Authors Then and Now
I have always been an avid reader and as a kid books have always been my best friend. But the odd thing is, and maybe it's because I come from a different century altogether, I never thought to wonder about the author whose books I'd read--Who is she? What did she eat for lunch? Where does she live? I loved their books--Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of Green Gables, To Kill a Mockingbird, just to name a few-- but it never occurred to me to think about the authors who penned these books.
Of course, then, there was no internet, and authors, like Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of GB books), for instance, lived in a remote Island somewhere off the coast of an equally remote place called Nova Scotia, and gathering information about her required more than fingers clicking on keyboards.
Fast forward thirty years later, (okay, stop doing the math to figure out how ancient I am, will ya? I'm still younger than the Ancient Books in Reign) and you have the age of Kindle and Google and suddenly everyone wants to know about who the author is, and it feels as is the writer is suddenly thrown into the public eye, and every author who wants to make it must have platforms, and twitter followers, and Facebook fans, etc. Not that there's anything wrong in this, in and of themselves.
The problem is, from what I've heard, we authors are not celebrity-type people. Most of us generally don't revel in the lime-light and really prefer to be in some cave or a remote island somewhere and type our stories away.
But, with the demands of today, the role of the author has changed somewhat. How to reconcile the need to have a public profile on social media and balance this with time to write? (And don't forget most of us have FT jobs, mommy/daddy responsibilities, and we do have to show our lovely faces to our spouses in case they forget who they're married to.) From what I've heard Mankind hasn't learned how to extend the 24 hours in a day into even 25, yet. (Please, someone invent a time machine so I can double my hours each day and write those books.)
All this to say, there is a huge discrepancy between what's expected of authors --write those books already, and make sure they're classics that will outlast the generations to come--and the need for authors to make themselves more visible so those books they've slogged hard to get written will at least get some readership.
And if you think going via the traditional publishing route is the answer for authors, after all big publishing houses can hire professionals to build the author platforms etc., think again. Traditional publishers are not willing to invest in an unknown name like they used to in the past. Their profits have been squeezed by the slew of free and 99c books from authors needing to make a name and forced to make losses just to build that platform. Nowadays when a book gets to the publisher, at least from what I've read, it'd better be just about ready for the printing press.
I often wondered how the authors of the past would react to the demands of building a social media platform today. But alas, I doubt I can read a tweet from Laura Ingalls, or "like" and visit Harper Lee's fan page to find out their opinions.