Sunday, December 28, 2008

Publishing and pain

A very good article in the Village Voice looks at the state of publishing from the perspective of a successful mid-list author. The hook for the story is how the guy, exhausted and disillusioned on a book tour from hell, managed to piss off some anonymous bloggers who proceeded to french-fry him online until he backed down. But the larger, more interesting issues addressed by the piece have to do with the desperate, almost flailing actions of book publicists, who don't understand the general uselessness of book tours for novelists, and the sad delusions of the novelists themselves, who think their book tour will be like a victory lap in front of informed crowds of fans and then find it amounts to appearing to empty rows of chairs in small towns where... but read for yourself:
Then comes the Friday night in Winnetka, Illinois, when you pull up to a street where the only light is coming from the bookstore, and you realize this won't be good. There's one customer inside, and the reading is canceled, but you talk him into buying a book anyway... There's the afternoon in a small, depressed Arkansas town when... the promised crowd and the television film crew have all been canceled, preempted by a big football game. Three middle-aged women walk in, escorting their senile grandmother, who they've brought back to town after an absence of 70 years to see what she remembers, which is nothing. The bookstore owner flips a thumb at you: "Why don't you do your little show for them?" And you do, dear reader, you do.
The piece captures the reality of what being a "successful" author -- one with good reviews and middling best-sellers to their name -- must really be like. For all those (like me) with unpublished novels who imagine (as I used to) that their lives will change when they're published, it's a good reality check.

Still, I know getting published means something. I have books on the shelves with my name on the spine. That doesn't mean I never have to work again, but it's something.


No comments: