Alfred Hitchcock once said a painter needs a brush, a writer a pen and a director an army. The numbers needed to make a film are coming down, but it’s still a collaborative, team sport (or a war, depending how indie you are as a filmmaker.) Painting is still a solo pursuit and for a long time writing was solitary. Then writing got decidedly less solitary. And now, with self-publishing, the game has changed again.
Authors used to have publishers. Later, agents entered the industry and took pressure off editors by curating. They helped many authors get better deals. Now a lot of agents want to intermediate and perform more of an editorial function, possibly because other traditional roles they have fulfilled are shrinking. See this post for more on that and much more.
Now there can be fewer people between you and publication. Publishing isn’t necessarily a team sport anymore. Publishing with a group of lovers of all things literary has produced many great books (and has probably interfered with the production of great books, too.) You may think many minds produce better material because all of us have more brain power than one of us. I used to believe that was true in all cases.
Then comedian Joe Rogan challenged that idea for me and articulated something that was slowly percolating through my cranium. In his experience as a comedian on The Man Show, he found that more suits on the set diluted the funny. His stand-up is a pure art form, moderated only by his own sense of humor and direct feedback from his audience. (I saw him at Massey Hall in Toronto recently. He rocks hard.)
It’s an old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. Now science, as presented in the fascinating book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, has disproved the notion that more brains help a creative project. The most creative solutions are not arrived at by the most creative person in the room. They are directed by the loudest person in the room.
So, if your agent says “I’m not submitting your work because I don’t think it’s ready,” and you cede that power, your work isn’t going to market whether your agent is right or not.
This is the sort of thing that drives the traditional world of publishing nuts. Without those mediators, obstacles, curators, gatekeepers, shepherds and rabbis, the worry is that we shall be inundated with a slew of awful, awful books. The deluge shall be as a fire hose pointed at the tiny tea cup of our fevered minds. Without those helpful interlocutors, who will keep the bad books away?
Rather than address the curation question directly (and I’ve already addressed it many times on this blog), I’d like to say something new on the subject:
Even if that objection is valid, so the f**k what? I reject the premise. I say this is not about your convenience in going to a legacy publisher you trust for all your curation wants. This is about my freedom to express my art, which you can enjoy or not. As they say at the convenience store, “Buy or leave!”
The marketplace of ideas is opening up to a lot more shelf stock. Buckle up and put on your big boy Underoos and your big girl panties. Soon you might find more variety and much more current reading material to explore and fill your mind.
I value my sovereignty of expression more than your convenience.
I said this was a revolution. I asked you to join me.
Did you really think no one would get hurt along the way to the shinier, freer new world we’re creating?
The results will surely be messy, but the cost of your tender sensibilities is really negligible. There will be a lot of bad books delicate grammar doilies will decry. You’ll see a lot of typos (though I see a lot of typos in traditional books, too, by the way, and yet the earth keeps on spinning.)
We value freedom and freedom of expression. A lot. The US Supreme Court allows the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at funerals with ghoulish signs without regard to the feelings of the families of the dead. Evidence obtained illegally is routinely thrown out and murderers are sometimes set free as a result. We accept some consequences far worse than inconvenience so that greater individual sovereignty is assured.
If it sounds like I’m saying your worries
about all the coming bad books don’t matter,
you’ve read this blog post correctly.
- Writers: Do you have time to get published? And can we dump the “self” from publishing? (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Writing Conference: 10 Bad things (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Publishing is sick. You should quit. Take up knitting. (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- Try-outs for self-publishing platforms, by Meredith Greene (teleread.com)