Monday, May 31, 2010

Celebrating the End of an Era in Publishing

Garrison Keillor wrote an interesting column published in the St. Petersburg Times.

In it he bemoans the passing of an era in book publishing. He concludes by saying:
Children, I am an author who used to type a book manuscript on a manual typewriter... And mailed it to a New York publisher ... I waited for a month or so and then got an acceptance letter in the mail. They offered to pay me a large sum of money. I read it over and over and ran up and down the rows of corn whooping. It was beautiful, the Old Era. I'm sorry you missed it.

My first response to this was: maybe it was beautiful to Mr. Keillor, but to me, and to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other writers who weren't writing what publishers were interested in publishing, it was yet another door slammed in our faces. Lesbian fiction? In the 80s, Naiad Press was the only niche publisher that would publish love stories about lesbians that ended in "happily ever after." Now we have at least 6 niche publishers publishing our stories, and many more of us have chosen to publish ourselves.

I was amused to note that of the 7 comments following the article (you had to register with the newspaper site to post), two were by self-publishers. One said: "Self-publishing has another upside: the ability to let the value of your work be decided directly by readers, not by a tiny population of editors in NYC."

Oh yeah. Readers. Let's think about readers for a minute. If we had no way to publish our own stories in the "Old Era," how were we supposed to find the stories we wanted to read? It seems to me that the "let all flowers bloom" publishing model benefits readers too.

It has been the case fairly recently (like last month) that people assumed anything self-published was crap. And granted, some of it is. But I have been observing my own reading behavior lately, and I've noticed that, while I have a pile of traditionally published fiction I intend to read, I more often choose my current read from the pile of books by niche publishers or self-publishers. The quality of the writing runs the gamut from quite good to woefully amateurish, but I read them anyway, because they tell the stories I most enjoy reading--stories about people like me.


Blogger Lynne said...

That's exactly right. I'm tired of settling for what I can get when I can't really identify with the characters and their lives don't inspire or illuminate my own. The internet has opened up a whole new way of finding not only lesbian fiction but also fiction that's of a political, spiritual, and other view that's just not available through traditional, corporate, whitebread publishing houses (even when they are being "non-mainstream").

My non-DRM ereader and I are just beginning.

May 31, 2010 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 22, 2010 at 4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for writing it.

May 20, 2011 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger veworley said...

Yes...that small circle of NYC based agents and publishers who effectively shape and control what is available for readers to consume...borders dangerously on a type of censorship, controlling the stories people can access. I love holding a "real" book in my hands--being 60 years old, that's what I know. I don't own a Kindle, yet...but I can feel it coming.

You live in the forest. I live in the cloud forest. I had a very leaky roof up until last year (replaced it)--and no, it does not qualify as a water feature. It does qualify as a genuine pain in the ass. Dancing around the pots of water collecting the drips is not what I envisioned when I wished to participate in Rain Dances!

Ciao from Panama,
Elizabeth Worley

January 17, 2012 at 3:13 PM  
Anonymous KAWELLIVER said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I gave up writing because I was overwhelmed with disappointment. Tired of hearing, "you are so talented! You really need to publish your work!" To that I said, "Bah!!! I have tried..." I used to live in the mountains. Now I live by the sea. You would think there would be plenty to say about the trek in between.

December 19, 2013 at 5:34 AM  

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