My father turns 80 later this week. If he makes it – and I have no reason to think he won’t – he will be the first man I have been related to by blood who I know has made it to age 80. Astonishing, isn’t it? I can’t imagine him 80. He doesn’t look it. An 80 year old used to be “ancient.” No more. He looks, I think, about the way my grandfather – his dad – did at age 60 or so (and he died at 63). I still think of Dad as “40” in a way. Thus how time gets away from us.
I suppose I have also witnessed (mostly as an onlooker) how the writing game has changed in the last few decades also. My uncle was first published in the early 1980s and he provided me a little peek back then “inside” that business most of us never saw. His books were only paperbacks and hardcovers sold in bookshops… and he had publishing contracts… and money advances… and editors who might not get what he was trying to do… and an agent who took him on as one of her first clients, and who a decade later would have never looked at a new writer like him because she had become so “big” with lots of famous actors and other more famous authors among her growing list of clients.
However, by the early 2000s – if you are old enough to remember, LOL! – bookstores were facing growing and scary competition from a new company called Amazon. It was only on the internet and increasingly sold just about every book published. Worse, it delivered those books by mail within 24 hours.
Then came Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader in 2007. A reader now could hold hundreds of books in the palm of their hand.
And the writing universe itself had also changed. Suddenly anyone could also publish a book using that device. To reach readers no longer did an author need an agent and a contract with a publisher. (Although an editor – of some sort – remains a good idea.)
The first Kindle book that I remember really making a major impression in that sense was Fifty Shad… oh, you know the rest of the title. It was Kindle self-published by its author and drew a huge numbers of readers. (It came to be believed that most were “40 year old” married women who read it in secret on their Kindle devices because no one could see the cover. LOL!) That success got its author a mainstream publishing contract and a film deal… for what was basically a pretty average (some would say lousy) book, but which obviously had caught the, ahem, imaginations of readers.
The internet had also become a huge part of publishing and remains so. Now we as authors have an immediate and global readership. There is my blog here of course; and I looked yesterday also at the viewership of one of my Instagram Stories: visitors were not only in the U.S. and the U.K., but France, India, Belarus, Canada, Iran, Lebanon, Romania, and Poland. Most were “regulars” who follow me and I am pretty sure watch most of my Stories daily, I know, but some were accounts I had never seen before (and several even appeared not to be bots).
There was a time book fans, as well as those who were not fans (LOL!), wrote authors through their publishers. Now reactions both to books and social media are close to instant and come directly to an author.
For instance, recently I posted an Instagram Story – if you don’t know how they work, they are visible only for 24 hours and then vanish – that I had thought was just a bit of a chuckle:
But it led to a brief, but kind of sad, messages’ exchange with one person. As a writer now you never know who is reading and how they will take it and what might land in your email or messages – both positive or negative. What you might think is simply a passing laugh someone else could take to heart in a way you never anticipated:
As you see, I tried to reply innocuously. That “single & desperate” person I learned is a 30-something Frenchwoman. That is evidence that we cannot anticipate how what we write might be taken, by whom, and where.
So I think often of what I write in my novels. The impression an author may make even with just a few sentences or a chapter or two that especially sticks out in a reader’s mind? It is not an exaggeration to say that writing is something of a “responsibility,” for writing may seriously affect a reader – for good or bad.
Thus writing for a public audience is now in ways perhaps more “intimidating” than ever – because anyone in the world can be reading it within seconds. As I write more today of my newest manuscript, that reality is in the back of my mind. It has been one that has also been with me since I first began to get messages in 2014 from readers of my very first novel.
Just a few thoughts. It’s Monday. Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂