I know I said Friday was going to be the official rant day here on The Writer’s Perspective, but you never can predict when a good rant is going to come on.
I read an essay in the New York Times Sunday Book Review: “You’re an Author? Me Too!” that really gets to the heart of what we do here at Writer’s Digest. The piece was written by NYT Book Review editor Rachel Donadio.
Here’s an excerpt:
In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006, according to the industry tracker Bowker, which attributed the sharp rise to the number of print-on-demand books and reprints of out-of-print titles. University writing programs are thriving, while writers’ conferences abound, offering aspiring authors a chance to network and “workshop” their work. The blog tracker Technorati estimates that 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide each day (with a lucky few bloggers getting book deals). And the same N.E.A. study found that 7 percent of adults polled, or 15 million people, did creative writing, mostly “for personal fulfillment.”
In short, everyone has a story — and everyone wants to tell it. Fewer people may be reading, but everywhere you turn, Americans are sounding their barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world, as good old Walt Whitman, himself a self-published author, once put it.
“As publishing has become less expensive, the urge to write my own self has become the opportunity to publish my own self,” said Gabriel Zaid, a Mexican critic and the author of “So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance,” a meditation on literary life in an over-booked world. Today, he added, “Everyone now can afford to preach in the desert.”
The gist of the piece I agree with. With all of the outlets now available to writers: POD, blogs, etc. it’s easier than ever for writers to get published, since the gatekeepers are taken out of the equation. And it’s true that the number of published books is increasing substantially (mostly due to POD), while the reading public, or at least the book-buying readers, is on a downward decline. I can’t disagree with any of this.
What bugs me, though is the between-the-lines implication that perhaps writers shouldn’t be getting their writing out there any way they see fit.
Think about this in comparison to the other arts.
For example, have you ever heard anyone say something like this: “There are just too many street musicians. They really shouldn’t be playing music in public if they’re not with a record label.”
Or this: “Who is buying all of the art at those neighborhood art festivals? Why do these artists even bother—nobody is going to enjoy or buy their paintings!”
Why is writing held to a different standard than the other arts? How does a writer know if he’s good or not without getting his work out there any way he can?
Power to the people!
That’s my rant. Please feel free to add yours here, too.