From someone who is on your side, Author-friends! From ONE OF YOU! Don't you try and tell us we don't listen to you. Chérie L'Ecrivain, should you care, is a real (delightful) person, agented, currently revising first novel. No, that's not her real name, dimbulbs.
Dear Publishing Industry: And Now, A Word From Your Target Audience
by Chérie L'Ecrivain
We writers of today are blessed to have access to such a wealth of information regarding the innermost thoughts of the agents/assistants/editors/etc that are at the receiving end of our efforts. You have so kindly detailed for us the many ways not to write a query and your formidable list of pet peeves; you have tempered your encouragement with gentle, diplomatic realism; you have exhausted yourselves over and over by repeating the most basic axioms such as "show don't tell" in every possible iteration because you realize that not everyone has received this memo yet, and bless your hearts, you won't rest until everyone does. You are dogged and tireless in your mission to properly educate us in your preferred fonts and margin sizes, and we promise that we are listening. We take your advice, which is so often dispensed in ALL CAPS TO REALLY EMPHASIZE HOW FRUSTRATED YOU ARE, and occasionally we look up from fine-tuning our novel/synopsis/proposal/query as per your exact specifications, only to confirm that, yes, the World of Publishing is still running itself into the ground with considerable aplomb. Ahem. Well. The publishing blogosphere has been so generous in its free advice to authors that we thought, in the spirit of reciprocity, that we would give a little something back.
1. The Kindle Will Not Save You
When we make things digital--like books and music--it is tantamount to making them free, via the magic of the interwebs. iTunes makes for lovely window dressing, but anyone who thinks recorded music hasn't been completely demonetized is severely out of touch with reality. But, really, who cares--because now I can try out new music with impunity, which means I'll fall in love with more bands and go their shows and buy their t-shirts and I am still supporting them with my green green American dollars.But for writers, the book is the whole thing. It's the album, it's the show, it's the t-shirt. It is the only thing we are selling. If you download a pirated copy of my book and love it, great--then what? Maybe you send me a nice email saying that it really moved you and I get paid, what, in emoticons? Can I give my agent 15% of a smiley face? And then she can compensate her overworked assistant with some warm feelings? Your occasional reassurance that there will always be some "die hards" committed to reading their books on paper does little to alleviate this bad feeling I have that when we fawn over the latest e-reader (which will become irrelevant the moment Apple finally releases the ever-elusive iTablet and your Kindle is instantly transformed into a $400 beige paperweight, unless you have the DX and then I suppose it's more of a doorstop) all we are doing is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. World of Publishing: y'all need a plan.The first step would be:
2. Stop Giving James Frey Money
The jacket copy for "Bright Shiny Morning" begins:"One of the most celebrated and controversial authors in America delivers his first novel--a sweeping chronicle of contemporary Los Angeles that is bold, exhilarating, and utterly ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ--Oh, I'm sorry, I think I dozed off there for a second, although I did enjoy a hearty chuckle at the claim that this was his first novel. Also, gang, when Oprah calls bullshit on you in front of a national audience it's not controversy, it's humiliation. Controversial books are the ones that are frightening in the power of their honesty, and I think it's safe to say that A Million Little Pieces was underwhelming in that regard. And if a portrait of a recovering drug addict getting a root canal without Novocain is what now passes for controversy in literature then SWEET JESUS GOD HELP US ALL.I don't actually care about James Frey beyond the fact that he's pretty representative of publishing's, er, dubious business model, which seems to consist these days of flinging prodigious amounts of money at authors/personalities/semi-literate politicians once or twice a year and following up the deal with months of hysterical hand-wringing about how there's no money to buy manuscripts. World of Publishing, you need your money for other things besides Frey's forthcoming Twilight, With Aliens . You need your money because:
3. You Need to Spend Money to Make Money
And not on million dollar advances. On your WORKFORCE. For the same amount of money they paid for Bright Shiny Morning , a novel the LA Times called "execrable," Harper Collins could have hired thirty people at an actual living wage, plus health insurance, for a full year, to do literally nothing but sit around and come up with ideas on how to create a more sustainable publishing industry. It has also been suggested that paying assistants and such slightly-higher-than-subsistence wages could breed some diversity in the people attracted to working in publishing, and then things could get CRAZY. But NAY, surely it is more efficient to underpay and overwork a never-ending parade of increasingly burned-out and jaded devotees of the written word—specifically, 23-year-old English majors from the liberal arts colleges of the Northeast and, occasionally, the Midwest? Isn’t it? ISN’T IT?World of Publishing, you know I love you, and I know you’re trying. Except for those three months a year when you grind to a halt because the weather is nice.