Monday, March 28, 2011

Okay, Internets. Enough already.

Everywhere I look I see someone else telling me how impossible this all is. Impossible for a first time writer to get an agent. And if you do get an Agent, they won’t be able to sell your book and they’ll dump you in six months.
And if they do sell it, you’ll have to do all your own marketing by way of Social Networking. And don’t forget that you can’t just advertise or shill your books, you have make a personal deep connection with all 80 gazillion followers because we only buy things from people we have a personal connection with.
 And don’t forget that bookstores are all going out of business and books are going to be museum pieces by this time next year anyway so why bother? Self published e books are the way to go.
But of course, this is also impossible without doing the Publisher’s work all on your own. And all that overwhelming publicity, layout, editing, cover art – don’t forget that this cuts into your writing time down to next to nothing. And it really doesn’t matter because books are only worth .99 anyway. (Cat Valente has already written, quite articulately,  here, about why this is problematic.)  And don’t forget that you’re probably not going to sell any self-published e-books anyway. J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking have already gotten there, so there is No More Room.
No Room. No Room. No Room.
This is all I’ve heard for weeks. Hundreds of Internet Chickens crying “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
I’m sorry, Internet. But I just can’t listen to you anymore. You have officially become hysterical. Internet, you are Faye Dunaway in Chinatown throwing your head back and forth crying “Mydaughter!Mysister!” You might need to be slapped.
On one blog, we’re told Writing is a job and to treat it as such. Professional correspondence and web presence, putting the hours in, networking, etc.  On the next, we’re told not to expect to ever get paid. I’m supposed to do it because I love it. But if I don’t get paid, it’s not a job. It’s a hobby. (A tedious one. Like knitting. Says Marge Piercy)  
I hear the same crap about teachers, and that makes my skin crawl, too.
Now I understand why they say this. If my job were sitting in an office reading somebody else’s “surefire blockbuster” take on Stephanie Meyer or Robert Parker, I would certainly go out of my way to discourage it. Publishing a novel is no winning lottery ticket for millions of dollars. But isn’t there something between J.K. Rowling and Dying in Poverty? Is there some kind of shame in wanting to make a living (however modest) doing something that we don’t just “feel passionate about”, but something we are actually Good At Doing? Is this actually impossible?
If  it’s impossible for a new writer to get an agent or a book deal, why is it that I keep seeing new books by new writers on the New Book Shelf of the library every week?
If people are no longer reading books, why do I see so many people doing JUST THAT on public buses and subways?
Books and stories aren’t going anywhere. People actually do have to write them. And if the competition is fierce, let it be fierce. Maybe if I put more energy into Becoming More Awesome (as Catherynne Valente often says) instead of worrying about e book royalties and social networking I would not be tearing out my hair.
Things are changing, certainly. But I wholeheartedly reject the notion that writers are the ones making candles while Edision just starting selling light bulbs. For .99. On Amazon. Books are not going to become marginalized, something to see only in museums, at least not for a while. Sure, on a long enough time line, everything’s life expectancy goes to zero. But for now, let’s just Calm the Fuck Down.
You guys keep freaking out if it makes you feel better. Me? I’m off to try to Become More Awesome. I’m off to Write a Better Book. I’m off to read some of the great books out there. Some of them by first time Authors. (See list below) And I’ll write up more proposals and query letters and keep on trying. Because there is NO WAY that the *real* reality of the situation matches the hysterics that I’m seeing.
Some Good Books:
Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente
What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

1 comment:

  1. Ha, ha, ha--nice post! Yeah, what a subject, and where the hell is it all heading?!
    Before I started sending out queries, I read all the danger signs too--pointing me in the direction to quit--however, persistance paid off, and never take anything anyone says to heart--thier experience may be completely different. It took me a long time to figure out the niche I wanted to stick my awesomeness into, and it worked! And I definitely had to stop pulling my hair out in fear of SEO-ing the life out of myself! Ugh! If you write it someone will come ...