Like most whom fate has smiled upon, it’s very easy for me to feel thankful on this Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for my family, my friends, my nation, my rich full life. I’ve lived a charmed existence, beyond the hope of many on this earth, never really fearing for lack of food, clothing or shelter.
Yet, should the author in me feel thankful? If one listens to the old guard of the literary world, the answer is a resounding “No.” To support this assertion, the publishing gatekeepers cite cold hard facts. More novels were published this year than ever before in the history of mankind. And that record number will be shattered next year, and next year’s record crushed by the following year. Agents are pickier than ever, selecting very few authors to represent. And the publishers don’t lay out how they’re going to sell their new authors’ novels, they ask the new authors what they are going to do to market their novels. And if the new author gets past all that, the average novel sells a few thousand copies. After deducting the agent’s commission and the publisher’s cut, the author is lucky to make a few pennies per hour of writing.
But the old guard has forgotten the whole point. First and foremost, writing is a search, a quest for some truth to tell. And in the very best writing, that quest often takes a toll, the seeker forced to turn inward, the journey becoming one of self-discovery, the writer forever changed by the writing. And the journey continues long after the truth telling is done, as readers question and challenge and test the author’s truths. Readers are what writers want, not agents and publishers.
Fifty years ago, a writer might spend ten years crafting a story only to have the gatekeepers, that old guard of agents and publishers deem it unworthy, the author’s hard won truths remaining forever unread. But today, a writer can publish an eBook for a few cents, produce a paperback for a few dollars more. Every author can easily share the truths they’ve written.
So welcome to the great age of publishing, not the age of Shakespeare or Shelly, not the time of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but right now. And despite the old guard’s litany of cold, hard, publishing facts, the author in me answers “Yes,” I am thankful on this Thanksgiving. So very thankful.
Stream of Consciousness Quote:
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”-Albert Schweitzer