Thursday, June 21, 2012

Let's All Kill A Publishing Meme

Ms. Hale has received a lot of flack for a recent blog post. I won't rehash what's gotten a lot of people in an uproar. But, she did say something in general that sparked a thought and partially a mini-rant from me.  

“And if this book is your very best work and it's smokin' awesome, then patience, it will find a come.”

She’s not the first author to say something like this. She will not be the last. Hell, I might say it in day in the future. And, yet, this is the worst of all memes out there in the publishing realm. It's akin to if you build it, they will come. It's a hope, a belief that's presented as a fact. Look at it from the opposite angle. If your book isn't published, if it never finds a home, then it's not a smokin' awesome book. In a lot of cases this may be true. The book isn't smokin' awesome and the writer is the last to realize this fact.

But, let's trot out every published author who has a book on their harddrive they can't sell. This book won't sell not because it lacks smokin' awesomeness, but because their agent or editor refuses to take the book on for various other reasons. It muddies their brand. They've contracted a book just like it. The agent's list is full with that kind of book already.  The author has fulfilled their contract, but the numbers on those previous books aren't what the publisher wanted. (Even if the books sold out their advance.) Since the book is part of a series no other publisher will touch it. Ok. Not part of a series, the next publisher finds out the author's numbers and won't touch the author's book with a ten foot pole. The market isn't hot in that genre. Or another genre is hot and the agent or editor wants the author to hurry up and write a book in that genre. So on and so forth. 

Do you see my point?

Smokin' awesome books don't always get published. Stop presenting this meme as fact. It's not. It's a hope. It's a belief. It's both of those things because writers must believe and hope in something in order to face the harsh reality that is publishing. We've got to have something that makes it bearable, which is why we keep saying dumb things like if they build it, they will come. At the heart of it all, the problem is we are writers. We tell lies for a living. Sometimes we tell ourselves a few and all our writing friends agree. The lie starts to feel like the truth. That truth gets labeled as fact. 

All writers should be able to face this fact: we're lying to ourselves. Sometimes the smokin' awesome book you wrote will die. Your agent won't rep it. Your publisher won't contract it. No other publisher will touch it. It'll end up sitting on your harddrive growing proverbial dust. Let’s say you do something crazy and self-publish it…and the readers hate it. Or much worse, no one buys it. The smokin' awesome book never truly finds a home.

Still not convinced? Remember that author who submitted famous and classic books for publication just for kicks and giggles. Those books were smokin' awesome. They stood the passage of time, of generations of readers and critics. There is no question of their smokin' awesomesauceness. Yet those books would not find a home today. Those books would die. 

My plea is to stab this meme in the heart and watch it bleed ink. Or just admit this is a belief and a hope, not fact. 

That is all.

Steps off soapbox.

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