Monday, March 19, 2018

The Author's Dilemma: The Immorality of An Online World

As an author I’m constantly reminded of my dependence on Amazon and Facebook. My books are available through Amazon’s KDP Select. CreateSpace printed my trade paperbacks. Facebook keeps my friends and readers informed of these blog posts, my books, and my interests.

My sons, who grew up on the Internet, continually remind me we live in a digitalized world. They also enlighten me just how deep this goes; this from a generation who saw movies like The Matrix ―machines living off humans.

Controversy over Amazon “taking over the world” seems to have intensified. Comedians/social critics like Jimmy Kimmel comment on national television that “Amazon won’t be happy until every brick and mortar store is an abandoned warehouse teeming with raccoons”; this after Toys R Us went bankrupt.

Facebook and Twitter are responsible for rigging the 2016 election, allowing hackers and trolls to use propaganda through social media to elect Donald Trump president. Now we read that the Trump campaign harvested data about millions of Facebook users without their knowledge. Facebook changed the world and the world is angry. Privacy is invaded. “Facebook is evil,” wrote one New York Times commenter.

Still, I remain on Facebook and Twitter and sell my books through Amazon. I admit I find it de-energizing as an artist who understands (accepts?) the element of immorality that permeates a world online.

In a church pew, a woman, who is an acquaintance, turned to me and shared her story. “Maybe I just put off the grief, trying to stay busy, work a job. Today’s his birthday. He’s been gone twelve years, but I’m really a basket case today. It’s hit me all at once.”

Never being loved again … “never again being special” in someone’s eyes, as she was with her husband … she felt lost, she said. Alone.

I, too, spent so much time working, raising my children that I put off grief. And, like her, I feel no one will ever again love me the way he did. I wrote Again in a Heartbeat thirteen years after John’s death.

I shared this with her. I also shared my feeling of how lucky we were to have found true love once. Some never do. This is why I wrote my memoirs, I said. This connection with others going through a similar journey, as well as writing as a way of healing and finding closure are things you just can’t put a price. You’re not alone.

When I was married and the kids were small, I loved going to the mall, my time alone, shopping for that new blouse, getting out of the house. I still love going to the mall. The woman at the Macy’s Estee Lauder cosmetics counter knows me. Over the years, we’ve talked about our lives. She asks about my latest trip. She tells me she and her husband take a place in Ocean City, New Jersey every June. Sometimes, they stay at the Flanders Hotel, which is where John and I spent our honeymoon, I tell her.

These small encounters are important in a day which might, otherwise, be void of personal interaction. Will Amazon put Macy’s out of business? It’s just a matter of time and it saddens me. I feel I'm losing a world I once knew to that dystopian reality of The Matrix.

The days of bookstores as the prime avenue to sell your work are gone. Bookstores sealed their fate when they insulated themselves, tied to “profits” of traditional publishing. I've written about this before. Over eight years ago, I chose the independent publishing route. I saw Amazon reaching readers; offering hope that my books, unknown author that I was, might connect with an audience ... either that or my work would never reach readers.

With one new book published on Amazon every five minutes … or about 1.1 million new eBooks and 365,000 print books published a year, I’d like to say if you write great stuff, your work will stand out. As we drown in the cacophony of social media and Amazon publishing, it’s doubtful. People use and chose the ease of shopping online, the hope of going viral.

Yesterday when I spoke to another widow in church I remembered why I write and give interviews about writing and post to Facebook and Twitter ... why I sell myself and my books online. If one positive relationship or conversation comes out of it; one blog post on Facebook sparks community or a new relationship, then so be it. It’s worth it. Or, at least, that’s what I’ll keep reminding myself.

How do you feel about Amazon and Facebook and an online world? Please share your thoughts and comments.

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