As I began to think about what I was going to write for my first blog of 2011, I started reflecting upon the privilege of being a published author. By having a book in print, you have the possibility of having your message heard by a potentially wide audience – most of us only have very limited opportunities for getting our thoughts across to many people.
But with more than 130,000 books being published each year in Britain alone (according to the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook) there are many titles out there vying for attention. They cannot all be bestsellers. But once a book is out there it can – with the help of appropriate publicity – find an audience. That audience may not be a huge one, but it will probably be larger than the one that might give you a hearing in your local pub!
The fact is that if your book is any good, or tackles a subject people are interested in, the word-of-mouth generated by satisfied readers will bring it to the attention of others and perhaps even make it a bestseller. On the other hand, if your book is relatively poor, word-of-mouth will probably kill it.
A mass market novel that sells 15,000 copies is a bestseller. A title that only sells a dozen copies (and such books do exist) is a flop. Looking at it that way, my book, Delivered Unto Lions, is closer to being a flop than a bestseller. But in actual fact it is neither. While it is hardly a mass market title (local bookshops won’t stock it without guaranteed customer orders), in the two short months it has been out it has succeeded in finding an audience and selling enough copies to remain on my publisher’s catalogue for some time to come.
The point I am making is that I am very fortunate to have been able to get my story out there. I make no secret of the fact that I have an axe to grind. I am railing at the way children were once treated by institutions supposedly offering psychiatric ‘care’. I am raging at the systemic injustices and abuses that were relatively commonplace – right up until the emergence of ‘Care in the Community’ in the 1990s. I am protesting at the institutional forces that have conspired to keep this hidden world a secret for so long. And I am challenging the powers-that-be to confirm that no such hidden world exists today...
This may all sound rather self-aggrandising, as if to suggest that my views and perspectives are so important that voicing them could possibly make a difference. No doubt there are people out there who will not appreciate what I have had to say – and sooner or later I expect to get a negative review. But I want to underline the good fortune I have had in being able to get my message out. That is a privilege. Until recently I couldn’t really make my views known or have them taken seriously. That has now changed – and I do not take it for granted.
Words are precious. For those of us who have the freedom to get our words heard by others, let us not waste those words. Let us do whatever we can to make our words count. If you are fortunate enough to have this freedom – and not everyone does – please use it. If there are words inside you that matter, give them voice. If you can write a book and get it published ... do it. If you can write a blog ... do it. If you can contribute to forums (whether on the Internet or in the real world) ... do it. Words are a gift, and you can make your words a gift for other people.
Delivered Unto Lions by David Austin is published by CheckPoint Press
For more information visit www.davidaustin.eu