Salon Magazine’s Laura Miller has an article looking at the recent moves by Barry Eisler away from and Amanda Hocking toward traditional publishing, and how the current author-marketed nature of the publishing industry means that even traditionally-published authors have to be their own publicist to a greater or lesser extent.
This is, of course, a problem that has been apparent at least ever since the Internet expanded beyond the ivory towers of government and academia, and publishers started standing back and letting authors do more of their own marketing while they did less. It didn’t spring fully-formed from the brow of self-e-publishing. Nonetheless, it is becoming more and more of an issue as financially-squeezed publishers try to cut unnecessary corners.
The problem is that a talent for writing doesn’t translate to a talent for marketing. In fact, in a number of cases writers start writing because they’re introverted and don’t do well dealing with real people. But someone unwilling to blow their own horn might have trouble finding success in a market biased toward people who are. Miller writes:
With all due respect to Hocking and Eisler (and I’ve got plenty for both), I’d rather have "To Kill a Mockingbird" than any of their novels. Even though they are much better at interacting with their fans and orchestrating their careers than Harper Lee is, Lee (in my opinion, at least) is the better writer. Today’s conventional wisdom, in both traditional and indie publishing, decrees that someone like Lee might as well not bother; however good her book is, it won’t find an audience unless she’s willing and able to make hocking it at least a part-time job.
This means that tomorrow’s reclusive writers may have a lot more trouble getting read—which means that readers could very well miss out on the next To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s not clear if there’s any solution—even marketing via social networks and blogs can take up a lot of time (as Amanda Hocking noted), time that could otherwise be spent writing. Books don’t sell themselves.