Smashing through the barriers
As a career author with many published books, I am amazed how often talented writers are sidelined by a rigid publishing industry. Okay, so Austin Macauley bucks this narrow-minded and blinkered trend and provides an outlet for undiscovered authors as well as established names. Tick VG! But what of publishers who glibly demand manuscripts can only be submitted via literary agents? Have they ANY idea how difficult it is to get an agent? Do they toss, turn and sweat at night when they realise how foolish they were to shun authors who later went on to become mega-brilliant superstars through dogged determination and a solid belief in their own worth?
When I started writing, publishing houses were usually headed by directors who loved books for literature’s sake; accountant CEOs were few. I look back with fondness to a time when I only had to explain my ideas before a contract tumbled through the letterbox.
And what about book retailers? Are they another barrier? I say, thank heavens for on-line ordering. With sales in millions, you would think EVERY bookshop would eagerly stock my latest offering. After all, I have an established high-volume pedigree. But, not so. Copies of my new novel – The Boy Caught in the Starlight – can be ordered almost anywhere. But where are they on bookshelves for browsing shoppers? I feel let down by a retailing system which cherry-picks the established big-hitting novels but provides little or no shelf space to other books just setting out on the voyage to build a reputation for excellence.
Presently, I have a particular gripe with a stationery chain. Many years ago I produced two books especially for this outlet. It seemed every branch I visited had a pallet load, allowing tens of thousands to be sold in a few weeks. But, today, this is forgotten. Not only does the chain not yet stock copies of my latest novel – even a pitiful handful - but its website order line depicts images in hardback and paperback formats accompanied by OUT OF STOCK. Normally, Out of Stock means SOLD OUT, but on this occasion it appears to mean NOT BEING OFFERED. I have patiently visited branches in several counties to test the system, but without luck. What is this trusted retailer thinking? I even phoned its head office, explaining that I had been approached by a reading group wanting 51 copies. Consequently, group members went to Austin Macauley’s own order line, Waterstones, independent bookshops and Amazon. Books quickly arrived.
So, are authors being let down by the establishment? Perhaps so. Again in the past, tens of thousands of my books from a former publisher were dispatched to Eastern Europe, and that was the last I heard of them. No royalties and no returns. Similarly, vast quantities of my books were reprinted without my knowledge, leading to monumental battles to get paid. Thankfully, that sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen anymore. So, maybe I am wrong. Accountant CEOs have their uses after all.