What if you wrote a book and nobody ever read it? What if you spent five years working on a book you’re not sure anyone would want to read? What if you read a book you loved and never told anyone, especially the writer? All these things happen, everyday. Every writer has a book no one has read. Every writer is working on something that sometimes gets too high to climb or kind of stops at a cliff-hanger and you don’t want to make the descent because it’s kind of perfect just like that, even if it might annoy any potential reader. And these days, because of the Internet, we can post something positive about a book we like and it’s quite likely the writer will see it (or the horrid spiteful negative stuff some people feel they have to say).
Everything has changed about writing in the last ten years. Oh, it’s just as hard to sell a book, even harder to find a readership somehow and kids are fickle, one moment they love you and then, suddenly they’re Goths and they only like blood-sucking vampires with nihilist plots.
We live in a world where everyone is a star with a galaxy of selfies that prove it. Books, real books, or e-books have to compete with Instagram, and a myriad of social networking sites that are so demanding on their time – there’s almost no time for pleasure reading, or school. If you are a star, you have to shine ALL THE TIME and it’s so exhausting.
What’s a writer to do? How can we be found? How can we make an impact, hold any attention? Write something so contentious people will talk about it in the sociosphere or just ignore it and hope it all will go away?
I doubt it will go away. Reading whole books might become a small niche thing in time – important for those who still do it, but neglected by the mainstream who need a faster fix that having to read whole chapters and imagine characters. But it won’t stop writers from writing. There are more writers now than there have ever been in history. There are more books in print than ever before, but it is also harder to get noticed in the crowd. Some people break through, it becomes a thing, gets marketed, but for every success there’s a thousand other titles that disappear and in amongst them are some amazing stories lost in the crush. If you find that book and love it, let the writer know. Until you have tried it yourself, you'll not know just how important it is to hear from someone. Imagine it's you stuck in your bedroom for an entire year trying to write a song or a poem. Wouldn't you like to know if it's any good?
Sometimes I get that email that says ‘I want to be a writer, where do I begin?’ Well, you begin at the beginning and read as much as you can. Don’t write anything until you are sure that what you say is unique, or different enough to mark it down as your territory, your domain. Yep that’s most a definitely Veronika book, people will say, recognising your style. But read first because, like travel, it’s better with a map, although it can be fun to be lost in the forest not knowing which way to go (for a while anyway, before the hungry bears come to snack on you.)
But no matter what changes happen and they are ongoing, writers are going to write and cross fingers that people will find them, like them enough to tell others. That’s the Holy Grail.
Happy reading - Sam Hawksmoor 2020