I don’t know that there’s ever been a time in history where the identity of the author of a book has mattered more to the publishing industry.
Sure, it’s always helped to be famous when hawking a book, and as I’ve stressed repeatedly, authors have always been expected to be good self-promoters. But in the era of social media we’re entering new territory where books seem much more inextricably tied to their author’s identity and presence than ever before.
Where in the past the author was just a name on a spine and a one inch by one inch author photo, we now have social media and instantaneous connections with our favorite authors. Rather than being mysterious figures, authors are now palpably human to readers and just a few clicks away.
Publishers very much care who the author is. And it’s definitely shaping the culture.
For example, many on the left now share an unacknowledged but common assumption that a good work of art is made of good politics and that good politics is a matter of identity. The progressive view of a book or play depends on its political stance, and its stance—even its subject matter—is scrutinized in light of the group affiliation of the artist: Personal identity plus political position equals aesthetic value.
It’s gotten me curious:
How much does the author of a book matter to you? Is it something you look up after the fact? Do you follow your favorite authors on social media? Have you ever bought a book because you got to know the person first online?
Would you care if you personally disliked an author or their politics? Or is a good book just a good book and you don’t care who wrote it?
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Art: A still life of an open book by Frans Luyckx or Simon Renard de Saint-André