Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Being Upset With Oneself

I apologize for the tenor of my last post. Of course I was upset over the publishing industry. I have a bone to pick with them all. But that's my poor story. The struggling writer who spent his life trying to get something, anything of his published. Being passed over time and time and time again by agent after agent after publishing house after publishing house. Yeah, I should be upset with them or myself. Someone is falling short, so I blame them. And I did so in the most harshest terms that I could muster in my last post. For this, I apologize. I should have been more reserved with my passion.

It took a fellow writer that I regard with a tremendous amount of respect to slap me back to my senses about my writing. I was going on about how much money and how many copies of my upcoming e-book that I hope to sell. I went on about the work that I'm about to embark on getting off the ground and into the hands of my would-be readers and she helped me to see, quite gently in fact, that I am not looking at things in the right perspective.

A writer isn't concerned with selling copies or entertaining the masses. That should come out of their joy of writing. It's more of a byproduct of what they live for, which is to write and to bring something to life. Well more accurately, characters and situations into a work that is entertaining and engrossing to the pleasure of others. That is what a writer lives for. Not the dream of making a million on every work they produce, even though that would be excellent, or bitching about the state of the publishing industry, which is indeed in a very sorry state.

There are just too many writers out there to let loose onto the world and not enough editors and critics to review them all if they were at large. That's the funny fear of the publishing industry: to protect the millions of readers out there from a deluge of mediocrity. They are the first line of defense against bad taste and poor workmanship, if you actually believe this insanity. The same tools that the big companies use can be employed by even the smallest, simplest of writers. The only thing that was at one time difficult was reaching the masses, but thanks to the Internet and tablet computing, this has changed drastically.

Everyone feared in the music business that there would be a torrential downpour of musical artists that would flush down the music industry into the massive toilet of obliteration. Yet, this didn't happen. The music industry had to retool and reshape itself from its fat, bloated profit margins and unfair contracts to leaner, meaner animals in a new jungle of competition. This is the model of the publishing industry. Many people will stick with their major publishing houses and their powerful marketing tools, and continue to purchase their books because of their prejudices against what is seen as vanity presses. However, millions of others will reach out for the fringe writers who take on the world on their own, much like moviegoers search out independent movies to escape the swill of Hollywood hacks.

Publishing houses are letting down many of their newer, lesser known writers, by not giving them the attention of their marketing might, leaving it up to and expecting them to build marketing 'platforms' on their own to push their books. They also have shorter runs of books and edit down the size of novels somewhat unnecessarily to bring down the cost of publishing a work, sometimes at the cost of creativity. Let an unknown try to have published a novel the size of a Mitchner or Clancy novel and you'll find the impossible occurring.

With this abandonment of their lesser known authors, as well as their completely ignoring new talent and you get the picture of a business losing its grip on its stranglehold. Any new author will tell you how slow it is to get a conventional book to market, and even slower to get a check from the publishing houses. Also since they take all of the risks they feel, and maybe rightly, that they deserve the lion's share of the profits. I don't argue this. This is probably the rationale behind publishing houses attempting to breathe life into 'co-publishing', where authors are asked to invest money in their own novels with the publishing house. Isn't this a form of vanity press from the same people that decry it? Publishing houses are even coming out with their own imprints of e-books, attempting to cash in on the inexpensive business model of e-publishing, and it's speed to the market. But here too they face the loss of their prestige by giving credibility and bringing attention the the e-publishing world. Again a loss for them.

Some individuals will always want to have and feel paper or hardbound books in their hands. I was once a hardbound collector, but after running out of room in my modest library, I started to see the logic of e-books...hundreds of books in the palm of your hand. Remarkable when you think about it. And you can never lose an e-book if you have it in a cloud, such as from Amazon, where you can have it on your tablet or your PC with software like Kindle (not the device, although it runs on it). But because of On-Demand Printing, which is the ability to print a book one at a time at a profit due to the computing process, this too will fade as it is integrated with e-publishing giving people a choice between an e-book or paperback.

What this means is that the publishing world is due for a mighty tectonic shift. It has a reckoning coming, and like the music business a sea change. However for them, it will be an even greater change because they've also lost their secret bargain to keep the price of e-books up to make them less appealing price-wise than their hardcover, paperback competition. Now that the courts have broke up this cabal, the price of e-books will fall and a more fiercer competition will come to light. The hounds will be let loose and the hunt will begin. Once again, a bell ringer for the publishing industry.

I'm still bitching about all this as you can see, most likely because I'm beginning to wade into the deep waters. I'm nervous and scared of what the future will bring and if I do have talent or not. However, this is my cross to bear and I no longer blame agents and publishing houses for overlooking me. They have their own horrors to deal with, especially now. I have my own course to chart, all on my own, without the aid of the large fathers of publishing to hold my hand.

Who can say what the future holds, for me or publishing? Good, bad or indifferent, life will go on and change will happen. Will I be able to navigate the waters? Will I sink and give up totally? I have a new energy regarding my work now. I feel that there is a new avenue for me to go down, and go down it I intend to do.

Wish me luck. Now I'll get back to writing.

Gregory Delaurentis

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