The Golden Age of Publishing

The Golden Age of Publishing

Posted on July 28 by William Kowalski
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My fifth novel, THE HUNDRED HEARTS, has been nominated for the 2014 Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, and I couldn't be happier.  It's not just because of the warm, fuzzy feeling an award nomination gives a writer in his tummy.  Nor is it because of the one-in-three chance of winning a rather large prize purse ($25,000.00, in this case).  It's because the current state of publishing means that for professional writers, there is very little money to be made these days unless one wins a prize, or is at least nominated for one.  The profusion of books being published commercially and autonomously means that it's getting impossible to be noticed.  People are still buying books, and they're still reading them.  But with so many to choose from, how is a writer supposed to stand out?  It's no longer enough just to write very well.  It's not enough to tell a really good story.  A writer has to be internet-savvy, socially media-trained, and adept at tweeting, blogging, posting, and pinning.  Otherwise, how is anyone to know of his existence?

The most successful mid-list authors today are those who understand how to make the internet work for them, or are at least smart enough to hire someone who does.  An author can no longer rely on overworked publicists or publishers' tiny advertising budgets to make the world aware of his existence.  

A prize nomination is doubly welcome, then, because the awarding body will do a lot of promotion of their own.  

It used to be that there was a sharp division between the insulated bubble of a working writer's life and the rather more gritty world of printing and selling books.  That division has largely disappeared.  As with everything else in life, there are pros and cons here.  On the pro side, writers have more control over how their work is promoted. On the con, they must spend a great deal of time that used to be spent writing on self-promotion instead.  I worry sometimes that the quality of literature in general will be the worse for it.  

I started publishing books during what I now realize were the last, dying days of the Golden Age of publishing, back in the 20th century.  Like everyone else, I thought they would last forever.  Now that they're gone, naturally I miss them.  But I'm also practical enough to know that we must accept reality if we are to survive.  Luckily for me, I love computers and the internet.  I'm web-savvy and I know how to build my own websites.  Otherwise, I would have to pay someone to do all these things for me, and that would severely cramp my already-straitened style.  

So, a prize nomination is the best possible thing that could have happened to me right now.  I won't find out until September whether or not I won, and as I said, I have only a one in three chance.  But the nomination itself is something to be proud of.  That and gratitude are my two primary emotions these days.

William Kowalski

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
William Kowalski photo

William Kowalski

William Kowalski is the winner of the 2001 Ama-Boeke Award (South Africa) and was shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association's Golden Oak Award. He is the author of four novels, including Eddie's Bastard. His work has appeared on numerous international bestseller lists and has been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Nova Scotia.