Tuesday, October 04, 2005

More Thoughts on Ms. Snark

I have been thinking about the logical conclusion of Ms. Snark's defense of the literary mainstream, and her comment:

The people who are in dire straits right now are the folks with two or three or more books under their belt who haven't sold in big enough numbers to keep a publisher offering contracts.

This is a really scary notion if looked at logically: it says that agents and publishers are signing up authors whose works don't sell well. This, of course, calls into question their business acumen; but the publishing business isn't really a business, because agents and editors resort to aesthetics to justify their decisions. The result is a constant turnover of writers as new books are sent out, like soldiers over the top into a hail of combat, with no support, only the hope that they will find an audience. Like the emperor's new clothes, it ignores the logical conclusion that editors are doing a poor job of picking books, since they don't stay with the authors they publish. Can't blame the agents, since their job is to bring authors to editors and get advances.

Or perhaps I'm mis-reading all this. It's the writer's fault for turning out drivel after that first remarkable tome, right?

Or it's the reading public's fault. After all, was it Mencken who said "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public"? I guess we deserve lousy books that don't sell. Or are they good books that don't sell? Good books with lousy distribution channels? Good agents with stupid editors?

Interestingly agents live in suburban houses and dress well, while many writers I've known do their writing part-time, while holding down "day jobs." A curious disparity between the producer of the work and those who profit from it. I'm beginning to sound like a damned Marxist, and the only Marx I've ever studied in any detail was Groucho and his brothers.

I'm sure I'm wrong, after all, I'm just a "junior officer" as Mr. Winkler says, and don't know what I'm saying. The publishing world is doing just fine; ask the editors who all have jobs. Just don't ask some of the writers.


Blogger Sub Girl said...

thanks for stopping by my blog! and good luck with the novel.

9:40 AM, October 07, 2005  
Blogger ~~Olivia said...

When in a library or bookstore, I specifically look for new writers and debut books. There is some good writing out there and some mediocre stuff. I think editors try to publish new authors hoping their writing will mature and their books will grow a readership.

So, after a year, you have a new author with two or three published novels, whose writing is . . .mmm. . not up to par. Does the editor publish the next (dull) book? Or keep looking for a better (new) author?

Just because an author is published doesn't mean she/he's made it. He needs to write a better novel than the one just published.

If the first novel took two years to write with a large critigue group, and the second took a year and three people to critigue, and the third was written in three months and only the agent has read it, does that mean the author has gotten better? Or worse? The editor may decide that the writing has not matured and does not choose to publish the third novel.

I could name a couple of Golden Heart finalists whose first novels were mediocre, the second dull and there has been no third.

2:19 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an unpublished author with my own share of rejections, I have come to the conclusion that writing as a business is market driven. Agents, editors and publishers are driving the market and not the readers because the only way they can influence the market is to be judicial on what they buy. Unfortunately, readers buy a lot of crap as demonstrated in the sales of a popular but not well written novel dealing with the holy grail.

So, as I said, the people driving the market is the demigods of the literary world. The agents (gatekeepers) decide by using some subjective formula who gets forwarded to the editors. The editors consult with marketing and decide using some economic model who goes to press. The press decides when the work gets a print run and what chain of distribution it goes through.

Where in this process is there any consideration for talent, social merit or opportunity for really good work to rise at the top? After all, "good" is being defined by the market. Oh, and this is the same market that votes for our politicians, ignores the environment and feels entitled to exploit others to get ahead.

Go figure!

2:00 PM, January 01, 2007  
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4:44 PM, June 29, 2010  

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