23 June, 2010

There Has To Be Another Way

A recurring theme in my writing is that whenever a character is presented with two options, he or she seems to find a third. One historical character, Caliph Al-Ma'mun, even finds a third way a coin flip can go. (though that, I admit, I cribbed from an old Batman story)

And so I hope there can be a third way for publishing in the 21st century, because I really don't like either of the options so far.

As I see it, what's brought us to this point is two factors. The first-- No One Buys Books Anymore. Some blame the economy: less money, fewer books. I blame the easy availability of free reading material. Case in point: you, Dear Reader, and this blog. The second--Everyone Is A Stinking Author. We all have computers, and access to every imaginable writing resource, like the whole world was one big round table at the Algonquin. This is the era that spawned a million teenage paranormal romances. This is the era that spawned, well, me.

And so we have--what I wouldn't give to know the number of unpublsihed, possibly unpublishable books out there. And fewer and fewer available publishing spots to put them all in. Used to be, if you were one of the few who was willing to bang out a hundred thousand words on a Smith-Corona and mail them to a publisher, you had yourself a published book. Now, well, you're one of the millions (and millions) who had a few English courses, posesses a working laptop, and have written yourself a novel. Which brings us to:


This has always been true in some way, but as the market for new books tighten publishers rely on a few proven brand-names. Names like Cussler, Grafton, Collins. The astute reader may realize that some of these brand names don't even write their own books anymore. Some of them might even be dead. I can't be bothered to find that out right now. But they are all still publishing new books. Perhaps this is why the undead are so big in fiction these days.

So, for the unpublished, much text is typed about Becoming A Brand. And it's true, those who already are a brand-name (Tyra Banks, Glen Beck, Pope Benedict XVI) can get ANYTHING published.) If you're not them, the pundits say... better start a blog or something, get yourself a platform. But anyone can do that, right? Which leads us to,


And yes, I know damn well that's not a posessive. I am making a point! It's ridiculously easy to publish a book, so long as you don't care about quality and you don't care if it's marketed nowhere other than by Twitter and Facebook. There are a lot of pretty good options for print-on-demand and electronic publishing is even cheaper. The entry barrier is low. Hell, I could publish right now. Actually, in a way, I am publishing right now, or will once I hit the 'POST' button.

What's wrong with that? Laura Miller puts it so well in this Salon article: "Is the public prepared to meet the slush pile?" If everyone publishes everything, how do you ever find the good stuff? Most importantly, if I self-publish and self-promote my Very Excellent Novel how are you going to find it in a sea of barely-disguised Twilight fanfic, fraught with error and tripe? With everyone else blogging and tweeting and worse?

You won't.


And so, I want another choice please. A third way. Books are too wonderful a thing for either of these fates to happen. I could even learn to like Kindle, I really could, if the quality of great Books were still there in the digital ink. But I see both of these options reducing the quality of the published works to the lowest common denominator.

I, for one, am not prepared to wade through the world's slush pile. Or read only the books that come from a Certified Brand on the marketing department's short list. There has to be another way.



  1. I saw that Batman episode... Two faces coin landed on it's edge! Immediatly after I read the mention of a third option in a coin toss I thought of "The Adventures of Batman and Robin," I agree with you on publishing... I became a writer, not for the fame, money, glory, or a mass of vampire crazed teens who can barely read their own name. I did it to share my stories with others. Books are what got me through a few rough patches in my life and I feel that it is my duty to "Pay it Forward" I feel as a writer that my manuscript "Is" my child, and what father would I be if I sent it out into the world, uneducated, unmatured, or ill?

    Love you're blog I'm adding it to my favorites bar as well as linking it to my own site!

    J.P. McNeill

  2. Thanks JP! You have a great attidude on writing.