Friday, January 18, 2008

I never promised you a prose garden--veinglory

This is a short rant, it is not directed to anyone on this blog which just happens to offer me a place to vent frustrations built up during my conversations at other locations....

I don't know about you but I don't recall popping out of the womb and being offered a deal whereby if I wrote a good book NY agent would shower me with blank checks and rose petals. So, perhaps a writer has written a good book, and not been able to get a big mainstream NY press publishing deal. Putting aside the fact that they may not have written a good book after all, let alone a commercial one, what does this mean?

I would argue it does not mean mainstream presses are unfair, malicious, stupid, "broken" or any other such thing. I am not arguing that the mainstream publishing model is perfect, moral, wise, infallible or without flaw either. It is just that there are option other than fair/good and unfair/mean. A lot of what happens in life is just, well, arbitrary.

I am happy to discuss at length what I like about alternative publishing models like e- and POD, and self-publishing. I am also happy to discuss what I dislike about mainstream NY presses, large distributors and chain books stores. But I am also damn well going to discuss what is good about NY presses and bad about alternative models.

It might be nice if every manuscript was a perfect blossoming specimen of artistic genius for whom fate had cultivated a wonderful section in the garden. This is not now the case and I doubt it ever will even after some kind of new publishing world order sweeps the planet (as is so often promised). The publishing world is a huge mess, half-wild, half-polluted diverse, glorious and messed up. Books may be rose hips, dandelion seeds, pine-cones, pebbles, small capsules of DDT and any number of other things.

The writer's job is to figure out what the manuscript is and where the want to plant it. And once that is done no amount of willful blindness or vehement cheerleading is going to make very much difference. So yes, I like self-publishing, I like POD, I like epublishing too. I like Tor and I like Harlequin and I like Donald Maas. I would not recommend any of these things to any author without first trying to figure out what kind of manuscript and what kind of ambitions they had.

You can like a genre, a publishing model, a format... anything--without being its bitch, without thinking it is perfect, and without feeling the need to diss every thing on the planet other than the object of your affection.

Thank you.

...okay, I feel better now.


Hot Sauce Reviews said...

I really scratched my head sometimes when I came across "the establishment is evil" type of declarations from self-published or small press authors and publishers. But part of such rant from authors could be due to disillusionment, frustration, or the need to blame someone for not recognizing the brilliance of their works.

I'm more perplexed, honestly, by small publishers who operated by selling such "big press=evil, us small presses=good and out to change the world for the better" philosophy to authors. Dreams are good, I suppose, but if I want to sell a book of mine, I'd take a publisher with a concrete business plan any day over someone who is merely selling me vague feel-good dreams.

Anonymous said...

What an eloquent rant!
I'm not in the writing/publishing business, so I don't have any clever comments to add to your rant...
I guess I just wanted to say that you made great points in your post, and I hope a lot of people read the post.

Art Edwards said...

There aren't enough avenues to get your written work out there to eliminate the biggest one, and the one where you're likely to profit the most.