Friday, February 17, 2012

Purifying Writing

Continuing a discussion of issues about writing raised by Delmarva Review editor Wilson Wyatt, Jr., I’ve noticed an explosion of internet journals who are looking for literary material. There are literally hundreds of them, and still they can only publish maybe one percent of what they receive. So no matter how good a writer you are, you still must persevere if you want to be published.

And forget about pay. There is none. My best hope is that when I have a novel to sell, my list of short story publications will help give me credibility with an agent or editor. Also, that if I ever have a book of short stories--or better, linked short stories--that having some of them already out there will help.

So I’m not sure how to view Mr. Wyatt’s report that, “The big news is self-publishing now stands on its own two feet and competes head-to-head with traditional publishing. This is a sea change from only a year ago.”

I didn’t get into writing to be a publisher. Writers, from the very beginning, have always depended on patrons, or at least sinecures, to make ends meet. Until very recently, self-publishing was disparaged as “The Vanity Press.” 

Now, Mr. Wyatt writes, “Self-publishing has achieved a degree of legitimacy” and is “more lucrative to authors than the 85% taken by traditional publishers” who instead of being gatekeepers “are finding it difficult to keep up with technological changes in the publishing industry.”

Sounds to me like writers are being forced underground by market pressures, writing more and better for fewer readers and no money. The business model has changed; in fact, it is no business at all to anyone with any business sense. Only a dreamer could possibly hope to make a profit from creative writing these days, in my opinion.

But this is not all bad. It may have a cleansing, purifying effect on the writing that does get done. On the other hand, it may mean more of us are asked to purchase self-published books from writer friends, whom we’ll later ask to return the favor.

If I didn’t have such a damn fine time when I’m actually writing, I’d throw in the towel. Well, there’s always posterity, and what writer doesn’t dream of that--even in a world someday bereft of libraries and book shelves; after all, it’s said that once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever.

So we’ll always have that.

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