A sad state of affairs
I can’t say I’m entirely surprised by the news from this article. It’s a fact that reading actual books in the US is on the decline, and has been for a long time.
As a writer, struggling, hoping, dreaming of being published, of course, this is sad news to me. For every resounding success like the recent Harry Potter series, there are plenty like me, lying like rubble in the street, lost to the big machine that is today’s publishing industry.
My most recent and most disheartening rejection to date came last year. I wrote a book I’m really proud of, edited the hell out of it, made it right and submitted it to a well known local agent. To my utter joy, the agent asked for a copy of the entire manuscript. This was really something heady! The farthest I’d ever gotten with an agent! Only to be told that despite the fact that she loved the characters and enjoyed the story, she didn’t think there was a wide enough audience for my book.
I know that agents have to do this, right? They have to find something that one of the big conglomerates will love enough to put some dollars behind. Something that will have a mass appeal, and will sell. Preferably something written by an author who already has proven success. A simple fictional baseball book isn’t going to get ‘er done. (so I turned to the rocky road of self-publishing)
And why? Because people aren’t reading like they used to. I was taught how to read by my grandmother, an amazing woman by all accounts. A feminist before her time, and a teacher in heart, mind and by career. I was young, maybe three or four and she taught me to read, and I’ve not stopped my love of words and books since. And because I love books so much, it saddens me to read the article I mentioned above.
“One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday”
Ugh. None? No? Zero? It makes my eyes water a bit, like the sting of a strong, cold, bitter wind smacking me upside the face. Awakening, sharply to the reality that my chosen path of creativity, the way The Muse flows through me isn’t necessarily the most popularly consumed art form.
Nobody ever said being an artist was going to be easy. It’s the old saying, well-trod but apropos at this moment, a chiding reminder from my incredibly multi-talented cousin, “you don’t write because you want to, you write because you have to”.
I take solace in the fact that my goddaughter, all of seven, reads voraciously (and at a level much higher than her years). Her mother, a good English teacher, made sure both she and her sister learned to love books.
So there’s hope yet. Maybe for every kid who grows up not reading books there are a few like my precious girl who read plenty. And maybe Nina Karen can one day find a “real” publisher to take a chance on me.
Until then, I’ll write because I have to. Because it compels me. Because it’s who I am.