Last night we went to a book launch that Wayne State University Press
held for my friend Dorene O'Brien's new collection of short stories Voice of the Lost and Found. Another short story collection by Andy Mozina was also making its debut (The Women Were Leaving the Men). It was a lovely evening at the Detroit Historical Society with champagne and pastries.
The room was filled with WSU people. friends, family and of course, writers.
Mitch Bartoy (The Devil's Only Friend) had one piece of good news--that his first book was being translated into French. But other than that, we were a pretty dour group. Michael Zadoorian (Second Hand) had lost his publisher and agent, after having a first novel that was well reviewed everywhere including in the New York Times. He and other writers are bitter about unrealistic expectations of how books should do, what sort of investment should be made by the author, how much time should be spent traveling to bookstores to sell a few copies of the book. One wonderful writer has had every book go out of print and can't really see the point of writing a sixth book. It is doubtful that bookstores outside of Michigan will carry Dorene's book unless it gets reviewed in newspapers and we know how likely that is to happen with decreasing reviewing space. Anca Vlasopolos, (with a book of poetry and an historical novel this year) is bearing all the expenses of publicizing each despite receiving no advance. Her expenses also include trips to Japan and Hawaii to do research.
This discussion is taking place on Crimespace too, of course, and other blogs. What can be done to make people read more and to make publishers satisfied with smaller sales? How can we get bookstores to stock writers other than Patterson and Evanovich. A smaller Barnes and Noble near us is shockingly exclusive in what they stock. They give no room to noir writers at all, for instance. No Ken Bruen, I couldn't believe it. And yet, bookstores are on the edge of disaster too, so the problem probably rests finally with the decline in reading.
I wish I believed that blog reviews really helped writers much. But the general public still thinks of them as bogus. When I talk about seeing a book reviewed on a blog, people look at me like I'm talking about the one-page newspaper I used to put out in elementary school with my trusty printing press.
Sorry to go on for this long. But it keeps me up nights. Does anyone have any ideas? PLEASE!