Wednesday, September 06, 2006
What Hemingway might have to do if he were writing today
My friend Jordie called me yesterday about an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times: "What Hemingway didn't have to do." The piece was by Michelle Slatalla who wrote about how authors, these days, must do promotion. Jordie is upset at the state of publishing and wishes things were different, like in the old days, when writers wrote and publishers promoted.
I don't know what to say about this. It depresses him, this state of publishing, Me, I accept it. Doesn't hurt that from '89 to '96 I had a small publicity biz and thought it was fun to get a client's name in the paper or get a reporter to call him/her just because I wrote up a press release and sent it to the paper.
I'm not an extrovert and yet I do find it fun to give talks and teach. I mean, you can only write so much, and then it's time to get off your butt and get out of the house.
Jordie's an extrovert so I doubt this is the problem. Maybe he's too much an extrovert and longs to be able to sit at his desk and muse and write; he's a wonderful writer. But he's disgusted with the publishing biz and I wonder if this discouragement causes him to just not write so much anymore.
I can see it from the publisher's point of view (the problem with being a Libra is you can see things from not just both sides, but multiple sides--from each facet!).
Publishers publish books and need to make money doing so. Publishers aren't exactly big business. So what should they do? If they publish a book and it just sits there, who's fault is it? It's theirs for not promoting it, but isn't it also the writer's fault, for not doing what he/she can do to get it out there? And if no one is buying, who's fault is that? Good books do sell via word of mouth, so a writer can do virtually no PR and if readers love it, it will sell.
It's a complicated issue with no easy solution. There's so much else to take up a reader's time. You're reading this blog, yes? At one time there was no blog and no Internet and so you'd read the paper or--ahem--a book.
On the other hand, maybe you read as many books as you did before the Internet. I do. I just don't watch TV anymore--except, of course, for the Turner Classic Movie channel. Yes, I've seen To Kill a Mockingbird numerous times and I will continue to, so shush.
What do we do, as writers, to support the publishing industry? Buy new books or used books? Borrow books from the library or a friend? This doesn't really support publishing. Or, if you write poetry, do you buy books of poetry? Or look up poems on the Internet? We've got to buy books to keep the machine lubricated.
Don't we? Or do we hide out heads under bushel baskets and chairs, like Rosie is doing above? Slatalla came up with a creative way to promote her book--by writing a piece for the L.A. Times. The piece might be construed as complaining or whining about publishing, when in fact she's having fun with it. No?
Posted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett at 9:07 AM