Some of us can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when decisions about what we read are made exclusively by a few big corporations. Personally, I have nothing against big corporations. In one sense, I love to see them be successful. That is, in the sense that my 401K is doomed to get mediocre returns without the help of Coke, Wal-Mart and IBM.
But I don’t want those companies, and others like them, deciding what kind of books I should read. I believe if it were left up to the big five publishers, the only books available would be written by mega-authors like, Patterson, Grisham, and King or by celebrities, like Fallen, Cher, and Oprah. Excellent books are being written by unknown authors who, for many different reasons, don’t garner the attention of Penguin Books or Random House.
Last year, the world of TV and movies came under fire for lack of diversity. Actors from many different ethnic groups, racial backgrounds and orientations began to speak against the lack of recognition for anything but main stream (read white) offerings.
Who stands up for diversity in the realm of fiction novels? I don’t really have an answer for my own question. But I do know that I have gotten a lot of help from independent book store owners.
But first I want to say that diversity to me, means more than an equal helping of black authors and white authors. It means more than an equal dose of straight and LGBTQ characters.
To me diversity in literature means that, and more. Diversity in literature means books about real people from all walks of life, not just lawyers, doctors, cops and super heroes. Diversity in literature means there ought to be books about people who are actually people, not vampires, wizards, witches or zombies.
Major publishers are happy to keep giving us the same books over and over again. They just keep changing the titles and tweaking the book covers. Thankfully, there are still some book stores out there that welcome books by unknown authors, printed by small publishers, even if their books might be print on demand.
I owe a great deal of my first book’s success (however minor) to several independent book store owners. Debbie Beamer, owner of the Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop (Pennsylvania), gave me my first unvarnished critique. She had nothing invested in my book, nevertheless she was willing to read it. From her I learned that my book was VERY GOOD (her words and capitalization) but the cover was very poor (she was kind enough to break this to me via lower case letters). Through book signings, my novel has gained some publicity. For that I can thank Christine from Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester VA and Sandy from Pages Book Store in Mount Airy NC.
Here is hoping that the big 5 don’t tighten their grip on literature to such an extent that they choke out the independent book seller and author alike. If you feel like I do, you can help, by visiting your nearest independent book store and actually looking through the shelves for an author new to you. Read book covers. Don’t automatically fall for the glitziest book cover (so says the guy whose book has the dull cover). Look for books about real people. Not just more of the same kind of stories you have been steered toward for years! Most of all, ask some of the good people who work at these stores. They actually read many of the books at their stores! Hail to the independent book store!