Thursday, September 28, 2006

Is the publishing industry becoming like network television?

MJ Rose has a fantastic post today about how the publishing industry (needing to keep up with what is going on and the pressure to perform and produce) is starting weigh down on its authors.

It's interesting because I remember many of my writer friends criticizing John Grisham (not to his face, of course) for writing A PAINTED HOUSE a few years ago, and that he should stick to his what he does best. And I remember thinking at the time that John Grisham must get sick of writing about courtrooms and crooked prosecutors and dead judges and probably wanted to try something new. Granted, John got the chance because of who he is--but he managed to write a decent book. And I think most people would consider it a literary work. Same for Stephen King, whose books far less resemble horror than they do the internal machinations of the human mind--and I don't mean telekinesis or the ability to start random incendiary events with mental focus, but things like grief and sorrow and regret. Granted, Mr. King's transition was much slower, more subtle--but it is there nonetheless.

But what if you are a proven author (with sales) who wants to branch out? Does the publishing industry really foster creativity and experimentation? Almost never. It wants stability and sales. And anything that might push it in the other direction is quashed. So now we have talented authors (as proven with MJ's post) burning out because it is no longer about writing; it's about product.

If you are an aspiring writer on the cusp of a book deal, enjoy these days. Those moments you wrote your novel or memoir in some dimly lit corner of your house at the oddest times will be the most romantic memories you'll have of creating your art.