I would have liked to title this blogpost “No good deed goes unpunished,” but that’s obviously too long. Still, you probably can intuit what I’m about to say. As independent authors (“indies”), many of us by now are used to the slings and arrows directed our way by many in the book industry as well as some readers, who consider us second-class citizens. The fact is, many of our offerings are every bit the equal of those from authors whose books are found in the brick and mortar stores around the country today, save for the fact ours aren’t the product of a legacy publishing house.
The latest insult to The House of Cohen came from the operator of a local bookstore (she and the name of her shop shall for obvious reasons remain unnamed). I had noticed, for many months, that the local newspaper featured book reviews of new titles by authors whose readings she was sponsoring in the area. As well, each review carried a note at the bottom, citing the fact this particular bookstore owner had a program that placed authors in local schools for the purpose of speaking to students about their books (and, I would assume, what it means to be an author).
I called the owner and offered my services as potential member of her outreach program. To lend credence to my offer, I cited the fact that one of my books, a YA novel, The Hypnotist (written under the pen name Alyssa Devine), was in the Core Genre (Mystery) Reading Program at a local high school where, in 2016 alone, I had given 40 guest classes to 800 9th graders on mystery writing. I also mentioned the illustrated children’s books I had written and the many readings already given to local public and private elementary schools in Bucks County (PA).
Her response? “Who are you? Nobody knows you. Why would we use you?”
End of conversation.
But it doesn’t stop there. More recently—and I’m talking within the last two weeks—I’ve offered to donate multiple copies of my children’s books to two major organizations working in the areas of anti-bullying and the placement of books in underprivileged schools (the latter recently was featured on CNN). I’m not talking about one or two books; I’m talking significant quantities of books that I proposed to order from CreateSpace using my author’s discount and then, drop-ship directly to these organizations from the printer.
Their responses? Radio silence. Not a “Thanks, but no thanks.” Not a “Who are you?” Nothing. Zip. Nada.
So, I’ve reached the point where I no longer will put myself “out there.” No more “Mr. Nice Guy.” My time and money will be allocated elsewhere. If schools want me to come in and talk, teachers now will have to offer parents the opportunity to purchase my books for their children. Otherwise, I no longer am interested in contributing my time and books. Let them pay $500 or $1000 to bring in some celebrity instead of spending that money on school supplies or other materials that might better benefit the students.
After all, who am I to tell them what’s best for the school?
By Theodore Jerome Cohen