Friday, September 23, 2005

Noticing the unpublished ...

Last week I noted that Barbara Grosh's novel Tenure Track to Mommyville had won Xerox's Asprining Authors contest. So I think it worth mentioning that Inquirer staff writer and columnist Tanya Barrientos, a novelist herself, who recently wrote a piece in our Image section about self-publishing, has agreed to review the book for The Inquirer. Stay tuned.


  1. That's great that you are going to cover the book. This whole new age of technology is so dicey. Self-publishing is clearly making its companies money, but not writers. There's this PublishAmerica book that has offered to put out a volume of my two novellas, but the Washington Post covered them pretty scathingly. I don't know if it would be worth doing, even though it doesn't cost me anything up front. The cases of vanity publishing helping writers are few and far, far between.

    On the other hand, in the rest of the arts, it's ADMIRED. No band out there gets signed before they "self-publish" an album. Vin Diesel only ever got noticed because he put together his own short film... then of course there are all the directors who broke through by making their own movies. The "new literature" of graphic novels has a culture where you are almost admired MORE if you do-it-yourself than finding a publisher.

    Not so in the queen mother of the arts, though. In literature, you have to have an imprimatur.

    Of course, a PART of the reason for this is that critics (ahem) often refuse to cover self-published work. Honestly, since it takes so much longer to read a book than it does to listen to a CD, watch a movie or a play, I can understand where you are coming from.

    Still, still... as technoloty enhances production it should also find a solution to this problem as well. There has to be a better way of sorting through the papermills of what's coming out these days and finding more of the gems without relying on checking the spine first to decide whether or not to even consider cracking the pages.


  2. BradyDale: What a sharp insight, that people in the other arts are admired for, and even expected to, promote themselves and personally kick-start their own careers or projects, whereas those in writing are supposed to demurely sit back and patiently wait to be noticed. And to your pertient remark that it's tougher to get writing reviewed because so much more time has to be devoted to it than to reviewing the other arts could be added the factor that there is so much more potentially to be reviewed -- tens of thousands of new books each year compared with a few hundred movies or a few dozen plays or a manageably large handful of artists in music and graphic media. Those figures may be off, but I think not the relationships.

  3. A band might record their own CD, but you won't see it for sale at Sam Goody. An actor might shoot an audition reel, but you won't find it for rent at Blockbuster. The main purpose of them is to demonstrate what the artist can do -- which is what an author does when they write and submit a manuscript. A demo tape or audition reel is the equivalent of an author's manuscript. It's not a consumer product; it's a sample work designed to attract a deal.

    True, unsigned bands will often press some CDs to sell at their gigs. But that model doesn't really transfer to literature. You hear the band, you like their sound, you buy the CD. That really isn't equivalent to a POD book from iUniverse that a would-be author tries to hawk to their friends.

    Readers are already overwhelmed by the 200,000 new books that are published in this country each year. How eager can we expect them to be to risk their money on a book that wasn't vetted by an agent, editor or publisher? So many commercially published books are bad. How awful are the ones that were produced by nothing more than the author's willingness to write a check?

    Critics don't have the time to read or the space to review but a miniscule fraction of the traditionally published books. Finding the time to read a book printed up by some would-be author in their basement simply isn't possible.

    Sure, 1 great self-published book in 10,000 might be missed this way... but the only alternative would be to wade through the 9999 lousy ones hoping that the 1 really does exist. You're welcome to try, but it seems foolhardy to me.

  4. It isn't really true that a musician presses their own CD and it doesn't show up in music stores. I don't know the mechanics of it, but there is no question that self-generated or very-small-collectively generated CDs do show up in lots of record stores. Maybe not Sam Goody, but there's a vast network of record stores that cate to the underground, and the artists seem able to get out there through them, even if only regionally. There is just no question in my mind that other arts respect their undergrounds a lot more than literature, and their consumers are much more willing to toss the underground a bone every now and then.

    I have pounded a fair amount of pavement in the world of underground music and underground comics, both of which have a vast and powerful "mainstream" that dwarfs them. Still, there seems to be a lot more support and and appreciation for D.I.Y. out there for those mediums than books.

  5. I think bradydale is right that there is more respect and attention paid to the underground music and comics scene by those in the mainstream of those areas than is the case when it comes to books.
    But, as I am continuing to find, winnowing the non-commercial books is no easy matter.