I have shelves filled with books. Many are paperbacks, and many are hardcovers. The paperbacks are double-banked–one tight-packed line of yellowing-paged soft-bound books behind another. Modern shelving units wear out quickly under the weight; some of my books which once had shelf space are still boxed since they bowed then broke the shelving units which housed them.
I have an ebook reader filled with books. The Kobo Aura H20 ebook reader is not my first reader, and it will not be my last. It is my portable personal library, my gateway to some of the most wonderful books available to me with a tap and a swipe. Thinking back, I longed for an ebook reader as a kid. I dragged pounds of bound books from the library as a child. It was a labor of love, yes, but carrying all of the books in one convenient electronic book was a science fiction dream.
My childhood dream was shared with others, for my ebook reader (which is sleeping next to me right now like a faithful pet) is a public library and personal library waiting for me to slide a book from its digital shelves and dive in to an amazing world.
Yet I am still, at heart, a paperback writer.
Happily, ebook readers appear to love paperback writers. I think digital impressions are today’s version of yesterday’s pocketbook editions. The ebook reader is a launch pad, just like the soft-cover pulp novel once was. Classic novels lie in wait to be discovered. We live in yesterday’s thrilling science fiction future, despite still not having the gold standard of arriving in the world of tomorrow: flying cars.
As April first nears with the release of ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part: Book One in the Cryptid Series, I am reading the work of my peers. Some have print editions out, their beloved feather-like pages ready to curl sensuously between fingers and expose their secrets to hungry eyes. Most are digital impressions, with the joys of font re-sizing and back-lighting. No more squinting to read the words; no more flashlights under blankets to hide that we’re reading past bedtime. Oh, nostalgia will sometimes whine plaintively that the world’s children won’t know the joys of childhoods past; however, it cannot break through that childhood dream of having an open library 24-7 in one glorious digital device the size of a thin paperback. As I read, I see the truth of the digital writer: the paperback writer of my childhood’s glorious science fiction future.
This time, however, I am standing behind the curtain. All of the strange beliefs about authors then are about the same today. Certainly the myth that writers all enjoy lucrative careers has stayed with the literary community, as did the look authors share when people think we’ve got it easy among the art community. (Come to think of it, I expect musicians share the same look. Our myths and realities run eerily parallel.)
Writing for digital edition has its challenges, as I am sure writing for pulp fiction had its challenges. How I write today came from my discovery that I can’t think in terms of a paper book imprint any more. I expect when writers looked from the civilized hardcover world upon the wilderness of the penny dreadful, the dime novel, and the five-buck pocket book, they saw a frontier with its unspoken rules of survival. To put out a well-formatted digital edition on an ebook reader requires work. A lot of work.
Then, that digital edition gets thrown into morass of digital editions. Some are future classics waiting to be discovered; some are wretched reads from the first sentence. Quality does not guarantee success–then as now. What matters is visibility.
I’ve heard this from other writers, and I personally know it to be true: unsolicited reviews are precious treasures to an author. A review which covers both the good and the bad helps the author evolve as a writer. Even a well-written negative review is a generous gift. A reader who hates certain aspects of a story can draw other readers looking for those qualities in their next read. Silence is not golden when it comes to books. Trust that I empathize not wanting to hurt a writer’s feelings by pointing out the flaws I have found in a book. However, a review is only one reader’s opinion of a personal reading experience.
Readers’ opinions matter. Reviews matter.
So, I am trying to muster the courage to review books which are not five-star reads to me. I don’t want to publicly kneecap another author. I know the long hours, the frustration with scenes, the agony of rewrites. I definitely know the pain of finding error after error in my published works, each stinging like a paper cut spritzed with lemon juice. I like these books; I like these people. I want them all to achieve the dream. Hell, I want *me* to achieve the dream right along with them!
So, I ask anyone who has stayed with me to the bitter end of this rambling online journal entry to please, Please, PLEASE seriously consider writing a book review after you read. Share your opinion as fully as possible. Be specific about what you don’t like and specific about what you do like. It’s fine if your review is anonymous. I certainly understand, considering the 2014 events which inspired #HaleNo.