On Friday, June 16, the New York Times carried a story about Libby Fischer Hellman and friends, Chicago authors writing mysteries set in Chicago and often about crimes committed in Chicago. Together they established a blog, The Outfit, to publicize their books, a job no longer being done for mid-list authors by their publishers. In order to get the books we like into print there needs to be a partnership of sorts between authors and their fans.
As mentioned in the About section of this blog, the goal of Murder By Type is to introduce mid-list authors to a wider audience. Publishing seems to be contracting rather than expanding. Authors whose books appear on best-seller lists have no difficulty getting published. Some authors append their names to books written by others who use the authors brand, getting multiple books into print each year. Books written to fill a template aren’t likely to be award winners; they fall instead into the category of a beach read, a book that doesn’t suffer if the reader’s attention is diverted by sun, sand, or sleep.
One of my favorite writers was the late Robert Parker. I never missed a book until I realized that the words on each page were getting bigger and the margins were getting wider. That’s cheating and the publisher abets the cheating because fewer pages make a book cheaper to print. Readers lost because the truncated stories were no longer like the work of the Parker we admired.
It seems insulting that publishers won’t pay to publicize the authors from whom they take the lion’s share of the profit from book sales. Wouldn’t publishers make more money if they supported their authors?
Publishing seems to be moving readers toward e-books. Amazon has announced that it has sold more e-books recently than hardcover books. I understand that fans of the Kindle like being able to carry a seemingly infinite number of books on one device but the sticking point for me is the device. A library card costs nothing. E-readers cost over $100.00 at the low end of the spectrum. That makes them unaffordable for a significant percentage of the population. However one may feel about the state of public education in the United States, public schools and public libraries have helped level the playing fields for children since free books and free education became available to all.
Libraries have seen significant increases in circulation as people search out inexpensive, or free, sources of entertainment. I know that a lot of library patrons come in to check out DVDs but an attractive display of books pulls people to the printed word, too. An authors circulation numbers goes a long way in helping librarians decide which books to buy within their limited budgets.
Mid-list authors need the support of their fans. A contract for the next book depends on sales of the most recent one. It is a frightening thought that publishers may choose to publish authors who sell greater quantities of books over authors whose books are of greater quality.
So bang the drum loudly, even in the library. If a reader hears good things about an author but can’t find that author’s books in their library, talk to the librarian. Explain why other patrons would really like this author, too.
Mid-list authors are becoming an endangered species. Maybe someone can come up with a bumper sticker?