Being a writer in 2017 involves facing challenges that didn’t even exist a decade ago. With the services currently available online anyone can publish anything. It has never been easier to get your book printed. So why is that a bad thing? Oversaturation of content with no filter for quality. There used to be several checkpoints you had to go through to get your book published, now all you have to do is cut a check to Amazon. This is not to say that amazing works have not been self-published, because they have! However, being a published author no longer holds the same weight as in did in years past. This week’s Killer Nashville guest blogger, Baron Birtcher, shares his insight on writing in modern times and how we can all help each other!
Ask any author — aspiring or established — why they write, and you will likely get some variation on one or more of the following answers: (A) I feel I have a story inside me that has to come out; (B) I have always wanted to write; and (C) I want other people to read it.
It’s that last one that’s the trick, though, isn’t it?
The fact is, without readers we’re simply tapping away on the keyboard and entertaining ourselves. But when it’s all said and done, we want to know that our words have been read; that they’ve found an appreciative audience that engaged with the characters and the world we created on the page.
As a result, I have adopted a new mantra: Read a book, review a book.
Like so many of us, I look back fondly on the days of vinyl LPs and FM radio, where in the space of an hour you would hear everything from Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin to Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan. If you had an hour to kill, you’d drop into Tower Records and browse the bins while the girl at the register played something you’d never heard before on the house sound system. Pure bliss. The point is, there was room enough in our heads for all of it. We wanted to hear it! That was the very definition of Hand-Selling!
Reading was no different. Most of us want to be exposed to new authors, new subjects, new ideas, and new styles. But how do we find them in this new era of online sales?
I was introduced to Michael Connelly’s first book — at the time, just another new guy on the scene — by a knowledgeable bookseller in a brick-and-mortar store. Same with Robert Crais, Randy Wayne White, Don Winslow, and the list goes on and on. I’m sure that many of us share that same experience. Hand-Selling!
Problem is, where have the bookstores gone? The Internet irreversibly changed the game. Without the need for a traditional publisher and distributor, the playing field just became more level than it’s ever been before, and that’s a good thing, right?
By analogy, let’s take another look at the music business. At one time, the music industry was rife with “gate-keepers.” There were club owners, agents, managers, producers, and ultimately, Record Labels. The fact was, if you could run that gauntlet successfully as an artist, you must be pretty good, or at least appealing to some perceived market segment.
These days, if I have a song in my head, I can record it in my basement and have it up on YouTube or Spotify within minutes of cutting the tune. No gate-keepers; nobody to tell me if it needs work. The bad news is, there’s no record label to shout out the existence of my new hit from the rooftops, or through those radio speakers. In short, it’s invisible until somebody hears it … and that person tells somebody else … and so on.
The new world of literature is virtually identical. There are some authors who simply captivate with their enviable use of language. Others weave plots that are so compelling that you practically tear the pages from their binding from turning them so quickly.
But, while we are presently enjoying a new and liberating digital playing field, it is vital to remember that quality still matters. In the absence of the traditional gate-keepers, we are now faced with an avalanche of reading options that range widely in terms of editorial quality. Because content (i.e. Kindle, etc.) tends to “look” the same to the online buyer, the new gate-keepers—in essence, the new Hand-Sellers—are the bloggers, the critics, and the readers who take the time to post an honest review.
Sure, we are blessed that we also still have a handful of stalwart, dedicated and brave brick-and-mortar bookstores out there, but the folks who are increasingly responsible for spreading the word about a new book, new author, or new voice is us.
All of us.
If we want to help our favorite new author reach a broader audience, we must take the time to post a review — shout it from the rooftops in the digital realm. For instance, copy the URL address of this fine blog site and share it with your friends, and encourage them to do the same. Now, while it is highly unlikely that my posted review of the superstar authors like Connelly, Crais or King will have much effect on their sales performance, the positive influence of reviews for new or less-established authors is practically immeasurable!
Which makes it all the more important for us to take the time to sit down and write that post, dash off that review, and let the reading world know what a great discovery we’ve found. If we want to find the golden treasures in the ever-growing stream of literary content, we’ve got to contribute to the process and be active participants not only as authors, but as fans and reviewers.
Let our collective mantra be: Read a book — Review a book. And it doesn’t have to be a brand new release. Post a review for any book you’ve read and loved!
To paraphrase the late, great cartoonist and creator of the Pogo comic strip, Walt Kelly: I have met the new Hand-Seller, and he is us.
Baron R. Birtcher spent a number of years as a professional musician, and founded an independent record label and management company. His first two Mike Travis novels (Roadhouse Blues and Ruby Tuesday) are Los Angeles Times and Independent Mystery Booksellers Association best sellers, and he has been nominated for a number of literary awards, including the Nero Award (Hard Latitudes), the Claymore and Silver Falchion Awards (Rain Dogs), and the Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Award (Angels Fall). His newest thriller, South California Purples, was released April 30, 2017. Baron currently divides his time between Portland, Oregon and Kona, Hawaii. Read more at www.facebook.com/BaronRBirtcher/
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And be sure to check out our new book, Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded, an anthology of original short stories by New York Times bestselling authors and newbies alike.
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