No one wants to take the author’s word for it that his or her writing is good–not the slush pile reader, not the editor, not the editorial board, not the marketing staff, not the sales force, not the average reader who’s never heard of you, not even your friends when you post a list of all your novels on your web site.
1) Reading and evaluating a novel involves a commitment to spend a great deal of time with a work. We all evaluate whatever we’re reading–we do so every second we’re reading, from page one to the end, usually two hundred or more pages, at perhaps between ten and sixty pages an hour. We evaluate the worth of these verbal constructions to our own lives, whether for entertainment or learning or understanding. Reading is work, and so is evaluating the worth of what we’re reading. It’s not undertaken lightly.
2) We need to establish trust with the author, and while that trust can only finally be fully established through the process of reading and evaluating, it can at least be heralded via some form of a letter of introduction. If you don’t have that letter of introduction, your work is regarded as a threat to a reader’s time. He or she will regard the list of novels on your web site with distrust. But if another person you trust tells you that you must read this book, you’re inclined to approach it with a similar trust. If a reputable publishing company markets the book, you’re also predisposed to consider the work with trust. But as has been affirmed repeatedly, word of mouth is the most powerful means of communicating trust in a work. The Internet translation of that term, “going viral,” has come to have the connotation of “the latest distraction of the hour.” Which is quite a different matter.
The quality of the writing itself is all that matters. And sooner or later, one person, then two, then three, then more, start finding the worth of your work. That’s how it must be. Your own letter of introduction to your work really doesn’t mean too much. Because no one takes your word for it.
copyright 2011 by Michael D. Smith