Where Is Everybody?

Ok. State of the Union here. 1 book published, 1 book in the can, 2 nearing completion (I hope). A lot of revision to be done. And where am I? Not very far, but then I didn’t expect to be much farther. I *hoped* I would be much farther, but didn’t expect it. In fact, I expected exactly what I’ve got.

What I did not expect was how cloistered the author community is on social media. Authors buying each other’s books, lifting each other up, and soliciting each other’s support. Which is good. Or would be good, if it wasn’t for the fact that it wasn’t just to other authors. Which is an inherent problem, as they have their own books to sell and trumpet. And let me tell you, there are enough authors out there or people trying to become authors that their followers are frighteningly stacked with each other. Again, which is fine. We need each other. I support each and every one of you.

But the problem yet remains. In sum, we are selling books to authors trying to sell books to authors trying to sell books to authors trying… And so on. It is an ouroboros of grift. And when I say grift here, I don’t mean it (not entirely anyways) in a negative fashion. There is a level of grift in any job. I grift any time I jump into someone’s group self-promo thread. I grift when I post a book announcement. I grift when I try to sell myself so that I can sell my books. Few of us, I think, are *really* (or ubiquitously) interested in one another or in one another’s work. It would sincerely become tiring if we maintained that level of interpersonal investiture. And besides: why should we?

It’s a strange thing, and it happens no less in traditional publishing. Outside of a few big names who draw their own self-sustaining audiences, the rest of the culture relies on itself to pass the same list of names around in hopes of striking some imaginary gold mine. As if this award or that feature or interview will be the magical one to draw in that readership we all lust after. Sometimes it is. We certainly have our success stories in this regard. But we must regard it at some point as something of a myth. The “overnight success”, the “meteoric rise”. It often comes, when it comes at all, at the end of a long road or with the helping hand of a patron already in the scene. Even then the principle remains. We rely on outside factors to gain success. At best, we are Johnny Come-lately’s to the game. At worst, the game was rigged to begin with.

And it’s turtles all the way down.

The reviewers are tied in with the authors, the former relying on access to the latter to maintain the longevity of their relevancy and the latter relying on the former to maintain access to something resembling a prospective fanbase. But here again, that fanbase is largely other reviewers and authors! It’s why a fair few writers pick up award after award and you will never hear from them without tapping into this underground of online communities and review blogs. I have cruised the Speculative Fiction section at bookstore after bookstore for about as long as I’ve been alive and in recent years I have begun to only very rarely stumble upon anyone who, upon further inspection, is actually pretty big name or up-n’-comer in the genre. They simply do not exist in physical space much of the time.

Which is not to say any of this is necessarily bad. Any way to get ahead, I guess. But it does create a system of connections in which each individual relies upon the other so completely that their objectivity is called into question. It is hard to overstate how problematic this becomes when concomitant with a lack of any really invested fanbase or community beyond the authors and reviewers, even more so when we take human nature into account and the conflict that can bring. There’s a kind of tension. Things go unquestioned. The issues of the day are relied upon to draw an audience that otherwise fails to show up. Placating, pandering, whatever you want to call it, has become the mode of creating an audience and maintaining relevancy in some cases, submitting oneself to the dominant narrative and losing one’s originality to it.

But that is a much larger question than I can answer, if at all, in a blog post.

The larger issue is how do you not necessarily circumvent the above–which I don’t endorse, I enjoy being involved in this community–but tap into this kind of faceless readership that buys or otherwise consumes without interacting. There’s some bridge I’m missing, I feel. Some gap that I see, but can’t identify. It’s sad because I really want to try and connect with a readership, to make some tangible effort in this regard, as opposed to casting a net out into oblivion and hoping someone stumbles into it. Which is all that the above really is as far as I can see. Possibly. I’m not one to sift for gold or even really lace blasting charges across the landscape. But I am one for doing the work. Oh, man, I’ll do the work. Until my fingers bleed. But I’d really like to know what work to do.

In short, tell me where to find you! I hope I see you out there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s