19  Thinking (and Reading) about Publishing

If like me you like to write and share your work, maybe you look around for resources and information about publishing. I’ve found an online source that’s both helpful and interesting: everywritersresource.com. I recommend it if you like to surf the net both for new work and for advice. You can pause there to read poems or stories or search the lists for magazines and publishers seeking submissions.

I also got through email a new e-book, Anna Faktorovich’s The History of British and American Author-Publishers. It includes not only information on famous writers who have either self-published or struggled with traditional publishers, but also a (polemical) discussion of the current state of the publishing industry.

Many folks will tell you that publishing is easier than it’s ever been. Self-publishing is both easier and cheaper, but trying to develop a steady and fruitful relationship with a traditional publisher (or with a group of readers) is, from what I can tell, much harder than it’s been for a very long time (unless one has already published one or more blockbusters).

Faktorovich’s book makes a number of notable points about the state of the book industry.  I’ll quote a few.

“The top classical American And British authors [she includes, among many others, Scott, Byron, Shelley, Dickens, Woolf, Franklin, Poe, Twain, Melville, and Walker] either founded their own publishing ventures or occasionally subsidized their less ‘marketable’ books.”

“Authors’ greatest obstacle . . . has been censorship of radical, non-conformist, reformist, and otherwise contrary positions that stood in conflict with monarchs, Presidents, corruption, and crime. Giant publishers use self-censorship to appease the demands of despots.”

“The number of independent publishers in a society reflects its ability to evolve and grow, both fiscally and culturally.”

“The freedom to publish both great scientific and literary innovations is more important than the freedom to vote.”

I suspect many writers will find something in common there, and the discussion deserves attention and consideration.

I don’t know what course publishing will take in the future. One of the problems, perhaps, is that so many of us write now, and many of us read much less than we did. Publishing has become a matter of insider trading: writers must have contacts (agents or editors or advocates of some sort), and writers must do more and more of their own work (especially with marketing), which, if you’re like me, takes a set of skills you may neither have nor desire to develop. The old notion that if you write something good enough, you’ll find a place for it hardly holds true anymore.

I remember reading once that Robert Pirsig got Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance rejected 99 times before he found a publisher (since then I’ve read quotes of an even higher number of rejections). Yes, we must persist, but how many of us have that much stamina?

So what shall we fall back on together? We can’t support every small press, but we should support those we can. We can’t support every good writer, but we should support those we can. And we need to keep trying to do our best writing and making our best effort to get it out because we believe in the effort as well as the product.

I wish you the best of success.

And thanks again for stopping by to read!