An endorsement carries with it a certain amount of weight and prestige. In publishing, a common practice involves having other writers write a blurb for a book jacket that tells readers how stellar an author’s latest book really is. These are solicited and there is an implied quid pro quo arrangement.
If you’ve reached a certain status as a writer, and you’re still being published by a traditional publisher, then book jackets and filler pages are likely to be crammed with these, along with positive reviews of the book. The bigger the name, the more reviews accompany their books. Amazon is also chock full of reviews for top echelon writers and their books.
Often, when I read one of these kinds of books, I’m disappointed. I was expecting so much more than tepid, uninspired writing. What were these other people thinking when they wrote their ringing praise of this writer’s work?
Indie publishing is a bit different. Yes, it’s nice to have people blow smoke up your backside, which probably influences sales to a degree. Being on Oprah also helps. Indie cred, however, is usually acquired by tactics oriented towards what some would characterize as “guerrilla.”
When I started writing back in 2004, I didn’t have a writer’s group where we all got together and told one another what literary wonders each of us were. I did attend a writer’s group briefly thinking it would be helpful, but when everyone else just whined about how hard writing was—I had a manuscript draft for my first book and had hoped that I might find a few other writers in a similar place—when I didn’t, I moved on.
I was fortunate to stumble across a group of Salt Institute graduates who remained in Portland after graduation and were publishing a monthly newspaper back in 2004-2005. I got to bring my writing each month and have it critiqued, and improvements were made collaboratively. That was a real benefit to me. During that period, I was cutting my teeth with a narrative style of nonfiction that I’ve carried forward. I had the opportunity to put together honest, investigative writing that I’m still proud of. While the newspaper no longer exists, one article, “In Hadlock’s Shadow,” remains from that time, tucked away in the Internet’s equivalent of a dusty attic corner.
I still get a hankering to write articles like that one. I have a notebook where I jot down topics that could become a 2,000 to 3,000 word investigative story.
At one time, Maine had a few publications that offered an honest assessment of the state of Maine. Now, Maine’s newsstands are filled with glossy covers and stories that seem disconnected from the reality of many of the state’s residents. Some of these magazines fill their pages with the equivalent of a high school clique of “cool kids,” all writing the same recycled articles, month after month.
There are still a few venues out there, like the alternative weeklies. But there’s no statewide publication like the Maine Times any longer. Just newspapers published by billionaires.
Maine certainly has its qualities. It seems to be attracting more and more well-heeled, and well-known artists, writers, and others from away. They all seem to live in Portland, or nearby. Maine also has some serious issues (like other parts of the country) that should be addressed without so much happy talk.