Saturday, September 26, 2009

Getting PUBLISHED! Or not. Or maybe, but not as you thought it would happen.

Once upon a time I would have given an arm or a leg to be PUBLISHED. Well, amend that: not an arm and a leg, and indeed no body part, or my health, or my family, or a number of other things that are more important. Far more important! But you know what I means, yes? Getting PUBLISHED is the DREAM. That's what you work toward. That's the validation of what you're doing. That's why you're crushed when yet another slushpile submission never gets responded to, or when it gets rejected. Somewhere I still have one of those filing boxes full of rejections, dating something like 30 years back. Haven't looked at them again, but they are there somewhere, just to remind me of what really matters in this game:

Now, lest someone takes that to mean "never give up trying to get published"...well, not quite. Though I agree with Heinlein that a work of fiction should be placed before a publisher for the purpose of publication, it must be taken into account that Heinlein wrote this at a time when placing works before a publisher in order to have anybody else but your family read them was the only realistic way to get them out into the public arena. This isn't so anymore, though a lot of people continue to live in a past where the measure of a man's, or woman's, writing was whether it got published or not. Rejection was tantamount to a declaration that what you wrote was shit. There's no other way to put it. Shit at least in comparison to the works of those who did get published. You get my meaning, yes?

Anyway, that's not the "never give up" I was referring to. What I meant was the "never give up what you do and like doing; and don't let the bastards get you down". Said 'bastards' range from publishers to booksellers to other members of your favorite waste-your-time writers' club. Sorry, writers' clubs, but I believe that the only way—and I mean the ONLY WAY—to be a writer is to write, and to be prepared to write all the shit out of oneself, and then, when one is ready to write good stories about something other than oneself, when one is ready to engage one's characters and their plight, when one has learned how to manage words and sentences and plots and all that good stuff...then it's time to produce the good stuff.

Traditional 'publishing' and its persistent influence as the de-facto judge of who is worthy of receiving public exposure of their work, is a Jurassic hangover from the days when there weren't computers, Adobe Creative Suite and POD. Admittedly, the democratization of publishing has its drawbacks. Everything has; nothing only has 'up-sides'. But I believe that the market, and not publishers with their dinosaurean attitudes and jealously guarded hold on markets, should decide who is read and who isn't. The snooty attitude of some, surely mediocre, writer—if that!— whose 'writing advice' I came across on the internet, and who told people that if they intended to publish their work on lulu they shouldn't even bother to start writing, is not just arrogant but just plain dim-witted.

With the situation as it is, the goal to be PUBLISHED has completely changed in its very nature. Meaning that people can stop obsessing about it and get on with the business of devising and putting into words the stories they're wanting to tell.

As for me, my 'price' has gone up, from five to six figures. That's the 'price' I'd have to be paid— up-front!—before I'd subject myself again to the tyranny of any editor with any more power over my story than that of correcting typos. And even then I'd think about it...

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In other words, Heinlein was really saying that there's no point in writing unless you try to present the fruits of your labors to an audience, the wider the better. This is almost self-evidently true; for, since writing is always about telling a story—well, fiction writing is—unless you try to share it with others, you might as well keep it in your head and leave it in your daydreams. And when it comes to non-fiction; well, really, what's the damn point in writing unless it's meant as an exercise in communication, which obviously requires an audience!

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