Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Writing Scam

To kick off the vestigial Buzzword Blog, we asked commissioning editor D. S. Mills to pen us a some kind of rave. Here is the result:

Who knows what happens when you start an on-line publishing company? Possibly little or nothing. But, for authors, the advantage is freedom, often from creeping stupidity.
For instance, several of our writers have received rave reviews from major print publishers and further accolades from leading international literary agents. Did publishers shower them with roses? No.
It brings to mind the old saying: 'Enough of your compliments. More of your purse!' So what is happening in the land of cash and carry literature? The advent of the internet and building sales for eBooks, have seen the always impossibly difficult process of having a book accepted revert to snowflake-in-hell status, even for some established writers.
What is going on?
As we entered this post-literate age , publishers found their margins increasingly squeezed. Soon editorial staff were mortified to find the sales manager and accountants assuming editorial decisions based on promotional possibilities. With the bean counters and salesmen resurgent, the list narrowed to the usually unsuccessful 'sure things'.
Then the uneasy balance between art and commerce, that had remained half decent in the established houses, tipped completely toward the bottom line.
One casualty was the slush pile. The large trade houses got rid of it and even many of the independents refused to see unagented submissions. This meant that literary agents became the sifters, the quasi editorial staffers.
Then writers found agents even harder to acquire than publishers. But did this deter the industry that hangs off the ditsy lust for publication?

No. It became even more hysterical, evasive and untruthful. Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach.
The peddlers of writing classes - including to their discredit, many cash-strapped universities - increasingly promulgated the myth of publication. They still wanted the dough. They funnelled innocents to their useless classes and pretentious degree courses even though they knew there wasn't a hope in hell of their pumped-up graduates having a future. And the culpable victims of this were the unfortunate 'writers' teaching the courses.
Unless you are a journalist (now increasingly threatened) or advertising copywriter (less threatened but increasingly constricted) your only way to make money with words is to scratch together a few dubious awards or credits and then teach writing. This is drudgery, but better than starvation. The problem is the lie it is built on - and the disappointment of the unsuspecting pupils.
As for vanity publishers and proponents of self publishing or cooperative financing of books, they, like the oldest profession, now prosper. As do manuscript assessment agencies, literary publicists and other leeches feeding off the incorrigible, unwashed and naive.
For instance, a respected publishing house in Australia sells its list of rejected authors to an outfit in America that flogs a self-publishing model based on apparent 'acceptance' and flattery. The author, of course, pays for the lot.
What is the end of the story? There is no end. Man is born to inquire and create. And his ego will force him to express himself even if the audience is his dog. And the venal will attempt to make money from his hopes.
The interesting question is: what is the future of publishing? This includes newspapers and magazines. Now, newsagents are closing as magazine sales drop. Newspapers are given away at supermarkets to bolster their circulation figure. In this period of transition, little is certain. Except that history will not exactly repeat itself.
Because, despite apparent evidence, it never has.
D. S. Mills

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