Feb. 11, 2013

On My Soap Box (Again)!

How many books can a person read in their lifetime?  I used to think I could read a lot but I've become overwhelmed by the over-saturation of new books and authors.  It's not hard to find "a book" but it is hard to find "a good" book!  I have been known to download 5 or 6 books, and start each, before I find one that I want to invest my time in to read! I used to rely on reviews written by other readers - but now so many reviews are  "requested",  paid for, or written by family and friends - that I can't always rely on them.


Other readers often ask me to recommend a book, and because it's my personal stance that I will only recommend books that I consider "a really good read", sometimes I have nothing - nothing - to recommend! It seems that  many people have taken the idiom "everyone has a story to tell" quite literally!  Recently I've heard several people say that the digital age and self publishing are both a blessing and a curse, because, while these advances in technology have made it possible (easy) for people to become published authors, it doesn't seem to have improved the quality of work that is being produced.  


Everyday when I look on Facebook and email,  I am simply overwhelmed by the number of new titles coming out each day and by the fact that much of it seems "so alike".  I often refer to it as the "read one - you've read them all" school.  Last week, I read about an author who changed the title of his book added a couple of chapters and simply resold a book he had published earlier. Has integrity been replaced by the "fast buck"?  And believe me - it is a fast buck!  Write a book over the weekend about the latest drama in your world, and upload it as a ninety-nine cent Ebook.  Over and done - money coming in!!!!


I wonder how many of these "emerging" authors will be around in five years or even next year.  How many actually have the capacity to create works that will rival the staying power of a Toni Morrison, James Patterson, or Terry McMillan! What do I mean by staying power - Terry McMillan for example, came out with her first title "Mama" in 1987 - was thrust to prominence in 1992 with "Waiting to Exhale" - and expects to release her latest work "Who Asked You?" in September 2013.  Readers look forward to her books, can't wait to buy the next one - even if the last one fell short of our expectation! And I know this is true because I witnessed a sea of 500 plus, mostly African American women, waiting to exhale on her every word last Saturday in Baltimore!  Her reading from her new book was spell-binding and made you mad that you couldn't buy the book that day!


Moreover, this was a BREAKFAST EVENT!  I actually got up at 6 am (I'm retired and this took great effort) and left my home at 7:00 in order to arrive on time at 8:30.  Yet, in the same week, I attended an evening event at a local university which featured emerging writers and there were less than 12 people in attendance.  I expected to find the room filled with aspiring writers (students) and lovers of this genre!


I also wonder how many naked bodies readers must look at before authors and book cover artists discover that you can market a book without having butt cheeks and half covered breasts on every cover - I am so over male biceps!  And I wonder how many understand that the cover should relate in some small way to the story inside the book. Yes, there is a 50/50 chance that some people will buy the book because they are intrigued by the provacative cover, but what about that other 50% who won't buy because they are turned off by the cover.  Moving ahead one step, if the book itself doesn't have a plot, character development, or the other elements that make up a "good read", then probably at least 25% of the original buyers, won't buy another book by that author.  


Yes, I miss Connie Briscoe, Deberry & Grant, Tina McElroy Ansa, Pearl Cleage and  others who used to be the staple of our personal literary libraries but I also enjoy the works of newer authors such as Trice Hickman, Austin Camacho, Daniel Black and Renee Flager so please don't dismiss me as just "an old school reader".  


Everyone says you must "be a brand" to be a successful writer today.  I ask, don't you also have to be a writer or is the best "brand" simply declared a successful, "must read" writer?