Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I'm the new guy on the blog.

Don't like puns? Someone once said that the pun was the lowest form of wit, and I agree. But, they're pun to do sometimes.

I am new to blogging, after attempting one on my website ( and realizing I was somewhat out of my element, since I'm primarily a writer of fiction. It's tough to bare your thoughts to complete strangers. Who are these strangers? Well, readers of course.

But I should not be so sensitive about this, since I bare my thoughts to strangers all the time in my novels.

I realized, after writing that first attempt at a weblog, that my blog offered very little to the average reader of these fascinating glimpses into a person's life and mind. In that first blog, which should probably be called a blogette, not only for its small size, but for its small scope, that I lack reportorial skills to a high degree. My little blog contained more meaningless pap than substance.

In short, there was no elegant diatribe in it. No passionate discourse on the state of publishing in general and western publishing in particular.

And that was where my heart was at the time I wrote that first blog.

So, let's start over.

Let's attack something.

Or someone.

Let's use words as weapons of mass destruction, instead of using them as a creative force to suspend disbelief.

Um, whom should we attack first?

Maybe I should lay some groundwork, rather than just arm myself with the slings and arrows of misfortune.

All right. Here goes.

I have, for many years, championed the western as our native-grown, exclusive, form of literature. But, I have also called the western novel, publishing's bastard child. I have called upon publishers to get behind this literature and educate wholesalers, distributors, booksellers, and the public, about the value of the western in American literature.

All to no avail.

The western is the most neglected form of American literature, yet the writers are among the most gifted among present day scribes. For proof, look in the bookstores, read the review sections of newspapers, look at royalty reports.

The western racks in bookstores have shrunk. They have been moved to the farthest reaches and into the darkest corners of the chain bookstores.

Reviews of western novels are seldom seen in major newspapers, or even in trade magazines, such as Publisher's Weekly.

The average life of a paperback on the stands is about 12 days. After that time, a title disappears and, like morning dew, evaporates into the atmosphere. The bright and shiny new western novel vanishes into the Void, never to be seen again, except in used bookstores. There, of course, the western still thrives without publisher or author royalties. Still, that is better than death.

In the used bookstore, the western novel still has life and meaning. Like oral history, the words are passed along, the writer is read, the story lives on.

Here is a statement that I hear often:

"I went to the bookstore, but didn't see any of your books."

Well, sure. The book buyer needs further education. Before the emergence of the dreaded chain stores, readers were used to walking into a bookstore and finding their favorite authors. They could talk to the clerks and the owner about books and authors. The books were almost always there, and they stayed there for a long time, sometimes years.

Not now.

I tell these people who say they do not see my books in Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, et al, that today one must ask for the book. Sometimes the clerk will actually go to the computer and look up the name of a western author for a customer. Sometimes, these same clerks will actually order a copy to be sent from the warehouse.

But, if you don't ask, the book will sit in a distant warehouse, and eventually, be sent back from whence it came. And, then, oh horrors, that book will probably be consigned the shredder, or remaindered for pennies on the dollar.

This is discouraging to the writer of westerns.

And I have been discouraged and disheartened for a long time.

Not only have I not seen any improvement in the marketplace, I have seen a decline in virtually every aspect of marketing. Giant distributors have bought out the small independents, which were the lifeblood of western distribution. Editors, who know nothing about the west and care nothing about the west, are put in charge of the western lines. Publishers have dropped the western line because of poor sales. Yet, none examined the cause of such a drastic drop in sales of westerns.

It's all bottom line now.

And, the western is below the bottom line.

When it should be way above the top line.

Think about it.

And, I'll be back, with more on this and other burning issues that deal with the state of western literature.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Jory Sherman