I received a little billet-doux yesterday, with ‘love from WordPress’, informing me of an upcoming change. It wasn’t an enormously important matter, but I felt it put one of the final nails in the coffin of a dream. What dream is that, you ask? Why, it’s the dream that you could sell your books through social media – sell them with minimal marketing knowledge and at no cost. Technology would do it all for you – open up a world of potential readers at your fingertips. All it needed was a little effort and anyone could sell their books with ease. Write it, publish it, sell it. Just like that.
I got involved in this wonderful dream on the (erroneous) understanding that I would write the books and modern technology would sell them for me. Of course, I overlooked the fact that the internet is run by big business, and business doesn’t get to be big by giving away too much for nothing. Little by little the freely-available opportunities on social media have been chipped away and replaced by new opportunities to place paid-for ads.
Now, I’ve spent a lot of time on social media. I have read posts, chatted to people – and, in particular, dutifully endured the carefully-targeted ads that have been so artfully placed in front of me. I feel I’ve done my share of being advertised to by big business. Is it really asking so much that I be allowed to tell people about my books without being obstructed at every turn and money being demanded? Apparently it is. The publishing dream for many of us has faded to a shadow of its former self. These days it takes lots of marketing nous, time and, yes, money to stand much of a chance of even moderate success.
Yes, yes, you say – but what exactly was in the ‘billet-doux’ you mentioned at the start of this post? Do tell. Oh, that. It’s a minor thing, really – a change of policy by Facebook which means I will soon no longer be able to get blog posts like this one to appear automatically on my FB profile. This is the last one that will appear that way. A small irritation, and one you can get round, but it takes longer to do. One more straw on the back of a camel that is becoming decidedly wobbly under the load. (I’m depending heavily on old sayings today. Sorry.) But it makes the point: the restrictions and obstacles that social media, and indeed, Amazon, are placing in the way of authors are building up.
I for one feel it’s enough to make me retreat to the unread, cobwebby corners of my blog and publish my writing there, free to all. Not many people will find it there – but not many find it on social media or Amazon either (unless I pay for it), so I can’t see that I’m significantly worse off.
I suspect, too, that I’m not the only one who feels like this, that the wonderful publishing dream is over. Will disillusioned authors start to leave social media (and Amazon) in droves? There are an awful lot of them. And who will be there to read all those carefully-targeted ads then, eh? Not me. I think that’s called killing the goose that laid the golden egg…