Over the weekend, I attended a reception near my hometown for Blydyn Square Books, a small publisher in the area that I first became aware of when I reviewed one of the first books it released, a novel by Everett De Morier titled Thirty-Three Cecils.
I arrived at the reception a few minutes late, so I eased into the room and grabbed a seat in the back. De Morier was standing at the front of the room, describing his history in the world of publishing. His two previous books had been released by Fairview Press and while he had been featured on CNN, ABC, NPR, The New York Times and elsewhere, he had never once met his editor and did not feel a personal connection to the publisher. This is far from an anomaly in the book industry.
Tara Tomczyk, the founder and editor-in-chief of Blydyn Square, then talked about her own history, her goals for the imprint, and how she wanted to do things differently. In the process, she explained how even major publishers do very little marketing and promotion for their authors these days. She told the story of a friend who had recently inked a deal with Simon & Schuster, only to learn that the publisher wanted her to do all of her own marketing.
“Unless you’re Stephen King or another big name, they’re going to expect you to do the promotion yourself,” Tara said.
Later, Everett, myself, and a few others had a conversation about everything that impacts the book market today: budgets, self-publishing, Amazon, blogs, ebooks, social media, and everything else. We discussed how there are now so many books released every year that it’s almost as if there are very few books released, because the vast majority fail to ever get noticed and fall into the void, even those released by well-respected authors through major publishing houses.
This is the current state of publishing in 2016 and just one of the many reasons I’m such a supporter of doing it independently.
It isn’t confined just to books. Whatever it is, whether it be music or art, photography or crafts, it has never been easier to pursue your passion and, if you so choose, offer it up to others.
This is liberating, of course, but it can also be a detriment. There are no more gatekeepers keeping you out, but they aren’t keeping anyone else out, either. Everyone now has the same opportunity to put a mixtape or book or embroidered pillow online, so there is an an avalanche of products that just continues to grow.
Thus, your passion will have to carry you. You’ll have to love it enough to do it doggedly, even with a career and a family while people repeatedly tell you that you’ll fail and wonder aloud why you would even try in the first place.
Once you do finish it, you’re going to have to be the one that has to promote it, and if you don’t believe in it, you won’t be able to sell it. Selling something that you do believe in wholeheartedly and into which you poured your whole heart and soul is a herculean task in itself. Trust me.
Just because you make something, even if it’s something good, there’s no guarantee that it will be seen, let alone purchased. Most things don’t sell (even if you’re a famous pop star with 55 million Twitter followers), so ultimately, all you’ll have left is your finished work. Whatever you put your name on — and your blood, sweat, and tears into — will be all that remains.
In the end, you’ll have to be the one that lives with it. An infinitesimally small amount of what is put out into the world — even bestselling books and hit songs — retain any cultural relevancy in the years after they are first released. They come and go, especially now, when there is a need to constantly feed the beast, one that has an insatiable appetite for content.
Years from now, when you’re looking back on your life, will you be proud of what you did? After you’re gone, when your family members are going through your items and they pull book off the shelf or find that painting, will they believe that it represented who you were and what you believed or will they be disheartened to learn that you just slapped your name on something in an attempt to make a few quick bucks?
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.