publish it in its natural evolution, heaven forbid, garbage or not. How shall I accomplish that? Well, during my extensive travels throughout Europe, I discovered this very peaceful monastery with many a monk available. I shall bring them the paper, the ink and the quill pens. And I shall make a donation to their cause, whatever it is. Maybe . . . .
Writing could be considered an act of rebellion. To formulate and expose one's own ideas to the world could be construe d as a desire to influence the current state of world affairs and flow of events. And if it is true , as suggested, that history is made by individuals, not committees, then it is equally true that every one has a chance. Thus, let writers be the rebels they were born to be and let them be encouraged to continue all their best efforts, to never quit (as if they could, anyway).
I love to read.