The Fate of the Novelist: A Positivity Check – in response to Warren Adler

I’ve read and re-read Warren Adler’s article in The Huffington Post and now I feel moved to respond.

Mr Adler has clearly enjoyed great wealth, accolades, applause and pleasure from his career as a talented and distinguished writer and I find it puzzling that he would choose to offer a post of such negativity about his craft.

I love books. I love holding them, reading them, talking about them, sharing them, urging other people to read them and I love the images, emotions and feelings that they stir up.

Without authors, none of these things would exist.

Without readers, none of these things would exist.

I agree with several things that Mr Adler says:

1. ‘The print industry is dying out and that regrettably books stores could ultimately follow suit’ – In my own town, book giant Waterstones has been priced out of the high street! Personally I hope that books stores will find a way to stay, that they’ll find a new way to attract customers and bring books to the masses. Book signings, book launches, even just simply browsing a row of jacket covers – could that be lost forever? I hope not. I have dreams of books shops that offer more of a reading experience, that have writing areas, review corners and of course freshly ground coffee and large sinky sofas.

2. ‘Advances are drying up’ – I don’t have first hand knowledge of this but I believe it to be true, it would make sense that with a market continually flooded with new authors the advances can only become smaller. The amazing, coveted, successes of the likes of JK Rowling are few and far between. However isn’t that the case for a lot of industries these days? Back in the days of the classics there were far fewer penman vying for space and far fewer opportunities, it goes without saying that the more competition then the less money there will be, on average, per head. A few outstanding individuals will always command more and so they should. It may be harder to earn your living solely from being a novelist but ultimately that could sort the wheat from the chaff on it’s own, leaving only the most resolute writers in the game. I’d much rather read a book written by someone who loves to write irrespective of payment, than I would a book written by someone who churns out 5 books a year with their eye purely on their pay packet.

3. ‘There is no end to people who want to write novels’ – I completely agree with this too, but I think it’s a wonderful thing not a negative.

4. ‘There is still great personal satisfaction in self-publishing’ – absolutely, go for it! I recently did a book review of Sealed With A Kiss by Rachel Lucas who had astonishing success after self-publishing.

I disagree with several things he says too:

1. ‘The quality of content is diminishing’ – I don’t agree with this. Mr Adler speaks of drifting back to the classics in search of ‘a really great book’; now this is of course an excellent way to find a wonderful read but there are some amazing authors alive and well today penning their words for our very enjoyment. As with everything in life it is simply a case of find the ones that resonate with you.

2. ‘There are simply too many books being published’ – I don’t agree with this. More books equals more choice, equals more creativity and more inspiration; how can that be a bad thing?

3. ‘While books are being digitally published like popcorn, I do not believe that readers are keeping apace. Brevity and speed seem to be the order of the day for our young readers, who will sustain the publishing future’ – massively disagree with this one, the world changes and adapts and who are we to judge the medium and methods of enjoyment for new readers?

It was the following point that has played in my head since reading his article and the one that has prompted this post in response from me:

“There are simply too many books being published, especially in fiction. Among them are probably some really wonderful ones, but they are hard to find. The filters have become clogged. Book bloggers try their best to become taste filters. Some succeed in attracting a following, but one wonders if they affect sales.”

As a relatively new book blogger I felt the need to justify my existence in cyberspace and my place within the publishing world.

I am lucky as I can say that I know I have affected sales for some authors, maybe only a few sales but I know that I have written reviews or tweeted comments about books that have directly resulted in other people buying or downloading those books.

Among others, I know that other people have bought, read and commented upon: Whisky From Small Glasses, The Judas Scar, Cambridge Blue and Never Saw It Coming – directly as a result of my reviews. I think that’s amazing. I like to think of it as my way of thanking the authors for their hard work and efforts, for creating the book in the first place for me to read.

Generally speaking I don’t get these books for free, I do sometimes, but more often than not the books that I review are books that I’ve chosen and paid for. The only free one mentioned above was The Judas Scar and that was as a result of me loving the author’s first book and chatting to her about it on twitter. It being free doesn’t change the fact it was a brilliant book and I recommended it whole heartedly for that reason. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Exactly, but I often prefer to review books I’ve paid for so that I don’t have any feeling of ‘owing’ the author a good review. I like to give my honest opinion, good or bad.

I also know that as a direct result of recommendations from other people, I have gone out and bought books and discovered new authors and new characters who I have then gone on to follow and enjoy – and tell other people about – encouraging them to buy too. Recently I have bought Sealed With A Kiss, WOOL and The Shock Of The Fall based upon recommendations from other people.

I think that’s kinda cool.

Personally, I hope that the current negativity around the publishing world doesn’t put off the next generation of writers and novelists. I hope they continue to have the passion and drive needed to create new stories, worlds and characters for us to enjoy. Whether they self publish, find an agent, write a blog or come up with a completely new way for us to read and fall in love with their books is irrelevant; without those words on a page (in whatever format) we won’t discover the next JK Rowling, the next Simon Kernick or indeed the next Charlotte Brontë.




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