James JosephWriting can be difficult and it can be fun. Here, I can write about anything that comes to mind, modern or ancient. I hope you'll join in with your comments.

July 30, 2009

Are Publishers Really the Best Judge of Books?

The latest trends in publishing indicate that both major and small press publishers severely limit the quality and variety of newly published books coming to market. Granted, a large percentage of self-published books are of very poor quality, and often unreadable. But many best selling books are not exactly of the highest caliber.

For a new writer to break into the fiction market, they need to have different talents than authors of the past. They need to have television presence. They need to be comfortable with public speaking. And, they’re generally required to make book tours. Due to the expanding influence of television on the publishing industry, an author must be ready to interview on Oprah or one of the morning shows. The problem with this is some of the best authors are introverts.

In the past, that was completely acceptable. But now, if you’re not a highly animated extrovert, you’re unlikely to get off the “maybe list”. 

New writers are encouraged to write mini-novels, or to write what the publisher in their area of interest likes to publish. I know an author who writes romance novels in unique historic settings of 13th century Europe. She writes one every year, and has gained a following. But her royalties fetch her somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 – $4,000 each year. It doesn’t seem likely that she’ll make a good living as an author.

The fact is, the vast majority of authors make next to nothing. We all hear of the highly paid authors like Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham and a handful of others. I’m very glad someone in the modern era is being recognized for their literary contributions. But there aren’t many. Most people can’t even name 10 authors of fiction from this century. Most professional sports figures earn substantially more than writers. Most professional actors make more than authors.

Imagine that! People who throw a ball a certain way are much more highly valued that a writer who can spin a 50,000 word tale. People who act like other people – characters that are most often contrived by writers – are revered on the screen, and receive some of the most lucrative contracts in the world. People who drive cars around in circles racing other drivers are more highly valued than writers.

It’s not all about money, but as you can see, the modern publishing conglomerates have not done a very good job of promoting authors, creativity, and interest in the writing field. It is a labor of love, and the vast majority of aspiring writers will never get beyond the “starving artist” stage. There is hope, though. With the advent of print-on-demand, it has become affordable for authors to publish their own works. And with the internet, authors have also gained a new, more affordable marketing avenue.


May 7, 2009

The Last Minute Book Title

Filed under: Book Publishing — Tags: , , , — Jim @ 12:59 pm

Shadow of the Serpent/A Coyote Moon Story is far from the original title of this book. Very far. The actual title I planned for this book was The Ancient Parable. I can’t be certain, but I think it would have worked much better. Many people who’ve read this book have told me the title actually put them off, but they read it anyway at the insistence of a family member or friend. They were generally surprised that they really liked the story.

Prior to publishing it, I was told that “The Ancient Parable” seemed a bit pretentious, and perhaps I should choose another title. To me, it’s exactly what the book was about, but who was I to say? What did I know about publishing, or the daunting task of trying to market fiction. The book was praised and rejected by many prominent publishers because it was too long for a first novel, and didn’t fit neatly into a genre. But, as an author, I write what I write, not something that fits neatly into a marketing scheme.

So, The Ancient Parable became “A Coyote Moon Story”, and I revised some of the book to reflect the new title. 3 weeks prior to publication, while it was still in print production, another new book came out with the title “Coyote Moon”, and coincidentally, it was released in Maine, the same state where we’d be releasing “A Coyote Moon Story”. It became apparent that the two books could easily become confused, so I had to change it again.

With some effort, I came up with “Shadow of the Serpent”. In many ways, it was in line with several of the themes laced throughout the story, so it seemed appropriate. However, it also presented as a very dark fantasy, and in some scenes, that was true. But all of the fantasy related elements are actually allegorical. It was perfect for teenagers who relish adventure, and it provided a whole different level for more advanced readers.

I believe most people who saw the book kept away due to the title. And, I think the original title would have been a much wiser choice. If I had it to do over again, I’d go with “The Ancient Parable”. If you’ve read Shadow of the Serpent, I’d like to hear your opinion.



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