Fangtastic Friday Welcomes Rob Tobin

I’m so appreciative for the chance to do a guest blog on this wonderful site, for you wonderful readers. This, I believe, is the last blog on my blog tour to support the publication of my urban fantasy eNovel “God Wars: Living with Angels.” The novel is available as a download from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, ominilit.com and smashwords.com for $2.99. If you do download the book I sincerely hope you enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and it would please me so much to know that at least some of you were able to share in some of that joy.

Because this is the last blog on the tour, and because I’ve spent the last several months promoting the publication of the book (which came out, by the way, on March 1st), I find myself exhausted by the process of getting it from original idea to published novel and all of the marketing in between and afterwards.

Things have changed considerably for authors in the past few years, partly because of technology (internet, social networking, eBooks, etc.) and partly because of economics (publishers are now forcing authors to do the vast majority of work to publicize their own works and are not supporting their authors much anymore except for a select few bestselling writers)> The result, I believe, is a weaker book market and a weaker product.

Part of the reason for this weaker market is that that market has been flooded with a huge number of books, made possible by the eBook phenomenon whereby publishers can put out hundreds of titles for next to no cost, so that those publishers are far less picky about the quality of their books, able to publish books they would not consider publishing if they had to pay the cost of doing so in hard copy. In other words they’re quite happy to gamble on spending perhaps a few hundred dollars on publishing an eBook as opposed to spending many thousands of dollars to publish a hard copy book.

Another part of the reason for the weaker book market is that authors can now go direct to distributors like Amazon.com without having to go through a publisher. That means that, basically, any crappy manuscript can now be “published” through a major distributor like Amazon or Smashwords or Omnilit without having to pass muster with an editor or publishing house reader.

Yet another reason for the weaker market is that authors are, simply, burned out, dividing their time between writing and marketing with more and more of it being spent marketing, and the work suffers because of it. I realize that since starting to market “God Wars: Living with Angels” I have spent almost no time writing. Instead I’ve spent my nights and days emailing and posting on forums and groups and doing guest blogs and interviews and… well, you get the picture.

What can we do about this? Well, to be honest, I think the way to fix this is for publishers to scale back the number of books they’re putting out (whether eBooks or hard copies) and put more support into each book. Publishers need, in other words, to be publishers instead of just middlemen depending on volume — if they put out enough books one or more of them will bring in money.

The reason writers are able to be writers is that publishers take up the mantle once the writer is done actually writing the book. If the writer has to do the publisher’s job too, it gives that writer far less time to do what he does best — writing, not marketing. It also burns the author out and, worst of all, it weakens the chances that the book will be commercially successful, because writers are simply not as good at marketing as publishers are (or used to be). So now you have a writer who is marketing instead of writing, and doing a crappy job of that marketing to boot.

I believe that the one thing that used to distinguish the book publishing industry from nearly every other entertainment medium in the past was the legendary passion of the publishers and editors for the written word, a passion that often outweighed mere commercial considerations. The only other place I’d ever seen that kind of passion in the entertainment world had been the “legitimate” theater. Now… not so much. What had once been the Rolls Royse of entertainment is now the MacDonald’s of entertainment, pumping out literary Big Macs and quarter pounders, and it is very sad.

It is, of course, ironic that the main culprit in this scenario is what should have been the ultimate “freedom of the press”; the ability of Everyman to get his or her words out to the public. After all, isn’t that what Guttenberg’s revolution had been about and wasn’t that an absolutely good thing? Of course it is in some ways wonderful that authors can now reach out to a bigger audience, but in doing so they dilute the product and turn publishers from creative partners to mere distributors depending on volume rather than quality. If they put enough books out there regardless of quality, something will sell. This is, of course, the ‘crap on the wall’ technique: if you fling enough crap against the wall, some of it will stick. The problem is that the crap sticking on the wall is still just crap.

Of course readers now have a far greater range of books to choose from, and they can now pay as little as 99 cents a book and just zap them into their book readers. I don’t know if it is leading to more books being read but if it is, then good (although I’m not sure that reading more crappy books is in itself a good thing). However, reminiscent of the “Walmartization of America,” the electronic revolution in book publishing has greatly damaged the book marketing industry, hurting writers who now find it almost impossible to earn a living from their craft because they are now getting perhaps 40% of 99 cents instead of 10% of $20.00 per copy. You do the math.

So what can you, the reading public, do about this situation? Well this is the saddest thing of all: I don’t really know. Will we ever be able to stop or reverse the catastrophic “Walmartization” of America? Perhaps, but I have my doubts. Will we ever be able to turn back the tide of electronic publishing and sub-$1 books and book readers, and massive unedited self-publishing, and publishers abandoning authors to their own devices in terms of marketing their own books? I doubt it.

But, still, as Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers is so famous for saying: “It is what it is.” If we can’t turn back the clock, then we’d better just get used to the ticking, lol. So, as I pull this chapter of my writing career (pun intended) to a close (by that I mean the publication and marketing campaign for “God Wars: Living with Angels), I thank everyone who supported me and who were so kind as to respond to my marketing emails and posts and guest blogs and interviews with extraordinarily kind remarks. I wish you great reading experiences and great lives and I hope that the written word continues to be inspiring and educational to you.

Ciao.

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Comments
One Response to “Fangtastic Friday Welcomes Rob Tobin”
  1. Jean Watkins says:

    Thank you for the insight to the writer’s side of the equation. I am just an editor and I know how the market is flooded with a lot of stuff that should have gotten a lot of help before seeing the light of day. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, in this modern world of ours, the readers like having that one on one relationship and easy access to the writers. I myself have been turned off of an author because they made it too hard to approach that author at a public event where they were supposed to be accessable.

    Just know that …eventually…all your hard work will pay off and bring you loyal fans. Congrats on the new book and I wish you all the success with it.

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