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Erik Hare

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Member Since: Mar, 2007

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Blogs by Erik Hare

Writing Back
9/18/2007 7:34:12 AM
I enjoy getting mail about this blog. Really, I do. While I’d like to respond to them, both in private and in public, this format doesn’t seem to be advancing the discussion I think we all want to have about the publishing industry. Or starting the fight we want to have, as the case may be.

http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewblog.asp?authorid=55121&m=8&y=2007&blogid=23480
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewblog.asp?authorid=55121&m=8&y=2007&blogid=23627
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewblog.asp?authorid=55121&m=9&y=2007&blogid=23933

So what is it this week? Actually, I think we’re getting to the heart of the matter in this comment from another writer:

Publishers and agents want people who can do more than books, they have to be able to sell them. It is very difficult to sell books, and an author has to show they will do anything to make it happen. That is what an agent looks for.

Whew! I think I can accept that on the face of it as a good statement of the situation. Thanks for getting us to that point. So what is my beef?

Before I dive into this, I have to issue the standard caveats. No one has a right to have their books published, and there are many ways to make a living as a writer that don’t involve writing books. I can make a living as a writer doing something completely different and not have to worry about this at all.

So why do I care? I care because good fiction is something that crystallizes the times and makes reality more real. Take “The Great Gatsby” or “Candide”, or “Slaughterhouse Five” as examples. A changing world is very difficult to make sense of without a guide – a way of looking at it all that includes some distance whenever possible.

It’s not necessarily great literature that we need. Vonnegut offers my favorite example because he knew that somewhere in the bulk Sci-Fi of the 1950s there was a central theme that people needed to relate to the world around them. This was nothing resembling “literature” in this for a solid generation – but there was a great market, meaning a great need.

The publishing industry has a kind of “star system” for identifying talent. The way it works is something like playing sports. To be “found” you have to make sure you are in the right places giving 110% all the time. You have to want it so much that it burns inside of you, and you have to make opportunities happen.

That’s great if you want football players that are really into football. The problem with writing is that it’s not as technical as sports – just being the writiest writer there is does not suggest that you can cough up a great novel. I’m not going to pick on any particular writers, but I really don’t see anyone trying to forge anything all that new. Edgy stuff is about sex and drugs, and that’s about that.

Think of all the writers that are excluded in the current system. I have kids and a mortgage, so there is no way I can go through the hoops it takes to get a publisher’s attention. By excluding people like me, they automatically exclude people that have a direct connection to the working middle class. One would think you could sell a few books in that market, eh?

More importantly, speaking to the middle class in a new way is strictly out in the rigid conservatism of “what we know sells”. Most people think that the bourgeoisie is far too conservative for new works, but a quick glance through history shows that various arts are often at their most avant garde when they have the middle class as the bulk of their patrons. Yes, the middle class prefers edgy stuff that speaks to them, but … well, let’s not go around that circle again. They are a good market, and the current system has to speak to them from the outside.

I am convinced that the current bookselling malaise comes from the fact that no one is trying to do anything genuinely new, and that no one will in the current “star system” used for finding talent. I further think that people who relate to the working population are completely excluded. To me, however, the bigger issue is being able to create a framework or a mythology that helps people understand our changing world. I think that only literature can do that, and that all of our entertainment from teevee to movies to books can be made better by writers working to crystallize the moment we live in. And yes, the publishers can make a big pile of money at it, too.


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More Blogs by Erik Hare
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• Soul Mate - Friday, August 22, 2008
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• The Verse of a Song - Friday, August 15, 2008
• Generic Politics - Tuesday, August 12, 2008
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• Generations: Re-Invention - Sunday, August 03, 2008
• Happy as a Pig. Just a Pig. - Friday, August 01, 2008
• The D Word - Tuesday, July 29, 2008
• Writing Bubble - Monday, July 28, 2008
• Munchie - Friday, July 25, 2008
• Ode an die Freude - Wednesday, July 23, 2008
• Citizen Journalism - Monday, July 21, 2008
• Truth of the Cottonwoods - Monday, July 21, 2008
• Barking at the 'Net - Saturday, July 19, 2008
• Brasilian Way - Thursday, July 17, 2008
• Leadership - Tuesday, July 15, 2008
• No Safe Harbor - Sunday, July 13, 2008
• Open Yer Mouth - Thursday, July 10, 2008
• 15 Second Politics - Tuesday, July 08, 2008
• Nice Work if You Can Get It - Sunday, July 06, 2008
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