Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reach for the Stars...

Current listen:  "Marching Bands of Manhattan" courtesy of  Death Cab for Cutie

My blog tonight is tuned to the frequency of the "writing world." Today, a rather disturbing and somewhat frightening article was forwarded to me by my good cyber writing friend, Ruth Casie ( - basically, a farewell to books... The link:
   So, fellow authors, do you suddenly feel like you have an expiration date tattooed across your forehead? Has all your hard work been for nothing? And what of you, like me, who aren't published, but actively engaged in trying to get someone to notice you? Does the door appear to be closing, the window locked, leaving you in the middle of an empty space with your prized manuscript in hand? Is "hope" nothing more than another "four letter word?"

When I was a little girl, my grandfather owned a pink Cadillac - one with a gold grille. He was so proud of that car and drove it everywhere. It was his personal symbol of success. He was a home builder, a quite successful one, and when he could pay cash for this car, it made all the years of hard work and sacrifice, worth every torturous moment.

What is the personal "symbol of success" you're striving for as an author? Is it to see you book in hardcover on the shelf of Barnes & Noble? Your name on the New York Best Seller list? Finally earning a living at doing what you truly enjoy and being able to kiss the day job goodbye? I can honestly say any, and all three, would equal my "pink Cadillac."

But then, I read an article like the one above and panic skitters through me. Am I too late in the game? Will they stop manufacturing my "pink Cadillac?" Yes, the publishing world is changing, faster than some of us would like. When mega bookstores close their doors, agents and publishers vanish in the night, and more books come out in digital format before coming out in paperback (the new "hardback"), most touting a price tag of under $5.00, worry can't help but trickle into the corners of a writer's brain. Especially aspiring authors, like myself, who are so anxious for the world to read our stories, but fearful we will be cast aside and swallowed in a surging tide of unknowns, forced to look at other avenues. Ones that steer us to a pink scooter instead of a Cadillac.

I'm guilty, as a reader, of loving the ability to obtain a copy of my friends' new books, the next sequel in a series I've anxiously awaited, or, yes, the advertised "freebie of the month" being instantly at my fingertips. Amazon has even created a word for their magic delivery system that entices you:  "whispernet." How can you resist being "whispernetted?" Sounds decadent, doesn't it? Mysterious...forbidden. Yes, I'm a "Kindle convert," a devoted follower of the Amazon religion, or cult. But, I still favor a book in my hands. The feel of the pages, the smell of the paper, inserting the cutesy bookmark before placing it on the night table or ottoman, to patiently wait for my return. So do I think "the book" in its traditional form will disappear? Libraries become something later generations will read about in a history syllabus? No. Maybe fewer actual tangible books, possibly, but become extinct? Never.

So what does that mean for us, author friends? Guess it means we have our job cut out for us to prove them wrong. Authors are like teachers. We do it because writing/teaching is our passion. If we make money doing so, it's icing on an already delicious cake. Are you going to to stop writing because the media says the day of the block buster novel is gone, and all you'll do is tread water, if not sink all together? Hell no! We're dedicated to giving readers what they want. And what they want is a good book!

The article accuses the digital platform of ruining the quality of books now produced. In all honesty, yes, there are some awful books out there, but they're not limited to indie publishing authors a you are led to believe. I've read some crap on the pages of hardbound books as well. I've also read some great stories by indie authors and have friends who are brave to do this on their own (not as easy as the "how to" manual describes it). Not all books offered as "free" are bad either. My first free book was from author Amanda Hocking, and we all know what's she's accomplished.

My point to this epitaph? Don't give up. Ever. The road to becoming an author, in whatever format you choose, is hard. "No wimps allowed. Apply thick-skin lotion daily." Prepare to cry, scream, and swear as if you suffer from a major case of Turret's Syndrome. Eye your family as 'fresh meat', if they so much as dare tell you to 'take a break', and take family pictures...often. Might even be a good idea to write the names of your loved ones below each face, because once you write/type Chapter One....Once upon a time...or, In the've crossed into another dimension. One no one but other authors understand.

Books are here to stay. Authors will never become extinct, nor will the editors and publishers we need to make our stories the best they can be. There will always be a need for agents. Personally, I can't picture not having one to help me maneuver this labyrinth, so I'm looking for one I can form a long working relationship with, because I'm not going anywhere.

"Pink Cadillacs" are special order items, as are your stories. Give your readers what they want and tune out the voices that say you can't. The only voices you should be listening to are the ones belonging to the characters in your head. Okay, and your significant other. Possibly a child who needs feeding, too. 

Thought for today: Aim for the stars and don't stop until you've hit the Milky Way. 


Sandy L. Rowland said...

I read the same link. Wow.
The truth is, that's just someone's opinion. It isn't fact.
Anything can happen.
Don't let speculation kill your dream.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Here, here. I think you're absolutely on spot with your advice to never, ever, ever quit. I do think there's still a way to "be a writer." I just think we need to be flexible and willing to evolve with the industry. Thanks for such an encouraging post. With all the gloom and doom out there, you have me a nice pick-up this morning. or said...

Sure, things change. I used cloth diapers, my daughter used disposable. They said cloth would never be used again. Excuse me, but you'll notice there are still those that use cloth. Books are our entertainment, our escape and we look for a new one at the end of the last one...stay true to your pink cadillac. Never quit.

Rhonda Hopkins said...

I completely agree! I can't imagine not having print books in my future. But, I also have been converted to those instant whispernetted (new word?) eBooks. I think it's a great time to be a writer and a reader!

Liz said...

I think any moment of change is both exciting and scary, and certainly we're there in publishing. I do understand the doom and gloom of the article, and worry that my dream of being a pubbed author will be empty of the cash component when I finally get there.

OTOH, Donald Maass spoke at our chapter luncheon and he had a more positive take on things--and I'm going with that! Challenges and opportunities rather than the end of the universe.

I'd love to earn a living at this--as I'm sure we all would. ; )

Jennette Marie Powell said...

As much as the music industry has changed, musicians are still being paid for their music. I don't think the free stuff will take over, although sure, I do think about it. If I was dead-set on publishing with a big NY publisher, I'd be depressed as all get-out right now. And at first, I was. Then I saw all the opportunities that are newly available to us as the industry's changing, and decided to go with the flow. Sometimes the pink Cadillac changes into a shiny, red Camaro, but it can get me to the stars just as fast!

Cool post - thanks for sharing!

Jayne Ormerod... said...

Inians used to communicate via smoke signals, then came the pony express for mail, then the U.S Postal Service, and now most people communicate via social media. The bottom line is we still communicate.

People will continue to read. The method of receiving those words may change--make that IS CHANGING--but there will always always always be a place for the written word.

So, never stop writing. And never stop beleiving in your dreams. They say the only difference between a published author and an umpublished one is perseverance.