Tag: modern reader

Who are the greatest writers of our day?

As an English Literature major in college, I studied many great writers of the past. The old writers were celebrities of sorts, or so the stories seemed to suggest. Everyone knew of Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner. What writers do we speak of today?

If someone asked me who the best writers of the 21st century are, I wouldn’t have an answer. Maybe that means writing is totally irrelevant in our world today. If asked, I think most people automatically mention the old writers as the best. Jane Austen is still a big name today, thanks to movies made of all her books. Do people actually still read her books or just know her name from the movies?

If I asked my niece or nephew, who are both in high school, whether Jane Austen was a good writer, they would both answer yes. If I asked whether they had read one of her books, they would both answer no. Around Christmas time I asked them if they were familiar with A Christmas Carol. They were, but only the movie. They had no interest in reading the book by Charles Dickens.

Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer for fiction this year for writing The Underground Railroad. Is Colson Whitehead one of today’s great writers. Whitehead has a twitter page and six novels to his credit, according to a Google search. Do modern great writers have to have a twitter page? Must they write novels?

Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize for literature last year. He doesn’t write novels. He falls loosely in the poet category, if you consider modern-day song writers the equivalent of ancient poets. Do poets still exist outside of songwriters?

These are some of the questions floating through my head on this Wednesday night. Who do you think are some of the 21st century’s greatest writers?

What if word of mouth was all you had?

A writer can wake up each morning and ask the question: what should I write? Whatever the writer decides to write, the next question becomes: How will I get read?

In today’s modern world there are more options than ever for getting read. A writer can start a blog and perhaps generate a few readers. A writer can post their work to social media and beg their friends and acquaintances for a moment of their time. A writer can save the morning composition and collect it as part of a future book, in which might be their ticket to stardom and riches. 

What if there were no publishing houses with advertising and marketing at their disposal? What if you were left with one method of promotion and that was word of mouth? 

Advertising professionals are little more than carnival barkers pulling a fast one on the consumer, saying anything to make a fool part with his money. Yet, they are a necessary part of the entertainment world. Without them, consumers wouldn’t know what exists. 

Professional marketers and advertiswers are often good at their jobs and their methods are effective, but pretend for a minute that the world of advertising doesn’t exist. All that exists are writers and readers and the only way to get read is through word of mouth, perhaps the most honest form of advertising.

Would you choose to write something different today? 

Is browsing in bookstores still a relevant source of sales?

If your town is similar to mine, few bookstores exist. As far as corporate chains, or large, recognizable book-selling brands go there is only one such store in my town. In the past few years, I’ve set foot in that store twice, both around the holidays, in search of gifts for family members. 

So, if my patterns are similar in any way to the masses, which I would guess they are, few people browse in bookstores anymore. I’ve read reports that print books made a comeback in recent years, that people are choosing to hold a real book in their hands over a tablet, but are they going to the bookstore to purchase those books? If print books are really making a comeback, will we see bookstores make a comeback? 

This is an important question for aspiring writers, because one has to decide if potential readers are going to find their book in a real bookstore. If a writer decides he or she won’t find a large number of potential readers within a bookstore, that means the readers will more likely find an author’s writings online or in a digital bookstore. If you wrote a book in the past decade, there is little to no chance I have seen it in a bookstore. 

If you wanted to get my attention and sell me a book, you would need another advertising vehicle. I can’t remember the last time I saw an advertisement for a book, but I see plenty of ads for movies that say, “based on the book.” I’ll admit to reading a few of those. The only other way I come across books is by browsing online or by recommendation from friends.

I can count recommendations from friends on one hand without using all five fingers and not one of those recommendations led to a book I liked. The only book I liked in the past decade from browsing a bestseller list was Gone Girl. I’ve struck out with so many books using the browsing method that I am unlikely to keep browsing, so where does that leave me as a reader?

I see plenty of blogs advertising books written by independent publishers, but not one has convinced me to buy their book. Unfortunately, if you are trying to sell your book with a blog or social-media account, you come across as amateur and nobody wants to buy a book from an amateur. 

As a reader, I am often left reading classics that have passed the test of time and are known to be good reads. That way I don’t waste my time on some random book. The independent modern writer is not reaching me, the modern reader, with books of print or electonic variety. 

I don’t know what that means for the modern writer, but it is possible that the traditional idea of a book is dying, even though readers are supposedly returning to print books. Give me all the stats you like, I see no evidence in my daily life of people going into bookstores or talking about the latest Kindle read. 

Discovering an independent writer

Getting on with the never ending story search and in keeping with today’s fascination with super-short stories, I stumbled onto an independent writer who has published a bunch of short works.

Eduardo Soliz is a tech guy by day and writer by night, or so his Amazon bio says. His seven published e-books bear the mark of self-publishing, which is always a detriment when compared with the flashy cover designs of the professionals.

It’s funny how I can create a cover for my own e-book and think it looks decent or passable, but whenever I see covers of other self-published authors they serve as a deterrent for purchase. This tells me my covers are also a major draw back and mark of amateurism.

We all judge books by their cover more than we like to admit, but I’ll look past it and try sample some of Soliz’ work today. I’ll come back with a short review later.

Do super-short stories have a place?

The number one complaint about reading from everyone is lack of time for the hobby. One of the first questions asked about a reading assignment, by every student I ever knew was, “How long is it?”

If I buy a 500-page book, I am not expecting to finish it in a weekend. It might take me as long as a year to finish, depending on how busy I get and how good the book is. The fastest I’ll probably finish it is about a month. It is even more likely I’ll never finish it. Failure to finish happens when the book isn’t enthralling enough, generally.

So, are super-short stories of any value? I’m tempted to say no, but I’m curious enough to say yes. If you are curious enough to see what you will do, click here and check out the six-page book I published.

The cover is rubbish and I’m not claiming any prizes for the prose, but it’s a decent enough little story to run an experiment with. I’m betting nobody will be willing to pay the 99 cents to read it, not because it isn’t worth 99 cents, but because people aren’t used to buying such a short book.

Usually short stories are published in collections, which are often too long as a whole. In recent weeks, I’ve done a lot of book shopping and repeatedly come to the conclusion that books are too long for our modern age. They don’t fit into a modern life’s window for entertainment.

So, I’m trying something different to see what happens.

 

Could you imagine a day of nothing but websites?

Modern technology should make printed books obsolete, but they aren’t. If you really think about it, modern technology should make e-books obsolete, but they aren’t.

Is it mere habit that forces readers to enjoy reading in a strictly linear fashion, with nice little bookmarks to keep them from losing their place? Will a day ever arrive when people will bounce around the internet, reading at a frantic pace and soaking in random facts and figures with no concern for chapters and structure?

If that day ever does arrive, there will no books, electronic or otherwise. There will only be writers and readers and websites. It could happen.

People love to read about themselves

My time as a sports journalist taught me one thing: The only people really reading the entire article are the people in the article, and they will always love the article; doesn’t matter how poorly it is written.

There may have been lots of people curious about who won, but once those readers get that answer in the first paragraph or two they usually quit reading; doesn’t matter how well the article is written.

Even Nicholas Sparks wrote on his website that selling books has nothing to do with writing well. He claims to have many friends who are better writers than he is, but they can’t sell any books.

So, why are we all spending our time trying to be what others consider good writers? Perhaps we should do what Sparks claims to have done and study what kind of writing sells.

When I left the newspaper a few years back, I decided to put my theory to the test within a blog. I started blogging about my local golf community, a group of  more than 100 people I knew extremely well and could track with ease online. Sure enough, there were plenty of golfers who knew about the blog, but would never read it, until they were in it.

Everyone who was in the blog would rave about the awesomeness of the article and they would sometimes (rarely) share the article on their Facebook page. No one ever shared an article on their Facebook page if they weren’t in the article.

One share, by the way, generated at least 10 times as many readers as any promotion I did for the blog, which coincidentally kind of proves Sparks’ point about the power of word of mouth.

There are three possible reasons for any reader to read. They are either seeking specific knowledge, indulging their own ego or enjoying the poetry of the language. Which one do you think happens most often?

Why do certain types of novel readers like certain kinds of novels? Because they identify with the protagonist in some way.

Men generally don’t like romance novels about a woman snaring the bad-boy love of her life and women don’t usually like westerns about cowboys getting scalped in the middle of the desert.

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in general, my findings are fact. I could go on and on, but I won’t. In the end, if you want to write something that people really want to read, it has to be about the reader in some way.

In my next post I’ll discuss my testing of social media and why I found it doesn’t work at all, if you are trying to make money as a writer. If I have room, I’ll include some of my economic theories about writing.