Sunday, March 22, 2009

Editors/Publishers: How Low is Your Bottom Line?

Is there any hope for new authors?

I recently came across a reputable Blog where the author admits that she’s noticed Lit Agents are holding back writer submissions because editors at major publishing houses are cutting down on what they present to their peers, because editors and publishers refuse to look at any new writer’s work, unless they are positive it will sell, and sell big. But take heed my friends, there is hope.


BTW, is this anything new folks? Not really, except that now more than ever, it has become more apparent and more transparent, that unless you’re the next Stephen King, forget about publication. Publishing houses are rarely taking on any new authors in any genre, especially Literary Fiction. (Lucky me.) In other words, unless you write genre novels, such as romance novels, and mystery/thrillers and so forth, you know the kind, those mass-market paperbacks you find at your local grocery store rack, collecting dust sometimes, then you’re SOL.  Because this kind of stuff is dirt cheap and sells the most. These are the kind of books most women buy, all the time. It’s just that simple. That’s the market. Stop looking anywhere else for answers.


So unless you’re an established author/writer with a built-in, massive fan base, or a new author that’s suddenly broken through and is hailed as the next Faulkner, again folks, you’re SOL. And I suspect that publishers are loving that all the way to the bank since they’re advances are substantially lower these days because of the so-called poor economy.


So then, WTF does that mean to most writers like you and I. You guessed it, don’t think of retirement just yet. Keep your day job in full swing until this lagging economy gets a jolt of optimism from the top and trickles down ever so slightly at your feet. Let’s face it, since gas prices skyrocketed a year ago, the world has not been the same, and its lasting effects on the global economy is finally taking its toll on all industries, large and small. And it may get worse before it gets better folks, so we may as well get used to this new era of cutbacks, layoffs and shrinking paychecks. It’s the beginning of the end of the world. (That was blatant subtext roaring through.) At least it feels that way to some of us.


Although, I don’t hear President Obama complaining about his huge advances and royalties of up to three million for his latest books, so far. Pretty nice take, don’t you think? But there are others to be sure to cash-in on all their celebrity status/political clout, such as former president George W. Bush, who stands to rake in a considerable lump sum himself, once his memoir hits the shelves next year. An expected, or at least guesstimate of about $15 million.  No tears there either. Plenty of smiles and satisfaction, I’m sure.


Several other authors who write genre fiction (you already know their names by heart) also stand to make more money than ever before, now that good, wanted and in-demand writers are in such short supply, because writers of less note and bankable personas are basically out of the picture. That makes even more room for the old tried-and-true at the top, which means more money for them, of course. They’re not crying either. Far from it. They’re the media darlings of literature. The hand-picked golden eggs that always come through for publishers, regardless of the economy. Somebody has to read their work. As far as I know, most people still like a good story. A fine mystery, a thriller, chic-lit trash they can fantasize about before going to bed. That kind of thing.


Attention! Agents, publishers, there are still good, literary fiction writers and stories out there. Many people still read them, me included. I wouldn’t read anything else. But that’s just me, a minority in the readership landscape. For the most part, and I suppose there are exceptions, hardcover novels/books, rarely outsell paperbacks, because of the higher price and cumbersome size. Unless you collect hardcover books like I do. If I like the paperback, I’ll always buy the hardcover edition and save it as a treasure, a memory to read in my reclining chair while I sip on a Mojito. Especially if I like the jacket cover. (It’s a graphic designer thing.) Come to think of it, I’m almost sure that’s why I bought the novel, Sons of God. Plus, I liked its Book Trailer too. (Still trying to get through that story.)


So just when my life seemed to be careening down a bottomless pit, something saved my day, my lonely nights. I had been counting down the days. Amazon.com said it would arrive by the 19th. The 20th had come and gone, and no new books in my mailbox. The next day, I carefully opened my mailbox, peeking in, hoping to see a small book box, but instead, I found a flat brown cardboard parcel that barely fit inside the mailbox. What the heck is this, I thought to myself? It can’t be the book I ordered because they usually come in boxes. I looked at the return address and sure enough, it was the book I was expecting. I eagerly opened the package and found Jon Clinche’s new debut novel, Finn, inside.


What the heck is this? I thought again. A 5x8 paperback with 11 point type? I need a magnifier to read this thing. What gives? I’ve been ripped off. This was not the book I ordered. Or was it? It’s the same cover I fell in love with on the B&N website but it’s tiny, and thin. About 298 pages of thin opaque paper and a flimsy book cover to boot. Of course, I was disappointed. With shipping and handling, I paid $15.20 for this small stack of cheap yellow paper that cost them about a buck a-piece to print. Someone is making money somewhere folks. I sure wish it were the new, emerging authors of our time, but that’s just wishful thinking, mind you.


That same night though, I anxiously skimmed through the opening pages of Finn because I had already read portions on B&N and I wanted to get to some other parts to see if stood up to the opening. And let me say that although some readers have criticized Clinch for his copy-cat Faulkner style, I’m enjoying his novel, nonetheless. No, it’s not perfect, and no novel ever is, just as no writer is. Jon Clinch seems fond of the word “upon” for instance, but for the narrator’s tone, which sounds a bit authorial, I still think it works. This is high literature after all. It’s to be expected and enjoyed my friends. This is what excellent writing, and good voice is all about.


I only wish that agents and publishers would finally realize that there’s much more to life than a quick buck. Some of us still enjoy finely written prose and great stories.


I’ll be ordering the hardcover. I already know I like the story, and the jacket cover; that’s chocolate icing on the proverbial cake.


My moment of Zen: Want a shortcut to major book deals? Become the next President of the United States. It’s virtually guaranteed.


Here’s the link to Allison’s Blogpost regarding this topic: Scroll down to March 9 Post.

http://allisonwinnscotch.blogspot.com/

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