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Has Publishing Killed the Writing Star?
3/7/2011 4:25:11 PM
Not everyone has heard the eighties hit song, "Video killed the radio star", but I'd bet anyone in the mid-forties has. Prior to the eighties, singers were the real stars of the music industry. Then came the music-video industry and MTV. Singers had to become actors if they wanted to sell millions of albums. They didn't even need to sound good. They just needed a good video producer and a catchy tune and they were on their way. Need proof? Listen, and I mean really listen, to any hit song from the eighties and you'll hear what I mean. Talk about off-key! Don't get me wrong, I love the music from the eighties. I'm just pointing out that the business model of the Music Industry changed, and so too did the music. But is that what's happening to the Publishing Industry?
If you are a writer, you know about the Gatekeepers, those appointed to keep out the unwanted's, the undeserving, untalented and unschooled people who write books late at night between their day job and a few hours sleep, who dream of finding readers who will appreciate their talent for telling a good yarn and who can't seem to capture that magical essence, that mystical publishing angle that is so acute and so allusive that those who actually do publish with a major house often can't find it twice, and those that do are read by puzzled "wannabe" writers who wonder "who the hell published this crap".
If Publishers are the end-all-be-all-the-buck-stops-here-we-know-what-makes-a-writer-and-you're-not doormen of every author's chance of finding a readership beyond friend's, family and co-workers, then why do they publish so many god-awful books. Need proof? Visit your local Barnes and Noble before they go out of business and you'll see what I mean. What's even more disturbing are the writer's they reject over and over again who finally do get published by a small press, or god-forbid self-publish, and become mega-selling authors with a mega-loyal readership. J.K. Rowling ring any bells?
Writers, at one time in the distant past, self-published - period. There were no Publishing Companies. If you wanted to write, you wrote. If you wanted to publish, you published yourself. Then came the publishing companies, rich men who put up the money for authors who had none and gleaned profits from their investment. I imagine that at first these Publishing Companies (rich men) were fairly altruistic. They perhaps wanted to help struggling authors, maybe even believed in what the author was trying to say and decided to put their money where the author's mouth was. But somewhere along the way, Publishing became primarily a business, more concerned with profits than with writers or writing. As a business man myself (I run a jewelry store with seven employees) I have no problem with this. We live in a capitalistic society where money is a score card of popular worth, and popular worth means many people like what you do. So when I hear writers complain about Publishers not getting it, or Publishers not knowing a good book from a bad one, or Publishers sucking, I wonder what makes them think that publishing a book is a right not a privilege. Publishing costs money, a lot of money. Try self-publishing, no not print on demand but actually self-publishing, and you'll see what I mean. The problem does not lie with Publishers, it lies with writers.
Print on Demand has opened the flood gates and everyone who has $300 and a first draft now thinks they are a writer. Let me clarify - they are writers, just not good ones. Few POD authors ever take the time to rewrite, construct a plot that makes sense or even, god forbid, check their spelling and punctuation. College degree - what's that? So yes, the gate keepers are needed. I applaud them for their hard work and diligence in keeping out the unwanteds, even if it means keeping out me. My twenty six rejections (three more than J.K. Rowling as I understand and a handful more than Stephen King) only means I am not there yet. It's nothing personal, I know. My experience as a jeweler has softened the blow of rejection. Everyday I tell several sales reps that I am not interested in their jewelry. Their jewelry is beautiful. Their jewelry is sellable. It's just not right for my store and my customer, and even if it is, often-times I have a large supply of someone else's jewelry that is very similar to theirs that I am trying to move out my door, so I just don't need any more. It's the same in the Publishing Industry. Yes, they sometimes pass on writers who end up setting sales records for someone else, but that's business not some conspiracy against good writers.
So I will keep fighting the good fight, writing and rewriting, and rewriting some more, publishing my own work and clawing out a readership, and maybe I will land that publishing contract with a large publisher. The question is, will you? I hope you do.
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More Blogs by Shawn Patrick Cormier
Why Do You Write? - Monday, December 05, 2011
Creative Ways to Sell Your Book – or Selling in a Psych Ward! - Monday, December 05, 2011
Book signing dos and donts - Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Self-promotion - Wednesday, March 23, 2011
So you want to sell lots of books? - Sunday, March 13, 2011
To publish or not to publish - what is the difference? - Thursday, March 10, 2011
There is hope for us yet! - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Has Publishing Killed the Writing Star? - Monday, March 07, 2011