I found this article on Dalkey Archive & the Best Translated Book Award over at Writers No One Reads really interesting. While it’s an interesting case study in its own capacity, it really had me thinking about the issue of how so many books are published, yet, from what it seems, not that many books are being read.
The fact that even a “major” publisher of “smaller” works, such as Dalkey, doesn’t seem to have any idea how to advertise, has me really concerned– almost 13 years into the 21st century, where advertising has almost literally been the singular thing every human being has been and is repeatedly exposed to, why are we–as writers, publishers–so bad at it?
At one point in life it seemed a huge thing to get work published; it was certainly more difficult in the past, yet every day, with more and more journals & presses popping up almost daily, as well as the new affordable modes of large-scale self-publishing, being published seems to be incredibly easy–if you can write a book, you can probably publish it. But, if you can publish a book, that doesn’t mean that anybody is going to read it.
A little while ago, Mike posted that “social media isn’t a very good way to promote your book”. I don’t necessarily agree with him in any capacity, but it’s interesting to consider, because, really, what else do we have? I’m convinced that even when books are reviewed, very few people read the reviews. I know that often I won’t read a review of a book I haven’t read unless one of three things occurs: 1) I’ve heard of the book already and am interested in it, 2) The title or the cover is appealing & 3) I’ve heard the author mentioned somewhere else. So, I guess book reviews at least, to support an authors egotism, support the idea that their book has actually been read, but unless it’s a review that pops up in a very large venue, I can’t imagine they’re helping to sell books much. It’d be pretty awesome if someone were to prove me wrong.
But I’m just wondering, what the hell is the best way to sustainably advertise books? Reading tours? Book trailers? Posting your shit on Tumblr? Linking your books to your friends and family? I don’t know.
All of this seems related to another thing that I’ve been thinking about: How many small press books have staying power? We post links to shit that’s new, we review books right when they come out, but three years, one year, hell even six months later, do we think about these books at all? What can we do, in small press world (and I think there’s some sort of development happening in the world, thanks to the decentralizing nature of the internet [cough-the literary establishment no longer has any reason to remain in NYC-cough], that small press can eclipse big press, at least it should be able to, in terms of generating interest; with the internet we can and should be able to push our words past the realm of small press book readers; we should be able to appeal to any number of individuals of–fuck it, i’ll say it–markets, and demonstrate that we have something people are looking for. Whether or not any of this is true, well, I guess we’ll find out in years to come.
Dear Narrative Magazine,
Recently, I began to receive e-mails promoting your publication, in spite of the fact that I have never in any way expressed interest in you or what you do. I have never submitted to your magazine (because you are clearly a scam operation) and I have never given you any reason to believe I might do so in the future. I have never read anything in your pages, because I detest you. There is simply no ethical means by which you could have obtained my e-mail.
When you began sending me spam, I attempted to unsubscribe from your mailing list. I spoke to other writers who hold you in similar disregard, and they said that they had been trying to unsubscribe from your mailing list for months, and that it was impossible. You wouldn’t leave them alone. I sent you several hateful tweets (because I hate you). I unsubscribed again just to make sure. Maybe I unsubscribed a third time? I don’t remember.
Today I received another spam e-mail from you. I do not admire your tenacity. You are pond scum. I can ignore this fact when you aren’t spamming me but I can’t when you are. My e-mail address is mike(d0t)meginnis(at)gmail(dot)com. Take it off your mailing list immediately. (I mean it. This is not optional. You are going to do this now.)
I invite anyone else who would like Narrative Magazine to stop e-mailing them to post about it in the comments. (Dear Narrative: These other e-mails won’t be optional either.)
With All My Contempt,
1. I don’t remember my fifth birthday.
2. Lincoln Dahl, though, remembers his.
3. Lincoln Dahl is the narrator of Sam Michel’s novel, Strange Cowboy, subtitled Lincoln Dahl Turns Five. I suppose the subtitle might make the first phrase of this point redundant—so let me add that there are two Lincoln Dahl’s, the father, our hero, and his son, whose birthday it is.
4. The novel takes place on the day of the party for the younger Lincoln’s fifth birthday. But the actual events of the day serve only as a kind of grounding for the elder Lincoln’s mess of memories.
5. If this book were attempted by a writer any less capable than Sam Michel, it might very well be awful.
6. I’m a sucker for books that play with memory. Especially childhood memories. I like that they’re complicated mysteries. I like that they’re relatable. Everyone has a childhood littered with blocks for good language to rearrange and play with.
7. With so much of memory, we have to take our parents’ word for it. Especially birthdays One through Five. The Fifth is really the first we might be able to remember. The Fifth birthday is a kind of second birth, one of memory. Maybe it’s the line between child and kid.
8. Now the younger Lincoln is five, and he’s going to remember his father. The elder Lincoln knows it from experience.
9. On being a good father:
I hear my wife inform me that my duty to the boy, in part, is to provide for him a model…As it stands, my son’s past with me has been a woozy spiral of neglect and woundings. Lucky for us—for me, she meant—he isn’t likely to remember. Till now.
10. On making it up to him:
“’He’s at the age where he remembers,’ said my wife. ‘Give the boy a party. Anything is possible. I bet he’ll forget you were the one who burned his drawings.’” READ MORE >
November 27th, 2012 / 12:09 pm
Online performance in a war videogame in which Eva Mattes tries to make an artwork and pleads not to be shot, only to always meet a violent death.
The ocean swirls up over the searock. It falls back, returns, and rushes over a whirlhole the shape of a galaxy. A black crab climbs up the searock sideways, like a demon listening in Aramaic.
All at once, I am not married; I have no parents; I wave my black claws and hurry over the rock. I hold fast to the bottom; no night-mother can pry me loose; I am alone inside myself; I love whatever is like me. I am glad no seabeast comes to eat me; I withdraw into the rock caverns and return; I hurry through the womb-systems at night.
Last night in my dream a man I did not know whispered in my ear that he was disappointed with me, and that I had lost his friendship…How often have I awakened with a heavy chest, and yet my life does not change.