Putting your book out to market is so weird and funny sometimes.
My books have been given five star reviews, accepted into major library journals, and still independent stores like Interabang books don't want to have anything to do with me because I'm not big five, and therefore not this mythical guaranteed money grab for them. That doesn't exist.
I realized early on that I wanted more control of my story as it had lots of moving parts. I realized my mistake, and am glad my publisher went out of business and I got my rights back. It enabled me to republish the book as something I could be proud of, and have chosen to remain independent for the foreseeable future.
I wanted to write the way I knew it needed rather than something that pandered to the lowest common denominator. The idea in mainstream publishing is that having your book too specialized or too high level concept makes it less marketable. They want mass appeal.
Yet the idea is continually disproven by the success of independent books, written with quality craft. In the particular there is contained the universal. That is what makes books relatable, and concision, complexity, and uniqueness makes them interesting and compelling.
In other words, stupid people don't read, they say they read. Smart people just read, and if you're just trying to write to the widest possible audience, you're actually committing to making your book as mediocre and unmemorable as possible.
Sure, there are lots of people that like to be 'swept up' and don't like to be challenged but rather just entertained. There is a comfort in the easy read. That's most people most of the time, but no one all the time. Because ease, while comforting, is boring and predictable, and skilled readers don't read to be comforted. They read to extinguish an inextinguishable fire that they got from the pages of that like them, stands uncomforted, unwilling to apologize, and peerless.
But imagine if most people just went to the gym to have fun and would rather the machines do the work for them. If gyms were like publishers, gyms would turn into day spas, smoothie joints, and massage parlors, and no one would benefit from what they claim to be on their signs, and most would be fine with that, and likely even pay a premium to be able to say they go to the "gym."
If gyms were like publishers, and only cared about what is marketable to the athletically disenclined, because that group is of course larger and thus theoretically are a deeper money well, they would entirely lose their substance, and actual athletes and people desiring to actually get in shape would have to find something else.
That is what publishing has become, literally a sellout crowd.
And that is why when so many people only read what is popular, they don't realize how they are being conditioned in doing so to become politically biased, intellectually average, and actually just how boring and cookie cutter-like they become in their thinking. That is what popularity is; the seeking of the safety of sameness, by peddling conformity disguised as revelation.
Those who would go to that kind of gym, don't go to the gym.
Gyms in reality are sustainable business even in an era of obesity because they know what they are there for.
Publishers however, don't care if a book is good, unique, or original. They care if it is marketable. It is the reason why so many publishers fail. It is also why the public is so entitled and the reading level is so, so low.
That is the reason for independent authors.
Believe it or not, most independent authors are so by choice, not because their writing isn't good enough. It's because they realize the same thing I did after long enough doing this.
Because if that's the brand I have to become in order to sell books in their theory, then I'd rather take my chances. If you support major media today, and only consume media to have what you already know and believe fed back to you, then fine. But if you want something better or at least more interesting, then support and even check out your local independent author, at your local Barnes and Noble.
Counter-intuitively, small, independent bookstores are scared to death of the pressure of Amazon and BN sinking them, so at least in Dallas they only want big authors to come in their stores, who won't because they're big authors and have sense enough not to. The truth is, long-time chain booksellers, not book publishers, are the ally of the free writer, because they know the connection to their community and thus sustainability in business is the local and independent author. Everything else is hit and miss.
The struggle has been like this, actually, for a long time. If you doubt me, read here about James Joyce, the greatest novelist, perhaps of all time. He struggled because he was different, and therefore dangerous.
Go to your local store, and you'll be able to tell quickly if the owner thinks their 'aesthetic,' which is a shrouded term for 'one sided-ness,' is what sells. Then go to stores like Lucky Dog, smell the old pages, the wholesome knowledge that some new mysterious treasure is waiting there for you because the books are many and diverse. The 'specialty' bookstores like Deep Ellum, Lake Pointe, and Interabang, just play the same game all the time. Paperbacks Plus welcomes any and everyone, and you know it because they welcome any and every book, and their stores are what bookstores are meant to be.
Barnes and Noble, and those kinds of independent stores know that good business means community engagement, supporting local authors, and having something for everyone, which are the mission of the independent, not the big five author. You'll realize instantly which store is the real treasure in your town. The truth is, independent bookstores and publishers fail often because the industry has lost its purpose, and it's actually the intellectual and creative freedom you will find in independent writers who now dominate the market because they are giving its life back slowly, to the chagrin of the shrinking empires of Hachette, Penguin, Bantam, et cetera, despite their palatable supplication to the masses. And to the benefit of sellers who smartly back the independent. If you want to make it, it's about small or independent press, big bookstores, and community engagement. That is where unique voices are heard, so that is where the new generation of great writers will come from. Actually, it always has been.
The support given to indies by Amazon and Barnes and Noble has made them successful precisely because they do. Branding is modern day mythology. Dare to venture from the copy and pasted normology, be willing to read to grow or find something new, not to be branded.
The truth is, publishers are more like restaurants, and the biggest restaurant chains are the ones that care the least for your health. They are concerned with quantity. The best food is still, and always will be, made at home, with no brand, no need for an agenda, except the sole purpose of giving joy and nourishment to those to whom it is served. So is the best writing. So if you want America to change back to the kind of place where we cared about thinking, about fact, about good, nourishing thought and imagination, believe it or not, it starts with what you read. Be more selective, and don't just read what's shoveled in front of you by people with an agenda, or a bottom line to meet. If you only want to eat at McDonald's every day, fine. I can't say I don't partake sometimes. But don't kid yourself into thinking you're giving your money and time to something worth your money and time, and then wonder why books and reading just doesn't seem worth your time. It is, you're just doing it wrong. Open your mind, come home where the message still has integrity and concern for you, and eat good words. Go Indie.