Sean Dexter, author of Maggie’s Drawers, is a stubborn man but also, apparently, one of integrity. I’ve never met him, although we have communicated by email. My sister gave his wife a copy of my novel, Under a False Flag. Sean read it and liked it enough to write a favorable review on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. That prompted a correspondence between us, and a “friending” on Goodreads.
I was appreciative of his kind words for my book and also intrigued by the subject of one of his own novels, in which the Kennedy assassination plays a tangential role. So, I downloaded Maggie’s Drawers and read it, fully intending to reciprocate with a review.
But Sean asked me not to. “I’d rather have no reviews (which seems to be the way I’m headed) than recip reviews,” he explained. He said he’s sickened by all of the pandering and pleading that goes on between self-published authors in the social media. Having recently read an article in the New York Times about purchased reviews, and having struggled to draw attention to my own novel, I fully understood where Sean was coming from.
But how then does an independent author get the word out about his or her work? We write to be read. It doesn’t happen automatically. Traditional publishers launch publicity campaigns to generate awareness and sales. Most independent authors can’t afford the time or money to do that.
And most authors are writers, not self-promoters. This, it seems to me, is the biggest quandary about the brave new world of independent publishing, where a plethora of self-hyped books, both good and bad, can overwhelm readers. How do fun, fast-paced suspense novels like Sean’s or literary novels that break expected norms (imagine Joyce self-publishing Ulysses today) come to the fore?
I wish I knew the answer. I used to think good quality eventually rises to the top, but in this age of open-door publishing I’m no longer sure it does. Readers must be willing to take a chance on unrated books by unknown authors and then spread the word themselves or independent publishing will become their worst nightmare—a purchased, reciprocal or self-proclaimed “five-star” tower of Babel.