I love this photo. It reminds me of the days when authors bled ink and angst onto parchment pages, when printers painstakingly placed each letter and line of type until an entire tome took shape.
When readers took the time to hold books in their hands, smell the aroma of the ink and paper, immerse themselves in knowledge and verse.
Now, I’m old, but I’m not that old. I wasn’t REALLY there. And this photo doesn’t quite capture the essence of Gutenberg’s press. (I swear, I’m really not that old.)
But I can picture it. I feel the texture of the vellum, smell the tang of the ink. (Probably not as good as those purple dittoed pages we used to get in school—you know, the ones that were warm from hand-cranking and smelled sweet from the alcohols in the ink—but I bet it was a close second.)
But this photo evokes something in me. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
I’ve been thinking about it because my next novel, Bleeding Heart, the first in the Medici Protectorate Series, is about to be released. August 11, 2015, to be precise. But I’m not talking about the publishing industry—or rather, I’m not talking only about the publishing industry—I’m talking about a writer sending her work out into the world.
The Briefest History of Publishing
Ages past, a writer had things to say and either he or a scribe recorded these messages. While cave paintings and hieroglyphs aren’t considered “literature” in the conventional sense, people have been recording stories for centuries. Tales exist from as early as the Sumerian version of Gilgamesh before 2000 BC, and there are reports of innumerable texts lost to us forever, like those of the Library at Alexandria. Traditionally, however, fictional tales were dispersed to the people through oral traditions. Many people couldn’t read, nor did “books” exist. And if they did, the majority of people wouldn’t have been able to afford them, anyway.
Enter Gutenberg and the printing press. First used for the Bible, the printing press is still used today to distribute messages to the masses. Not the same technology, of course, but the end result is the same. Just on a faster, cheaper, and more massive scale.
Oral traditions held favor for quite a while, though. Shakespeare had his work performed live on stage. Dickens read his work to audiences. Even today, audiobooks have become a viable option for people who want to hear the stories without sitting and scanning text. Authors sometimes give readings when they release a new work.
Printing/publishing wasn’t for fiction in the beginning. You see, as early as 1472, publishing houses were popping up in Europe. At first, they were basically printing companies, doing nothing more than reproducing work. Nonfiction work. The Church, however, was the head of the publishing company. They controlled the messages being distributed, making them the first gatekeepers of literature. (It’s a safe bet to assume Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t have made the cut back then.) And controlling gatekeepers still stand today. Although, with the advent of eBooks and self-publishing, those gatekeepers have lost much of their say regarding the works people publish. Now, anyone can publish a book. The gatekeepers now only have their reputation behind their works. Kind of a “we’re the experts and we vetted this content for you” kind of thing. But that doesn’t keep readers searching for only vetted material, which seriously hampers the power of those Powers That Be.
Reasons Authors Abhor Publishing
Every author will tell you that writing is both fun and difficult. And every author will have a different reason for feeling each way. But one thing is certain—the act of writing and the act of publishing are two very different things.[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@stacitroilo”]Blog post, a short story, or an epic saga… doesn’t matter. #Publishing is scary. [/tweetthis]
It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a blog post, a short story, or an epic saga. Publishing is scary. Often exhilarating, but scary.
Why? Well, readers, let me let you in on a few secrets. Five, to be exact.
- Writers Have Feelings.
We have feelings. I know when you finish reading a novel and proceed to make fun of it with your friends, you’re just having a laugh. But someone worked hard on that. If a writer is worth her salt, she’s written and rewritten, revised and edited, designed and labored for longer than you’d guess. Some people take more than a decade to get their work in shape for the world. We hate publishing because we put so much in only to (sometimes) be ignored or panned. And I don’t know which is worse, really.
- Writers Work Hard.
It doesn’t matter if an author is self-published or traditionally published, he or she has a lot of time and effort invested. Not just the actual book, but all the marketing that’s involved. How much is enough? How much is too much? We don’t want to spam, but we don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. Our words and stories matter to us, we want to share them, not scare folks away. For every person with a book to sell, there are millions more competing for the same audience. It’s daunting. Almost crippling.
- Writers Fear Rejection.
- Writers Aren’t Business Experts.
Well, let me amend that. Successful writers have to learn to become business experts. But chances are, if you write fiction, you’re a creative-type. And, being one myself, I know that creatives aren’t necessarily the best at corporate minutiae. But these days, writers have to be. Writers write because they want to share stories with the world. But writers have to learn marketing, merchandising, distribution, bookkeeping… and every task on the business end takes them away from what they really want to do. Write. It’s a demand on the time and resources that no writer wants to sacrifice but every writer must endure.
- Writers Aren’t Patient.
This last one deals with the traditional definition of publishing. Not hitting “post” on a blog article, but actually working with a publishing house to get a book released. Did you know it can take two years from when you submit your work to when it actually hits the shelves? Then you’re supposed to develop an audience for it, market it (even though you don’t have it yet), and all the while you should be creating new content. If you miss a deadline, your work can be delayed. If the publisher misses a deadline, your work will be delayed. The next time you’re complaining about an author not releasing book 12 in her series exactly nine months after book 11, remember it might not be her fault. That book was probably written years ago. It just hasn’t made it through the queue yet.
So what can you, the reader, do to make your favorite authors feel better? Chances are, if you have a favorite author, it’s because he or she has delivered more than one or two good works, so you think you don’t need to show your support.
Sorry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Writers need reviews so their work has the potential to reach other readers. They need to know what you liked and what you didn’t like so they can better serve your needs/meet your expectations in the future. They need you to recommend them to friends and family… a personal recommendation goes so much further than an offhand comment from a random stranger. They need you to share their posts and Tweets. They need your help.
And what do you get out of it?
Other than more good content, that is?
How about our undying gratitude and respect? That two minutes you spend on a share, review, or comment will garner you a lifetime of good will from us.
And I know, because I’m grateful to each and every single one of you.
My challenge to you—support an author today. Leave a comment on a website, a review on a sales page. Type a comment on Facebook or retweet an author’s content. It will cost you no money and next to no time. But it will make a difference in some author’s life.
Have a great day, friends. I plan on spending the day writing.