Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ho-humming

Apparently I'm not charging enough: "The publisher is the pimp. The bookstore is the corner. The reader is the john. And the writer is the ho." -- Brian Keene

I've already heard that I might be a necrophiliac: "...there are other things for people to do, other ways for them to be occupied, other ways for them to be imaginatively engaged, that are I think probably far more compelling than the novel. So I think the novel's day has come and gone, really." -- Philip Roth

Possibly I live in the wrong country: "The British are reading -- and we're not." -- Kevin Nance and Mike Thomas

And I could be working for clueless morons: "And publishers! What do they know? They never find the really good stuff, do they? There must be an alternative." --Gerry McGovern

Well, at least I have this e-mail from a very unhappy reviewer informing me that I don't write science fiction.* Whew. After reading that one, I was worried.

I do read stuff like this every day, and it bothers me. No, I don't think we should be all starry-eyed about publishing, or act like cheerleaders when the home team is trailing four touchdowns and a field goal. I like facing that ultimate back-stabber, reality.

We'll all agree that this is not an industry for the faint of heart. Just the other day I told a bunch of eighth graders that the average professional novelist earns less than $4,000.00 a year. I completely floored them, too, but unless you're someone like La Nora you can't go around acting like this gig is nothing but non-stop two million dollar advances and instant number one spots on the NYT.

I also realize that things in the industry are so troubling right now that if Dr. Sue set up a booth at the BEA she'd probably rake in a few hundred thou. I get depressed, too, but I don't want to mope about it.

I love books. I love to write them, and I love to read them. I want to be a book tyrant. I want to make readers out of non-readers. I want to motivate and inspire. I want writers -- the backbone of this industry -- to sell and keep selling. I got this far by chasing down what I wanted, I know other writers can do the same.

I guess what I'm saying is yes, it's all true, but books are too important. Even if everyone else is ready to give up, we writers can't. We've got to fight for what we love.

*Maybe someone should tell these people.

16 comments:

  1. I agree totally. Writing for me is a form of therapy. I deal with issues I'm having in my life, even without realizing I'm doing it. When I go back and look again, I'm shocked at how telling the words can be.

    Oh, and those muses certainly won't leave me alone, anyway. :)

    So I agree wholeheartedly... The written word is too important for it to just "dwindle away."

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  2. I am soooo tired of SF elitists. You don't write SF? Undoubtedly penned by someone who thinks SF died with Asimov and Heinlein.

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  3. The world is always going to have a place for storytellers. The form in which the story is delivered may change, but the story won't.

    I keep reading about the Eminent Demise of Reading, or of the Book, or of Innovation, or of Science, or what have you. It seems to me that, seen in retrospect, such predictions are invariably wrong.

    Books will continue. Writers will continue. The market is moving, and those of us who want to sell books need to move with it.

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  4. "The publisher is the pimp. The bookstore is the corner. The reader is the john. And the writer is the ho."

    So I've been wasting time, sending out the wrong kind of query letters all these years?!
    Instead of premise, prizes, & publishing experience, all I need is "hey, yo, baby, yo--lookin' for a little action tonight? I got whatever you want, right heah in dese pages..."

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  5. Anonymous5:01 AM

    Dean said, "The world is always going to have a place for storytellers. The form in which the story is delivered may change, but the story won't."

    That's exactly the point, I think. Novels were most culturally important during the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the twentieth.

    They were eclipsed by the movies, which is now being eclipsed by television.

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  6. I think there will ALWAYS be a place for novels - movies and television may tell stories, but the experience isn't the same. It's like comparing wine with beer. Both can be fun, but they're not the same thing at all.

    Mmm, wine...

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  7. Publishing has always sucked. It always will suck. I take the view that at least we aren't in the recording industry, because that would really suck.

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  8. If I did this for the money, right now, I'd need both the wine and the beer in large, sloshing amounts. The heck with comparing the two. *g*

    I write because I love to read, have always loved to read, and can't imagine much better than another reader picking up one of my books and telling me they enjoyed the story.

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  9. I have to agree with Jim Winter. Despite the nostalgia of those who've either been in the field or watched it for decades ... I don't really think there's ever been a "Golden Age" of sorts.

    Was it "easier" to get published in the past? Maybe. But there were more limitations about what could and could not be published. Some Big Names got away with more, but I doubt that's the norm. Take, for example, Jacqueline Carey's work. Would that have been published twenty or thirty years ago? What about Anne Bishop? Laurell K. Hamilton? I could go on.

    Yes, it's harder to get in and stay in the field. But I think, in some ways, writers have more opportunities in what they can write now than they did in the past. I'm seeing more recently published fiction that pushes the envelope than I did in the past.

    Yes, it can be depressing to look at the numbers. But I think it was probably even more depressing in the past to look at what you wrote and have to say to yourself, "There's no way I can ever sell this." Print publications in general are more open than they used to be, even in romance. I think with lines like Tor Paranormals, which are open to alternative romance, that will continue to grow. And if it's too out of bounds, there's e-publications, which weren't an option until the last decade or so.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I'd rather be writing now than twenty years ago, especially as a great deal of my fiction deals with controversial or even "taboo" topics.

    Let me add as a qualifier that I could be completely off on all this... drugged up on painkillers at the moment, so I'm not sure how much sense it makes. :P

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  10. I've always wondered about that "four grand a year" stuff. Did anyone ever do a survey of authors who have published, say, six books or more, and figured out what they earn?

    Because throwing in those writers who publish one book and decide, meh, I'm better off watching "Desperate Housewives" really throws off the average.

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  11. My favourite comment from the The Novel Is Dead (tripe)thread was:

    & just because something's dead, doesn't mean it stops moving. Witness the Catholic Church.

    That will keep me chuckling all day.

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  12. I think it's really easy to become pessimistic about this business if you've been in it longer than a year. Pessimism can be entertaining at times, but it's rarely helpful. In the end, all you can do is write.

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  13. I'm not about to hand back my advance or royalty checks, but I'm not in this for the money. I'd write anyway. I'm also not looking to get rich. I've never wanted to be rich, but that's just me.

    I've heard horror stories all along this road, from before the first novel I completed (waaaaaay back in like 1980) up to yesterday. So far, I've had a blast, even with the pot holes. And (other than the crappy pay part) I've found the scary rumors to be false. My experience surely isn't typical, but it sure has been fun.

    I understand why established writers go for the paycheck, I mean, why not? They've got the reader base to back it up. But I've met so many aspiring writers who see this as a way to get rich quick with minimal work. I'll sell my book for a cool mil, then sit on a beach sipping fruity drinks! Well, when you're up three nights in a row till 5 am, grab a couple hours of sleep then get back to it because you have to get a 550 page edit turned around in 3 days... there's nothing easy about that, work wise. There's nothing easy about characters with a mind of their own, or struggling through writer's clog, or any of the day-to-day realities of this job. It's a job, just like any other, with good points and bad.

    If you're looking to make pennies an hour to start with a slight, nearly infinitesimal chance of making a decent living, then, hey, write for the money. Otherwise you'd better be writing for the passion because the money may never come.

    To me, all that matters is story, and telling it as best I can. The rest is gravy. And, frankly, publishing wouldn't be big business if people weren't buying a lot of books.

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  14. Anonymous7:00 PM

    Well, I'm in it for the money. And fame. By it, I mean publishing. I'd write for myself anyway. I actually still write for myself, some stories no one will ever buy.
    But I don't care if people enjoy my books, what they feel when they are reading, if I make them feel better. I am my own best reader. I'm not interested to know about others. I'm only interested in their $$$ :)
    Creative satisfaction is already here.
    But with the way things are going recently (a friend of mine, who has had a break in her career and now tries to get back in, says it used to be much easier even just ten years ago), both professionally and financially, I wonder if getting a nice, not too demanding job and just writing for myself would be just as profitable (and easier on the old nerves).

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  15. The publisher is the pimp. The bookstore is the corner. The reader is the john. And the writer is the ho.

    Actually, I agree with this. It is the publisher who rakes in de money. The reader is looking for a good time. And the writer? Well... some 'ho's' enjoy their work, don't they? The happy dance when you've finished the book? The excitement at landing a contract? And if you're really good, you can become high class like Nora. Ummm... if you publish more than one book a year, two or three, maybe four, does that mean you're getting multiple Big O's?

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  16. I love that article by Brian Keene but I love everything he writes.


    stuart macbride said "I think there will ALWAYS be a place for novels - movies and television may tell stories, but the experience isn't the same. It's like comparing wine with beer. Both can be fun, but they're not the same thing at all."

    I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. It is sad how little most people read in the US. I personally blame the public school systems. They don't really encourage free reading in anyone except English honor students, who probably need it less than anyone. I think that many children in the US are just plopped in front of a TV and are never exposed to things like the sun and books.

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