Monday, March 3, 2008

The Writer Biz

Second in a 4-Part Series

From reading Jeff Herman's mammoth book, I understand that nothing is read from the publishing industry slush pile. If a manuscript ends up there it's dead. Editors, in fact, rely almost solely on agents to do their screening for them-- are dependent on their taste. Given the incredible amount of submissions, this is the only way to operate. There's no way out. There are too many writers.


We see the outlines of a gigantic money-making machine whose purpose is to squeeze dollars out of the writer. The would-be writer, as much as the reader who buys the finished product, keeps the machine operating-- beginning with the first level, expensive writing programs.

There are too many writers today, more than there have ever been, because of these programs, which continue expanding and adding more classes and higher degrees of "achievement," feeding on people's hopes though odds of success are roughly akin to breaking a gambling casino. The programs are creating "writers" out of people who aren't writers at all-- have no natural ability or compulsion to write-- otherwise they wouldn't be in these programs. For the most part they're bourgeois folk who like the idea of being a "writer"-- the role-- and so the next step is, "How do I become one?"

First, get out your credit cards, because it's going to be expensive.

It's an industry: an industry erected to bilk the gullible. You have not just writing programs, but the many seminars, conferences, contests, and retreats. You have the many writers books and magazines. You have, now, apparently, a new layer of middlemen added with "book doctors" and "consulting editors." More money.

After the "writer" pays the book doctor he's finally ready for the literary agent. Many agents don't charge reading fees-- but their positions are enabled by the writer; by the enormous mass of writers which the writing programs have readily supplied.

What's being produced, as I said in a "Monday Report" for the Underground Literary Alliance, is Conformists with Money. These "writers" had better enjoy classrooms, in other words, because they're going to be spending a lot of time in them. And paying through every orifice. Against this mass of wannabes, our day's Stephen Cranes, Jack Londons, and O. Henrys don't have a penguin's chance against an avalanche.
The DIY "zeen" way of producing writers is much healthier, less exploitive, allows the writer to be more artistically creative, and by selling directly to the public, enables him to discover his market, and whether he has a market. Pluses all the way.

p.s. Late last year I was in an extended e-mail discussion with status quo lit-blogger Ed Champion, who kept insisting that every writer must submit to editing. Now that I've looked into the matter, I'm beginning to see the outline of his reasoning. He wants the Machine to keep operating.

(To be continued.)

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