Sunday, January 2, 2011

Publishing... what of it?

When I first started trying to publish my novels, my experiences taught me that there were certain practices that everyone seemed to prescribe to. You needed a writer's market handbook (which I do recommend, by the way), and you needed an agent. Then, you were to follow the standards to the letter, format and measure and choose a genre and etc., jump through flaming hoops, dance on hot coals, swim through lava, sacrifice your first born, and then, if you insisted on going the way of utmost tradition, maybe perhaps, if a star aligned in the correct constellation while the exact agent met the fated contact who sweet-talked them into reading your manuscript, then they might... might consider representation. Then, of course, you have to pray to God that one of the big dogs of publishing will throw your agent a bone, which requires a whole new level of disillusionment. All this just to tell your story...

Rejection and disillusionment are a good thing, mind you. You need to experience these in order to grow. You need people to be honest with you when improvement is required (which is basically always, because one can never stop growing). But, I wonder, discipline and talent and nurturing of skill aside, do we need to follow traditional publishing standards in order to be great at what we do? If we lose the narrow vision goggles, do we recognize that we're missing the wide screen shot of possibilities?

I'm thinking of epublishers, small presses and various forms of Indie authordom. I am well acquainted with people who are published via pretty much all venues, and I wonder at those who criticize or belittle such courage and hard work, simply because an author dares to take an alternative route. Think about it. If the same size seven shoes are treading the same footsteps through a concrete path for decades, what of the size tens? Where do you step when your ideas are progressive and don't fit the mold? What road do you travel when change is the name of the game?

Some forms of publishing are a real old man's club. It's hard to get in unless you smoke the same cigars, wear the same outfits and swing the same literary anatomy, so to speak. But times are a changing, as they should, as they must, in order for an art to thrive. Take ebooks, for instance. They seem to be the certain wave of the present, forget the future. A lot of you have probably heard of the NY Times wanting to do a top ten ebook list. This excites me, for sure, because it means that someone is acknowledging the flow of time and the reality of change.

It's kind of the age old battle, to prove that change doesn't necessarily equal the end of times, and that the big, bad C word is not only okay, but also crucial to survival? Just because something is atypical, non-standard, does not make it wrong or any less valid. Reinvention is a good thing, and it may very well, in this humble author's opinion, save the necks of a nation in peril of tragic illiteracy. I realize a lot of us have a terribly hard time with change. As it's always been, the phenomenon tends to bring out the worst in some people. We humans like to cling to what we know, to what has been laid out for us as "correct". When people say, "This is the way to go", it's a lot easier to follow right along. Things aren't so scary then. And I can hold hands with those who wish to preserve some of the old ways along with the new. It does, however, sadden me to witness disrespect directed at the ground-breakers of our literary world, especially when I realize that these attitudes are largely motivated by fear, whether understood or not. Nothing stays the same, after all. We can only take the good we've gathered and the knowledge learned and let it flow into today's mold. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing it completely.

I'm always wary of people who claim to know the "right" answer, the "best" way. Where unbending black and white yields war and hatred, why would we encourage such a thing in the written arts? Words are meant to alter us, to inspire, encourage and shake us up. I would loath to think that some passionate idea might die with its thinker, simply because they were never given a chance to share them with the world. So, here's to my author friends, in all their varied shades of expression, and to their Indie and alternative presses. However you choose to share your creations and whatever route you travel, know that I am shaking pom-poms on your behalf.

Peace out,


Jessica said...

Ah Jen, wise words as always my friend! That's precisely why I promote the heck out of my self and indie pubbed friends. They are brave and I applaud them for it!

CarolOates said...

I agree wholeheartedly, it makes me feel ill to see some of the people who seemed determined to keep any writer who isn't signed to a big six firmly in their little box titled, 'not really published'.
The crazy part is they are only denying themselves a great read. Not every book that comes from indie or small publishers is golden, just like every book from the big six isn't. But, there is an ever climbing stack of great books coming from both. At a time where money is tight and the big publishers are closing ranks on their stable of authors, it's time for the rest of us to break out and find new routes. So that's exactly what we are doing and long may it continue.

Colene Murphy said...

Lots to consider. I'm very narrow when it comes to the path I see myself taking but it isn't because of anything but "that's the way it's done" mentality. Lots to think on...hmm.

Jennifer Lane said...

Dance on hot coals? Swim through lava?

No thanks!

Great post.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. Most of the anatomy I come across, however, doesn't swing. The agenting world is filled with women. Normally that would make me happy but not when their average age seems to be 12. (yes, I'm exagerating, but you get my point, don't you?)

If only our rejections were coming from a mature adult with years of market experience behind them. You're down right lucky if the intern sentinel is 25.

Oh, god, I've stepped onto my soapbox. Time to say good-bye.

Jen said...

Wendy et al...

Best thing to do is hold that head up high in teh face of rejection and believe in yourself. Cliche, I know, but faith and determination (especially determination) will get you places. After all, the road only ends if you stop walking.

Rock on!