Porsches, Segways, and Payback
By Estevan Vega
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of being a published author? Is it the expense account? Is it the Porsche you think you’ll get based on your spot on the NYT Bestseller list? Well, if the published author that first comes to mind is James Patterson, then yes, what I mentioned is the kind of life I imagine he lives. Though, at his age, he’s probably not driving around in a fancy sports car but rather getting around via Segway. Sorry, James, if that is your real name.
You see, it’s all about façades. And that’s what the publishing industry has become, until now. The cover, the fake. Ever since we were toddlers, we were warned not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s the first thing we do, isn’t it? If there’s a cool preview for a movie, we’ll shell out the cash for it, even if said blockbuster sucks. The reason: the preview looked cool. But it’s a façade. And when we used to hear the word ‘author,’ it connoted perspectives of wealth and thoughts of voracious readers following your career. Oh, and that expense account, or that cruise to Cancun. But the life of an author has evolved into something radically different, and the even deeper change is coming.
Let’s rewind just ten years. The author’s life and the writing industry as a whole are quite stable. The obvious decline of printed book sales in recent years, however, particularly recent months, has staggered. No one might have believed that this change, this evolution in what we all once believed to be a secure industry, could suffer such a drastic shift. But it’s not complete suffering; it’s enduring. The book industry will change, is changing, and will evolve. In fact, in the last few months, I have grown more independent in my thoughts, and my opinions about pursuing an independent publishing career is shifting. There is a perspective of change blooming. And it’s mind-blowing. But you may or may not be ready for it.
Bookstores surely aren’t. Publishers aren’t either. But authors are.
I’ve been writing now for more than ten years, and I’ve been published since 2004. With three novels under my belt and a recent collection of short stories self-released, I am still a far cry from that James Patterson segway account…excuse me, expense account. Unlike him, I didn’t rake in seventy million dollars last summer. Unlike him, I don’t have the millions of fans. But I don’t have to constantly win everyone’s approval either. I have discovered that being free from these traditional sharks, while scary, is also quite liberating. Now, before 2011, I believed I had made all the right moves. I wrote a good book. I had a creative edge. I knew my genre. I wrote the query letters. Self-promoted. Toured. I sold out at book stores. Conversed with directors and Hollywood producers. Booked my own rock show. I got myself a literary agent too. But after all that…care to know what happened? Nothing. A few bites on my ARSON series from major houses, but ultimately, nothing. The literary industry is evolving, and it’s evolving quicker than I ever imagined. Gone are the days where an author can write a good book and have it picked up by a publisher. The competition is fiercer and greedier than ever and the big houses are crapping bricks…and many authors are suffering.
Or are they? What if you could write whatever you wanted? What if you could give your book its own chance to succeed? What if you could stop begging for everyone’s approval and do exactly what it is you do: write? Wouldn’t that be liberating? Wouldn’t that free your mind?
Well, for me, it’s been amazingly liberating and amazingly terrifying. It’s a new world out there. But we’re ready for it, because it allows for so much freedom. I can have a killer cover designed and have it look exactly the way I want it. Judgments allowed. But forget about what some uptight sales person thinks will sell, someone who will probably never get around to reading my work. I can hire my own personal editor. And I can upload my work to the internet free of charge. Isn’t it remarkable that I can control my own future as an author? I may not have that million dollar expense account, but not many do anyway. Much like there are only six major publishing houses that “control” the market, so there are very few big-name authors who control the consumption. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. WHEN COLORS BLEED is my latest experiment. My beginning. My evolution from traditional house suck-up to fed-up author with something to say. If you’re an author, forget about what the industry is telling you. Forget about their obsession with printed books. It’s hard, I know, because we’ve been force-fed it for years. You might not think you’re legit if you publish digitally, but you are. Forget about losing your faith because no one will take a shot on your book. There are many, many authors—dreamers—who are forging a new destiny, independently, and changing the future of the writing world.
Pull your Porsches over…save the gas. And put your Segways in the garage. Because what might be offered here is not an opportunity to ride both, but to see past the future. Go ahead, drop $0.99, and read the collection of short stories in my new release WHEN COLORS BLEED, and when it’s all done, you be the judge. Tell me it’s not legit, not professional. Tell me it’s not real. Oh, and yeah, tell me the market isn’t changing. Now let’s watch the ripples spread.
Thanks, Estevan, for joining me on my blog. I always love to hear the different opinion about the changes in the literary world.
I hope you all enjoyed this guest post. You can click on the When Colors Bleed book cover above to buy it from Amazon.