Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recent Observations & Random Thoughts about Book Publishing

The current issue of the New Yorker magazine has a funny cartoon I can relate to: a child looks up from her computer at her puzzled father and explains, "I'm not wasting my life online--I'm building my brand."  (March 28, 2011, p. 96.)

For many of us, that's what it seems to have come to. Or is supposed to come to. We're supposed to go online to build our brand identity, our public persona, our following, our platform.

If that seems utterly ridiculous, that's because it probably is. But then again, just the other day came a story about a young woman who has self-published a number of sci-fi novels with such great success--entirely through online branding and promotion--that she's on the brink of signing a contract with a traditional publisher for, at minimum, $1 million.

Is it any wonder folks like me are scratching our heads? And I shampooed just this morning! (OK, I don't really scratch my own head, but don't be such a stickler!) What does it take to get a new author out there?

No one says it should be easy. After all, nobody invited us to the party. We came on our own. And as everybody knows, books are a dying art anyway.

Some of us are hooked on the idea nevertheless.

Not that we are all voracious readers. In fact, I've always felt that I'm a particularly hard-to-please reader. I'm not one to consume books in big hungry gulps. I read slowly, thoughtfully, carefully. I easily get bored. I don't mean I need to read thrillers, because they can be pretty boring too, if they're not well written.

For me, I guess it has something to do with the language and the thoughts and feelings behind it. Hard to say exactly.

But this impatience or persnicketiness makes me want to write the kind of book I would want to read and haven't found yet. So I decided to create it myself.

As one writing pal recently observed, though, the writer's life is often lived within one's own head. And if you want to be read, you basically want others to live within your head too.

So I guess it takes a lot of gall or self-confidence or something to assume anybody else would want to live in your head.

Or to put it another way, you don't have to be crazy about books to want to be a writer.  You just have to be crazy.

New Yorker 3-28-11, p. 96


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