“Roger E. Carrier tells an engaging story of youth, redemption, and sexual coming of age in New Mexico. In 1971, seventeen-year-old Shane Russell makes a well-planned escape from a Michigan winter and sets off on a 2,000-mile adventure in search of a town that exists only between the covers of Richard Bradford’s famous New Mexico novel ‘Red Sky at Morning’ (J.B. Lippincott, 1968). Driven to recreate the nude scenes and vivid characters in Bradford’s fictional town of Sagrado, Shane forever touches the lives of his widowed landlady, the detective hired to find him, and his new friends at a colorful high school deep in the Land of Enchantment.
“Against the backdrop of his father’s death in Vietnam and life with his stepmother’s new boyfriend, Shane flees the painful realities of his life. In doing so, he finds a place where bats fly and love heals the wounds of the human spirit. He also encounters Mark Twain’s great truth: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.’” – Copyright © Amazon
That’s the promotional blub for “Finding Sagrado” as it appears on Amazon. It seems like an accurate description based on Examiner’s reading. Here’s the background: Recently Examiner received in the mail a copy of a novel published by Xlibris LLC, one of the many businesses thriving on the current boom in self-publishing. Xlibris had been born around 1997 and has grown up with self-publishing. Examiner doesn’t normally review such books but this review copy had a familiar ring to it.
A couple of years ago an agency that represents Examiner’s ghost writing and editing business put an unpublished author, Roger E. Carrier in contact. Carrier sent a manuscript and Examiner suggested he start the novel at Chapter 5 and use the earlier material elsewhere. That’s all. The Xlibris copy came with this hand-written note: You saved my novel with your structural suggestion on moving a chapter. Well, the novel is published and whether that’s “salvation” only time will tell.
Examiner checked the “Finding Sagrado” reviews on Amazon. There were 16 reviews with 5-stars and a single 1-star review “bland and unrealistic.” Examiner generally takes reviews on Amazon with a grain of salt. That’s because Examiner has been offered a fee for a good review many times and turned down such offensive offers; it just isn’t ethical. But others are known to have written such reviews; shame on them.
So Examiner read “Finding Sagrado” (Xlibris) by Roger E. Carrier. One of the Amazon reviewers had written: “A fast-paced but touching and thought-provoking coming-of-age novel.” That seems to fit the “easy reading” model and, yes, the electronic version is $3.99; Paperback $17.99; hardcover $26.99.
Carrier’s novel faces a lot of competition, characterized in this observation from the website “Mediashift Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution.” The anonymous observation was limited to eBooks -- “about 200-500 new titles go up every day (which includes both novels, non-fiction, and shorts). So now you're competing to give your book away or sell it for a buck against 100,000 others, many of whom will choose the free option to entice readers.” Competition for print books is up against the same problem – scads to choose from in a sea of cheap stuff.
The same anonymous observer (signed Johnny) noted the masses want "easy reading" not classic literature. Examiner notes that observation has always been true since Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a puppy. The difference today with 200-500 new titles popping up daily the masses can embrace an immeasurable bounty of contemporary “easy reading.” At least, much of what is seen on the electronic screens appears quite distant from literature – “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.”
Examiner wouldn’t leave the definition of “superior or lasting artistic merit” to the likes of, say an “easy reading” leader like John Grisham. More likely, Examiner would side with Joyce Carol Oates.
The Mediashift observation was directed at self-publishing authors – those who are; or those about to be. Self-publishing of course is an outgrowth of technology colliding head-on with the economic collapse of the traditional book publishing alliances – agents, publishers, printers and editors. Many unemployed former editors have said the bookkeepers took over, fired the editors, and that’s how it all began. Truth is people stopped buying books in the general economic downturn although some reports claim book buying increased. You know, “How To Write A Resume.” Whatever, that’s history.
Examiner will continue searching for Contemporary Literature with every good intension of calling it to your attention. For those who aren’t quite sure, self-publishing can take several forms – eBooks, Kindle-type books, and printed books, and probably others, too. It’s an industry all to itself, but the best “easy reading” stuff still comes via the major publishers.
Nine of the 10 best selling eBooks as of March 1 came from major publishing houses. The 9th ranked book came from Amazon. Average price: $6.24. Only one book sold for a “buck” – well, 99 cents. Of course, the U.S. Department of Justice won a lawsuit against major publishers for conspiring to fix prices on electronic books. That may foretell a change in future pricing.
For what it’s worth, publishing figures can easily confuse. Are things better or worse?
Publishing industry tracker Bowker suggests that more than two thirds of new books are self-published books, reprints of public domain works, and other print-on-demand books. In turn, the Nielsen trackers show published works declined 9.3 percent in 2012. Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show a 21 percent decline in bookstore sales from the recession era through 2013 -- $17 billion to $13 billion. And of course, the first explosive growth blush of electronic books has settled down; Next?