Sunday, June 14, 2009

Publishing shouldn't be a popularity contest! No, I'm not bitter!

Time Magazine had an article this week about the future of publishing, and more specifically, its conflict with Amazon.com regarding e-books. Everyone knows that e-books are nigh, and it seems like only a few people know how to handle it. Full disclosure: before I got my Sony e-Reader, I pooh-poohed e-books for not being as tactile as real books, and thus less enjoyable. And I was right. However, I do like e-books. I think I like the instant gratification the most: I want a book. I buy the book. It downloads in one second. I read it. This makes up for the loss of the feel and smell of a book.

Anyway, back to the point: the Time article suggested that the publishing future for authors would go two ways: one, authors would go the I'm-a-genius-and-fantastical-wordsmith-who-wins-prizes route, or the promote-the-hell-out-of-yourself-shamelessly-in-order-to-sell-your-book route. The article inferred that those who couldn't use tools to promote themselves would be ass out of luck.

This brings me to my point. I highly, highly disagree and yes, even hate, the notion that in order to succeed, you must win a popularity contest. It's why I don't like Authonomy and why I think Linked In is run by demons. All of these things require others to boost you up to a level of being noticed, and they leave a huge gap for your friends or family, or former coworkers who you barely tolerated but are now "friends" with in order to up your professional network list on social networking sites, to storm the system. It's really lame because it means that your work won't be judged by its own merit, but rather by how many "friends" you can dig up out of your past to show as part of your entourage.

Don't get me wrong--please. You might be inclined to think I'm bitter, and that I have had challenges in getting people to stand up for me. You'd definitely be wrong. I just don't like the gap these schemes leave for people to fake it. Many employers advertise jobs on Linked In, and I've seen them where they say they require some amount of "friends" to "vett you." That's great--do you think they'll mind if my cat Max gets himself a Linked In account and befriends me? He can vouch for me--I do feed him everyday. Or how about a few coworkers from a former job whom I wouldn't trust as a reference or authoritative judge of my work quality, or with anything else, but I have them listed because I worked with them? Do you see where I'm headed with this?

One of my favorite blogs, The Intern, has a post about going and getting yourself noticed before submitting manuscripts. Don't just sit in your dank cave writing, she says. I think actually that most authors write in some professional capacity, but that kind of "rule" definitely edges out a lot of great books out there and leaves it to the savvy snake-charming bombasters, doesn't it? And where's the fun in that? It's a cold, dark world my friends. At least, it seems like it will be to those who don't get themselves promoted somehow--meaningfully or not.

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