Thursday, June 19, 2008

Soapbox Friday: Why I Hate the Publishing Industry

I keep thinking about this and the more I think about it the angrier I get. A friend of mine recently posted some excerpts from her book on her blog, and amidst the praise and happiness, were a few voices tinged with caution. You’ll never get published,” they whispered, “Agents don’t like that.”

I know they mean well, but you know what? Agents can pack their bags with ice cubes and take a long vacation in Hell for all I care. I’m sick of the publishing industry. I’m sick of their games and their hoops and their snarky little rejection letters. I’ve got a secret for you: those who can’t write like to stick needles in the dreams of those who can.

Even when they reject your work there is an inexplicable compulsion to maintain it in some sort of unread, virginal purity on the off chance that some day – gush and gasp – they might publish it. I write because I love to. I will continue to write regardless of whether I ever earn a single dime. Doesn’t it seem stupid to leave those stories moldering on a shelf, unread and unloved, because allowing you to read it might ruin my chances of getting published, despite the fact that my chances of getting published are slim to none? I’d rather my stories be read.

The truth is computers and the Internet have changed publishing forever. They have changed publishing the way the printing press did back in 1440. You only have to look at cutting-edge authors like Cory Doctorow to get some idea of where things are heading. This future excites me and not because it increases the possibility that I might some day see my work in print. It excites me because it suggests a democratic revolution in publishing. Imagine a world where which books are translated into print isn’t decided by an elitist echelon of agents and editors sitting in their offices on Mt. Olympus but by you, the reading public.

Because folks, most of those agents and editors think you're stupid. They think you’re afraid of big words and big ideas. They think you want Bridget Jones and her ugly underwear. And some of you do, and that’s great, but that isn’t the end-all and be-all of literature. (What I would love to see is more strong, female characters who don't need men to validate their existence, or better yet, relationships built on mutual respect and friendship. I know, dream on.)

One of the chief delights of my life is meeting new people and learning their stories. There are some amazing stories out there and they deserve to be heard. I don’t think the folks currently deciding what it is we read have a bat’s clue where the light is. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent in the bookstore muttering, “Read it! . . . Seen it! . . . Wrote a paper on it! . . . Movie of the week! . . . Hamlet! . . . Cinderella! . . .” God forbid they give us something original, something fresh and thought-provoking. New might not sell, new is a risk, so stick to the stories that have been recycled over and over again because it’s safe and comforting. It’s comforting in the same way carbon-copy McDonald’s restaurants are comforting. After awhile though, all that grease and monotony makes Jack a dull boy.

So, to those brave souls who bare their hearts and souls to public scrutiny I offer my loudest applause. To those of you who read them, enjoy what they write, and tell them so, it is all the compensation anyone could ever want. And if you don’t like what they write, that’s great too! The right to have an opinion is one of the most precious there is. All I ask is that you keep reading.


Liz said...

Well, you've done it again. You've summed up everything I could never quite put into a succinct thought.

Melissa's Cozy Teacup said...

A friend of mine told me some horror stories about friends of hers who have their books purchased by publishers only so that they can remove them form the market so they don't interfere with the sales for their flavor of the week.
For 'some' reason, self publishing is still viewed, though not as much, as the neglected street urchin of the publishing world, a refuge for those unfortunate souls unable to break through the ranks and get picked up by a major house.
However, the rumblings of a publishing revolution are getting louder. With the internet and the growing popularity of self publishing soon, big publishing houses will be dinosaurs of the past.

Elise Sheppard said...

Love this post! I knew instantly who you were talking about. I found your blog through Elizabeth's.

I agree with where publishing is going. Even music is moving this direction. My husband told me months ago that several big label musicians are moving toward releasing their own music independently through internet and mobile downloads. Radiohead released an album and asked that listeners pay them what they wanted. How cool is that?

Gotta love the internet! It rocks.

I appreciate your comments and tips on ways that you've kept your neighborhood safe. We are already asking neighbors who are home all day to watch more closely. My husband is encouraging them to move their main sitting/work areas toward windows where they can see more. We have written down tag numbers of cars suspected of being up to no good and reported them to police. The police have been great about coming out and patrolling. We have plans for them to bring out signs and hope to get them more involved in the patrolling. Right now, we are getting awareness up. Some neighbors have been suspicious, but most are clueless as to things going on in broad daylight. Our goal is to stop it though. We don't want the problems to just shift over a few streets, you know?

This is all so new to me. As I child my parents made sure we knew how to distinguish between venomous and nonvenomous snakes. We had the occasional cow and dog thieving, but no gang activity:)I'd like to say no drug activity, but there are drugs in the country too. Heck, people grow them in the country...There just didn't tend to be as much violence.

Ms. Math said...

Wonderfully said (you're a great writer)! I agree that too many original, unique things are not getting the credit they deserve and look forward to the future and what it can do for us!

the mother of this lot said...

I pity any publisher who tells Mrs. Fox she's stupid.......

Jennie said...

ooh I applaud you! I too read the comments on the other blog and understand what you mean.

Feathering My Nest said...

You said just what I was thinking, but couldn't say!! Great post. Kathi

restyled home said...

Thank you for that. I, too, love to write and although it sometimes feels as though I am writing for nothing, I know it is because I need to quiet my mind and its thoughts.

Write on, and I'll read on!