While we writerly types love to throw words around at the slightest provocation, there’s one thing we don’t say nearly enough (and yes, the shame is palpable). Thank you.
You, the reader, are the ultimate raison d’être for any fledgling author with hopes of professional and artistic success. While we write to live and live to write, we wouldn’t exist without you. And what fun would it be if we could?
Please keep this in mind if you’re ever approached by a wordsmith in search of your support. If you believe in what we’re doing and the quality of our work, please don’t keep it to yourself. Leave a review that might catch the eye of another who comes after you. Share with like-minded friends this newly discovered jewel in the rough. And revel in the knowledge that you’re making a genuine difference.
We don’t ask it to appease some inflated sense of self, but because a simple gesture from you might help change the course of our career. It may just open new avenues and create connections that would not have existed otherwise.
Simply put, and without undue ass-kissing, you are a freaking superhero.
Now, before you begin to wonder if I’m prone to exaggeration (hint: I am), consider the oversaturation of blogs and platforms already groaning the woodwork under their collective weight. The average book published today will sell fewer than 250 copies in its lifetime. Some will see far fewer, while others deserve so much more. Left to the law of averages, however, this is the fate that each of us faces. Rather daunting, isn’t it?
So why do we do it? That’s easy; we’re crazy. But we’re also hopelessly hopeful. Against all odds, we’re driven by this strange compulsion to share, bartering in dreams and intangibles with no motive more malicious than to tickle your intrigue in passing.
Never underestimate the power of your support in such a uniquely intimate enterprise. We feed on your kind opinions, and learn from the ones that cut. We stress and fret and pray that the words we put on paper will earn your word of mouth. Without it, your next favorite author slowly drowns in the sea of a million new books published yearly. Sure we can swim against the current, at least for a little while, but we can’t do it alone forever. And for those of us with dreams of more than vanity, we need you more than some of us are comfortable admitting.
And please, let’s not forget that the need for your partnership and participation extends beyond the “indie” crowd to every level of traditionally published authors as well. In many ways, the world of self-publishing has created a lawless new frontier to which none of us is immune, opening the gates of literary notoriety to anybody who knows which side of a pen the ink flows from.
The result? A deregulated landscape where it becomes tougher by the day for authors to distinguish their hard-fought work—be it traditionally or independently published—amid the roiling torrents of broken English, slaughtered grammar and dinosaur porn (far be it from me to deny anyone their fetish but the first time I saw a seventeen page “book” on raptor kink that took two authors to complete, I died a little inside).
Our beloved sanctuary of finely-crafted escapism, fantasy and adventure is under attack. Publishing has become a volume driven industry, pun only intended in retrospect. While most of us still hold firm to the ideal of putting our finest foot forward out of respect for those we connect with, it’s become impossible to deny the reality that less scrupulous so-called authors are driven purely by the numbers, creating a race to the bottom that threatens to drag all of us down with them. After all, when another title means another quick buck in the pocket, who has time for edits and rewrites? Is that the future any of us really want?
These days, polished and intelligent writing is often looked past as overpriced when shelved alongside an endless expanse of $0.99 “bargains”. And yet, how many of those dollars have you thrown into the abyss only to grumble over another royal shafting? We live and die by what the market will bear, both from your side of the page and mine, and it will bear whatever we sit back and quietly allow.
The point I’m trying to make is simple, though I could rail on about it for days: you, dear reader, are this author’s greatest asset and most prized ally. You always will be. Social media trends change with the wind, continuously reshaped like the dunes of vain offerings piled outward to the horizon. Marketing strategies collapse under the exhaustion of odds of success approaching those of state lotteries. And then there’s the paradoxical truth that the most die-hard writers are often the most hopelessly introverted, hardly cut out for shameless self-promotion in today’s fast-paced digital whirlwind. But you… You will always be there.
Be they thrillers, Westerns or paint-peeling romance, we authors leave our strongest case for recognition within the pages between our covers. At the end of the day, success isn’t measured by money or fame or clout, but by the willingness of another to carry that case forward. Whether it’s a quiet soul with a poignant story to share or the next brash genius poised for greatness, we need you. Not for fortune and glory, though that would be nice, but for survival. It’s the survival of our craft, of our style, of our dream. And all of it rests in your hands. No pressure.
So, please, the next time a struggling author extends a soot-covered, claw-shapen, ink-stained hand your way and whimpers a Dickensian plea for help (I warned you about the exaggeration), don’t scoff and walk on unaffected. Pay a kind word, lend a nourishing comment, post a cherished review. Let her know she rocked your world by telling others the same. Tell the masses it’s okay to take a chance on this one, that he has your proud stamp of approval.
Here, allow me to illustrate the power of you via this convenient visual aid:
Every bestseller started somewhere, and magic didn’t make them. You did! Lift the next one from the dirt and give them a shoulder to lean on. Hitch a wagon to that star and join along for the ride, bumpy as it may be. Whatever you do, never confuse yourself for a bystander when you stand to be so much more.
For any author out there looking to make his voice heard, you are the greatest amplifier one could ever hope for. We will never forget your gestures, nor the faith you showed in making them.
And if that’s not enough to sway your burdened heart…