Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This was Funny

So I am a part of this workshop - very nice, mostly twenty somethings, decent feedback et c.. We are coming toward the end of a seasonal 'session' and there have been speakers coming in the last two weeks. Last week was this irritating suit who titled himself a literary 'advisor, coach' et c. trying to shill his writing advice book. He thought indie publishing was what people called self-publishing these days and said some thing to the effect of 'i don't really read internet journals' so my ears had these involuntary spasms and shut out pretty much everything else he said during the session. This week a guy who writes 'YA, fantasy and urban fiction' came in. I was wary at first but he seemed genuine and had good experience. He too grouped up the publishing industry into 'traditional publishing' and self-publishing and spent a significant amount of time talking about agents, how he got one and how useful they are. He mentioned at one point that getting your book through a publisher (presumably Henry Holt, which is who is carrying his most recent YA horror mystery) includes a portion where the publisher runs the book past ", barnes and nobles and large retailers."

Later I brought up this split that he had mentioned (and had been mentioned last week), between self-publishing and big six publishing and just ignoring all the small presses in the middle. He asked me what I wrote, but I had a hard time summing it up in one sentence. I said 'literary, with fantastical elements social criticism and experimental language' because I don't write genre and he (not knowing anything else about my novel, or how I write) ran with description and made a series of sweeping judgements about how my range was very narrow and how I would probably not sell many books. I told him I already had this expectation from the get go and was not too worried about it. I then, at some point, mentioned how 'thinking about selling my book in WalMart made me nauseous'.  He flew immediately into a tiny rage and told me that 'I should wish to one day sell my book at WalMart!' and that 'The people who shop at Walmart are not bad!' and I should 'not live in a little ivory tower'. I am not exaggerating when I say there was foam at his mouth. There was not a lot, but it was foam, and it was at his mouth. I placated him but it was a strange experience, like something in a movie. Dystopian almost, being scolded for not liking Walmart enough. He also brought up that since indie publishers only publish a few books a year one's chances at getting published were very small. This of course was after describing how there were hundreds of small presses, his arms spread wide apparently necessary to hold all those small, small presses. "Unless", he slipped in, "you happen to know someone there". Indicating the slimy nepotism I'm sure he thinks rules these places. (In case this isn't clear: the way I figure it one's chances may be small at each individual press, but by submitting to 10/20/50/100 small presses the chances should be about equivalent to trying to get something weird into one of the very restrictive big houses)  He did have nice things to say about small presses: you get time with your editor, they are prompt, they are communities.

In the end he was a kind guy with a lot of experience writing and publishing. Twenty five years under his belt (though apparently the first ten, two novel's worth, he doesn't even count). He was like some other writers I have met, small press writers mostly: he had a certain amount of success, but was envious of his more successful colleagues; he provided the lessons he had learned and assumed they would apply to all other writers; he started his career modestly, worked hard to get where he was and has carved out a small but comfortable place for himself. I guess this is the attitude mass market writers have toward small presses: that they are these plentiful, tiny, narrow minded bugs which scutter about out of sight, doing these tiny things (like publishing silly writers who 'value developing a unique voice over content') that are outside the wide scope of mass market publishing.

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