The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Today is one of those days where the publishing biz makes me want to go take a shower. Nothing particular has happened to me; it's just hearing about things and knowing about things. Like agents and editors who tell authors not to write what they want to write. Forget that ms, the writers are told, because the idea doesn't sound marketable. Any time spent writing something that may not sell is a waste, so those ideas must be nipped in the bud.

And then there's the flip side; publishers coming up with ideas and hiring writers to write them. I have no beef with this at all, as long as everybody's upfront about it, more or less (I understand that discretion can occasionally be the better part of valor). But man, when I see a packaged book aggressively marketed as one writer's tenderly nurtured inspiration, it makes me feel like I've been coated with somebody's leftover cooking oil.

I don't see anything wrong with a publisher coming up with ideas via committee and auditioning writers to find the right one for the project. Of course the publisher wants to make money, and the writer wants to make money as well as writing something fun or interesting or challenging, and the readers want a good, fun read. A packaged book can make everybody happy. But I get an icky feeling when I see this kind of partnership presented to the public as a single author's creative inspiration that was discovered as a gem-like seed and brought to fruition. It implies an artistic patronage--and a belief in artistic patronage--that isn't there.

OTOH, gatekeepers and probably a large part of the writing community look down on a collective effort as unworthy. A lot of the time they can't tell it's a collective effort when they read it--only if they find out it's a packaged book does the snobbery start to show. We've all seen packaged books (to one degree or another; I'm using the term "package" very loosely) win kudos--but if it leaks out later that such a book wasn't the author's brainchild, gatekeepers et al. seem to get p*ssed. Books aren't judged solely on the reading experience they provide. This is what I meant by discretion and valor; if you make a tasty homemade sausage for your family, and they don't ask for details, why volunteer the words "pig intestines"?

OTOOH, it just ain't right to label and market pig intestines as, I dunno, organic soy-based casings for vegetarian sausage.

And all this is one reason I like to live in a cave most of the time. Just me and my ms, alone in the dark.

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