In the roller-coaster publishing business, it’s the best of times and the worst of times. Mystery writer Bill Buford directs our attention to an illuminating article by Erica Wagner in the Financial Times a few days ago:
“. . . When you scan the cultural landscape, it seems like everything is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. . . . How will publishers counter the might of Amazon, which recently reported sales of $15.7bn in three months? By mustering their regiments into one giant army: the merger of Penguin and Random House will mean a single company controlling a quarter of the world’s book market.”
Thirty years ago, my publishing colleague Ron Pullins observed that the industry’s obsessive focus on best-sellers and consolidation had the happy side effect of opening up room in the smaller markets. After an internecine battle restructured the company we worked for, impelling us both to jump off the corporate ladder, Ron created his own company, Focus Publishing, and fulfilled his dream of never working for another @#%!#@ again.
Wagner, on the other side of the Pond, paid a call on publisher David Fickling, who recently parted company with Random House. Fickling–cosily settled in his “pleasingly ramshackle Oxford office”–quoted Albert Einstein: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Most of us who chose creative callings did it for the gift, only to find ourselves browbeaten by the servant. The democratization of the arts, which has fulfilled the hippie dream of Power to the People, AKA the socialist dream of workers owning the means of production, sometimes seems to have let so many hundreds of flowers bloom that we’re all in danger of suffocating from the pollen. It’s useful to remember that the core of what we do is its own reward. Those twin Colossus of Rhodes pillars of our culture, Discoverability and Monetization, are only the legs holding up the creation.
Still, ya gotta have feet! In the “feats don’t fail me now” department, Michael Wolf’s The NextMarket Blog offers some exciting tips on New platforms enabling authors to side-step Amazon Kindle.
One thought on “Let’s Get Small! In Which the World Discovers What Artists Have Long Known”
Thanks, Carol. Yes, fiercely independent is what the artist has to be. And I think most artists and creative types have suffered from the disconnect that comes in a highly capitalistic culture; that is, we “creative types” expect that our job is to create a work, be it plastic art, or written art, or music, and then have others happily make it real, be it a book, a play, a concert, etc. The work of the artist is to connect with her/his audience and the closer the better. In books, that might mean self publishing and self promoting. Let Walt Whitman be a model. In theater, Shakespeare and Moliere ought to suffice. For playwrights I say produce your own. Find a place that is ripe for your work, people who believe in what you do, and go. So, after years of publishing and loving my authors, and doing my works, I am thinking of giving over my work to another small and fiercely independent publisher and taking on my own plays and finding an audience in it.
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