Wednesday, 13 February 2013
A world of books
It is tricky to get definitive numbers, but let’s say that 100,000 new fiction titles are published every year in the English language. What then are the chances of a particular book reaching the best seller lists? Mathematicians among you can work out the odds. I daren't even try, for they must be frighteningly high.
For new or wannabe authors, and these days there are many, it’s a daunting prospect. Good books will simply be crushed in the rush. Being ignored is bad enough, but Professional reviews – if a writer can get them – can be caustic, and the comment section of Amazon is noted for driving struggling new writers to contemplating suicide.
I've read that publishers tend to concentrate the PR budget on perhaps half a dozen books and the rest are left to fend for themselves. That means the author has to roll up his or her sleeves and do what they can via electronic technology, for without some sort of exposure, the book will remain unnoticed and unread. Unhappily, Amazon algorithms aid and abet this by taking the most popular books to the front of the list. Reviewers tend to review the same titles, bookshops stock the titles they thiink will sell, and usually they’re all choosing the sort of read you would expect to find in the top fifty books of the year. None of this is geared toward finding the debut or middle list author.
The reader takes few risks in this burgeoning market. Some, spending almost £15 on a paperback that is too large to handle comfortably in bed and which turns out to be not such a great read after all, may go so far as to ignore that author in future. They may even write an unfavourable review. But then, readers are so very subjective in their tastes. I’ve read an awful lot of books in my life, but these days there are many books I pick up and return to library shelves unfinished. I often complain that I cannot find anything I like, which sounds as if I must be the pickiest person in the world when the numbers published are taken into account. I’m attracted by a good blurb, but often the book doesn’t live up to it.
Trying to find a good read for me means stalking the libraries, bookshops, listening to friends and dodging about the many internet sites but eventually, even for the most dedicated, (which I am not!) the search begins to pall. There is so much on offer! How can I make a choice? It seems to me I either buy an armful, or I buy nothing. What kind of choice is that? Perhaps, just perhaps, too many books are published these days.