Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Is There Room For All Of Us?

This is probably going to seem silly to most of you, but Stewart over at House of Sternberg got me thinking again. (dangerous, I know) He mentioned in a post he put up yesterday that libraries have been pulling classics off the shelves because no one is reading them anymore. Yikes! That's upsetting to me to say the least. But what I also wonder is what impact that's going to have on would-be writers like myself? I'm sure many of you have noticed, but there is no shortage of blogs being authored by aspiring writers. I like to cruise them from time to time and read what people have to share. Obviously some are better than others but clearly there are a lot of talented people out there. I admit, I'm always a little intimidated at the thought of trying to get something published. I don't know how well I'll handle the inevitable rejection letters. Add that to the fact that there are already so many others out there trying to do the same thing and sometimes it seems like an impossible goal. And that's without taking into consideration that the classics apparently can't even hold on to shelf space. And on top of all the problems already listed, the short story magazine industry also seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. So I can't help but wonder, is it going to just keep getting harder to get anything published? People talk about online publishing and I know a fair number of also publish their own work if they can't sell something. But I'm not talking about that really. I'm talking about main-stream publishing. Are we going to have to adjust our expectations or are we simply going to have to make sure to cater to what is popular in order to see our work in print? Speaking for myself, I don't think I can write something that isn't interesting to me just to see my name on the front of a book. I'm not a huge fan of "chick lit;" you know those books that cater to what modern women are supposed to like to read. And frankly, Oprah's book club usually leaves me cold. Yep, my taste is kind of narrow. My blog is evidence of that. I have made a few friends in the blogoshere, but generally speaking, the only one's who return regularly share my love of sci-fi. So what do I do? Plug away and hope for the best? Or change what I write about and seek some way to appeal to the masses? Can one consciously do that? To be honest, I doubt I could. I think I would start doing one thing and it would inevitably morph into what I usually do. What about you other writers out there? What is your plan for success? Oh, and sorry this isn't sci-fi related. But I guess it's okay to go off topic once in awhile. Isn't it?


jedimerc said...

I can certainly sympathise... I wonder about publishing as well, and I've mostly placed my stuff up on blogs or other workshop formats (and still archiving these days). I think publishing is going the way of the electronic format,alas. But, to me, nothing says published like holding a copy of the book in your hands... for some reason I suppose it validates all the work and travails of writing.

I think sci fi has a wide appeal, but I am always of the mind to broaden my own appeal in writing from genre to style to type. I've written all types and styles, and am more comfortable with particular types like any writer I think. Alas, I have no plan for success, though. I just write and let the details attend to themselves... for now :)

Skittles said...

I read that on his post and was outraged. I Just can't imagine all those classics being lost to new generations.

Thanks for dropping by.. always a pleasure :)

DesLily said...

i hope things don't all go "electronic".. electronics break down more often and quicker then a book can deteriorate!

but then too.. the big publishers keep saying they don't want "new" they have enough to handle.. and the small publisher really doesn't know how to market the new authors to get the sales...

SQT said...

I hope stuff doesn't go electronic. I like the feel of a book in my hand and I don't want to have to read off of a computer screen or have to print it off myself. What a pain.

The funny thing is that I remember not too long ago there was a story on the news saying that bookstores are still doing very well. Despite the fact that our literacy rates are not what they should be, someone out there is still buying a lot of books. Apparently they aren't going to the library though.

I still plan to pursue the dream. Why have one if not to try to fullfill it?

DesLily said...

I hope your dream comes true. Along with Stewarts and everyone else that wants to be published. I wish I enjoyed more types of books than I do.. one lady I read has her first coming out next month. It's a murder mystery.. well.. I live "next door" to more murders then I want to hear about so it's hard for me to get into murders at all! lol.. I hope yours is a Fantasy! lol lol

jedimerc said...

My local libraries seem to do pretty well, though I don't read the classics as much as I should. I have admit, I am a book recycler. When I am done with most books, I trade it in or give it to a library, because when I am done, clearly I don't need it anymore... and it gives someone else the opportunity to read it.

The Curmudgeon said...

SQT -- of course you can go off topic from time to time. If I had a topic, I'd go off it from time to time, too.

Look at your last post about series sci-fi. Some entries (like Peter David's books from all I've read) are very good -- but others are almost unreadable pulp.

I know I could write a better story than the worst of these... so I take heart... on the theory that if someone would publish that they'd surely publish my stuff... and then I look at some of the publishing/editing/agent sites and I read again about the "slush piles" and the long odds... and I go back into my turtle routine.

Life's too short to actively court rejection: It's too much like being a teenager again. For me, anyway. (OK, I keep submitting my name for judge... but that's at least courting rejection in my own field!)

Enough from the confessional: On the classics, this year at one of the chains they were offering big, heavy tomes -- five Mark Twain novels, a bunch of novels by H.G. Wells, a bunch by Jules Verne -- classics all. And all in the public domain. They're not going away.

I've no place to put them, but Santa brought them anyway. And I'll get to them. I just have a whole bunch of other books to read first. And these are too heavy to lug back and forth on the train....

SQT said...

Jedimerc-I don't recycle that many books. I keep the one's I like because I re-read them all the time.

Deslily- Mostly I want to write fantasy, though I have the one story I've been toying with that's more of a revenge tale-- I like that one too much not to explore it.

Curmudgeon- I tend to think like you do about getting published. I think if the work is good enough, it'll get published somehow. There is a fair amount of stuff out there that I am amazed gets printed. It makes me wonder about the stuff they reject. I also believe that the one's who succeed are the one's who persevere. So I can't allow myself to give up.

Stewart Sternberg said...

It's interesting that people have been bringing up the classics repackaged by Barnes and Noble. Yes, those won't go anywhere as long as they can be printed without royalty and sold cheaply.

But when we talk about classics, we have to talk about books that aren't as well known, the books that aren't going to be put into one of these meaningless mega-collections.

For instance, if you went to buy Steinbeck, you might find Grapes of Wrath, but you won't likely find "King Arthur", "Cannery Row" or "East of Eden". Plus,while the chains may throw Poe at you, sometimes they allow Louis Stevenson and Sinclair Lewis to fall by the wayside.

Someday perhaps, we'll receive an implant which will give us the memory of having read all this material to enhance our intelligence. An internal personal computer.

Smalltown RN said...

That is terrible...isn't that what libraries are for, somewhere we can go or take our children and introduce them to some of the classics we loved as children..or how about when the little ones go to their library with their shcools again a great opportunity to sit down and read them a classic and introduce them to such wonderful stories....that is truly a shame....

Stewart Sternberg said...

I tell you, SQT, when I read that article the first time, I was appalled, but then as I thought about it, the idea was less appalling to me. What was probably one of the most important books of fiction in America in the seventeen hundreds and part of eighteen hundreds? "Pilgrim's Progress." Would anyone read that today? No. Or few. Historically as important as Upton Sinclair or Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath". Yet, forgotten. I would be shocked to see Pilgrim's Progress" in a library.

It is amazing how this dialogue exploded. When I first posted about it, I had no idea it would provoke such a response. The fact that people are responsive is alone encouraging.

mist1 said...

Publishing is scary. But, I'm thinking that pulling the classics from the shelves is a good thing. Less books out there can only be good for me.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Dh and I were talking about this....we were trying to figure out first what made a classic? Was it purely age?
Dh pointed out that 'older' classics and poets, etc ..were of an upper a world where the literacy rates were low and the cost of paper and publishing prohibitevly expensive.

We saw that begin to change with the monthly literary magazines that Dickens and his like published in.

Quality of work and quantity of work has grown as the world grew more literate and paper and publishing became 'cheap.'

Now we suffer quantity over quality as noted by some of the atrocious stuff that is getting published these days.

I don't think the publishing industry has kept up with attitudes, technology, culture, etc....I think they are always one step behind...the best seller lists always seem so far removed from what the majority is really reading...unless it is in the Oprah Book Club.

The best seller lists are sooo mainstream to the point of boring. Rarely is sci fi or fantasy seen and that is such an insult to the many fine authors of those genre's who SHOULD be getting better marketing to the masses.

I would like to hope that as technology changes things so will the publishing industry maybe just one day change how they function and their format for picking writers.

I don't take classics out from the library because I read a wack of them in UNI and still have most of them.

I also have an old War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids, and we have Frankenstein, Dracula, and so on. Those are the one's I want my kids to read!!!

SQT said...

What makes a classic a classic is an excellent question.

I think it can be many things. Popularity may have a lot to do with it, but cultural impact probably plays a part too. I remember reading Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" in college and the impact it had on exposing the flaws in the meat packing industry. I don't know if the book is a classic like "Moby Dick" but it's still around and still considered important, at least by some.

And I know I'm turning into some kind of Shakespeare groupie, but I'd guess it's his cultural impact that's kept him around so long--though there's probably a lot more to it than that.

I wish I could live long enough to see what will be considered a classic 100 years from now. Harry Potter perhaps?

Charles Gramlich said...

I tried for a couple of years to write what the markets wanted, in short stories at least, and I couldn't see that I made any more money or raised my profile substantially. Now I write what I want and look for markets later. I know it's unlikely that I'll ever be a big name, but I'm proud of what I've published. And hey, sometimes writers get lucky.

Sunflower said...


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ShadowFalcon said...

I work in publishing and its cut throat. if someone doesn't sell they are out the door. You can be an author one year and few years later no publisher will touch you. I don't mean to scare people but its the unfortunate truth. I'm gald we do academic books, cos fiction can be ruthless.

But at the end of the day Just keep writing, go back over your work and make it even better and one day it will happen.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think a classic is a book which has been accepted as a powerful and representative work through different generations. That's the test to me. It's the ability to hold value through time. Some classics may lose their value, but at one time they were considered noteworthy.

The Beatles...classic. RUN-DMC...not so much.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

think about it though. when is the last time you acturally went into a library and checked out a classic? bet it's been a long time. sad really, but true.

and off topic, heck girl, i love it when i can read something i understand!!! i read them all, but most of them i just say, well, that was something. sigh... i WISH i liked sci-fi, i really do, but sadly, i think it - well - sucks. sorry love the writers though!!! (smile) bee

SQT said...

Sorry Bee. I'll have to make an effort to throw something in for the non-sci-fi people every now and then.

It's true I don't check out classics from the library. If I want to read a classic, I usually buy it so I can keep it on my shelf.

I will admit, there aren't that many classics I go back to. Though I do love To Kill a Mockingbird and Frankenstein.

Stewart Sternberg said...

No comment. Trust me, it's better for all. No comment. Zippo. None nada. Fill in your own blanks.

Wavemancali said...

The internet has virtually assured (pun intended) that if you can't find it on the shelf in your library you can find it at the internet terminal in your library. Any classic that I can think of is in the public domain and available on-line.

As to your dilema, write for the mainstream or write what you love, you've got a couple of ways to look at it. Will writing for the mainstream support you well enough to be able to write what you love on the side? If not I say write what you love.

SQT said...

Stewart, now you've got me wondering whether it's my choice of "classics" that's bugging you, or the fact that I don't check them out from the library?

I'm not at all surprised to hear that the industry is cut throat. It is a business after all. And by looking at the marketing machine it's obvious it's all about quantity not quality. The TV and movie industry is pretty much the same.

The only thing I think I can do is write for myself and hope someone else see's the value in it.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Classics are an inspiration to us all, as the stories are so well told.

OddMix said...

Happy New Year! I am back from vacation and working my way around saying, "Hi!"

choochoo said...

I suppose things like that go up and down. I'm sure the whole nobody-reads-anymore-thing will turn around someday. Forever the optimist:D