I rarely engage in these writerly literary debates you see on just about every damn social network a writer can be on. You know the ones: Outlining vs. pantsing. Writing for money or writing for “Art?” Literary vs. genre. Start your online author platform now or later? Great taste! Less filling!
Only two of these sorts of issues have gotten me thinking. I’ve settled one of them, at least in my mind: I’ll never feel sorry for anyone who got skewered on QueryFail and Slushpile Hell. Because (a) I’m more than happy to learn from their mistakes and (b) You want to NOT be skewered on there? Then STFU and read submission guidelines, you f**king child!
Whew. Now that’s out of the way, I can move on to the second thing…
And when I write the book about my love
It’ll be a pop publication, tougher than tough
When I get down on the pages all I missed
It will shoot to the top of the best-sellers list
When I write the book about my love
-Nick Lowe, “When I Write the Book
But when I write the book… where will I be able to sell it?
I won’t bother linking to the plethora of blogs and articles about the death of the book store. First, the indie book store. Then, the big box book store. Because of e-readers. Or, because people don’t read. Or, because indies and big-boxes would eat each other. Who knows?
I, apparently, live in a town that could not only lose one of its major independent book stores (which is actually going to be resurrected… again), but also lost its Borders. We still have a Barnes and Noble, but for how long?
|R.I.P. Borders #507|
More importantly, to what extent am I to blame? Oh, sure, I know I couldn’t have bought enough books from either place to have saved them. I mean, my attitude.
Peep this: I was drooling to get my hands on a copy of Karen Joy Fowler’s latest collection, What I Didn’t See and Other Stories. My local indie bookstore had it–it’d been my go-to for most of the fantasy/slipstream books I’ve ever wanted. Found out Borders had a copy, too.
But I’d gotten myself a Nook for the holidays. My intention was to subscribe to all the ‘zines I’d ever wanted to subscribe to–most of them are in .epub format these days. But, so was What I Didn’t See. So I caved. I took consolation in the fact that at least I was ordering the collection from Weightless Books rather than, say, B&N. But still.
Maybe I’m just moving with the times, watching the end of an era.
3 thoughts on ““The pain will be written on every page in tears…””
The death of the brick-and-mortar bookstore is tragic, because there are people who buy books they would otherwise have never heard of because they browsed through the stacks and something stuck out at them. Taking away the chance to wander around a real, live, bookstore (preferably one with at least one real, live, cat) means that some people will not be exposed to those books. It means that a community loses a place where readers come together.
On the other hand, the rise of the ebook, and the internet sale, mean that there has also been a rise in something at least as important – the indie publisher. That tiny operation which releases a few books a year, sells through a website, and may never have a real paper book in a real, physical, bookstore, has taken advantage of the newly available options in publishing that correspond to these new kinds of sale. For some writers, especially those with a quirky style, a left- (or right) of mainstream perspective, or those who engage in more experimental writing, the chance to be a mid-list author published by a major house may be beyond them. In that case, this thing that heralds the death of bookstores may be the very thing that gets them published.
Until the reinvention of the bookstore (perhaps they will install a machine that lets you download ebooks in the store, or coffee houses will start carrying books, or … it will be something, because books sell, and capitalism finds a way) if I have to pick between getting to stand in front of a shelf full of authors everyone's heard of, or being able to read books by Ted Chiang, Claude Lalumiere, or you – I'm going to pick you.
A common response, which I sympathize with by the way, is, "I'm just going to worry about writing."
I would rather just worry about that. But, is that just sticking my head in the sand?
I think that, as with any artist, you need to be aware of your market. However, unless you plan to move more into the publishing side of things, it's like keeping up with any other kind of news. Know enough to make an informed decision, but don't feel you need to get involved in making the policies behind marketing trends, sales, etc. I think if you read publishing news on a regular but not obsessive basis, the way you watch Meet the Press on Sundays, you'll know as much as you need to, and more than most other writers.
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