writers and editors, oh my!

I won another award, the E for Excellent Award. Thanks Stephan. Now, if I can get the jpeg to show up, this might look really cool. However, I'm a bit impatient for gdfhtml today. I would like to put some of these things on my sidebar, so here's my shout-out to anyone who wants to help me do so.

I was going to write about Obama today, really, I was, but instead I'd like to thank
Erik, who spawned a discussion on the publishing industry over at Goblin's house. This is one of those opinions/debates that snuck up on me. I love when that happens because then I get to really think a topic through. I thought to myself, Self, you don't know much about the industry as a whole. But I do know about my small corner of it, and so I climbed up on a box (cuz no one would see me otherwise) and responded to his statement that "the publishing industry is hopelessly dysfunctional" because I thought was a sadly cynical view to take.

I see this attitude from writers a lot, and as I wrote about it, I finally came to the conclusion that publishing is even more like selling visual art and interior design than I previously thought. So many writers (artists/musicians/designers) are mystified why their technically competent, even innovative, products have not sold. I count myself among them at times. It's difficult during a silence, and during a subsequent slew of rejection, to not feel the industry is broken, damn them! Better than blaming ourselves, eh?

In my more reasonable times, I hold that it's neither. I've done speculative and commissioned art. (By speculative, I don't mean speculative like fantastical, but speculative economically.) It's a chance, a leap, that the artist will create something that will sell. Most speculative visual art does not have the same opportunity for revising that writing does, so writing does have a leg up in that regard. But still, there are millions and millions of artists out there--not just competent hobbyists, but good, creatively sound artists who can't sell a damn thing. Ring a bell? There are millions of good writers out there. But writing is a speculative market for the newbie, and often for the established. That's a tough pill to swallow, but we're hardly the only industry out there like it. Homes, art, software, furniture, clothes...all of it is built largely on spec.

As an artist, I had the good fortune to often work on commission. The consumer simply told me what they wanted and I did it, whether I thought it was creatively correct or not. How many writers would want to do the same thing? Easy work if you can get it--and don't mind bastardizing your talent to make a buck. (To be clear, I didn't mind, and often enjoyed the challenge of shaping my talent to another's vision. I also have been doing the same thing with the screenplay.)

As an editor, though, I run a speculative business. I've realized every submission is at best a guess at what our magazine should be. As that state of being is based on dynamic factors, a submission can only be a guess. Writing/editing/reading is the foundation for my friendship with my fellow editors. We spend a great deal of time discussing these topics, and sometimes I'm surprised by what they choose.

The point could be made that the industry is on the cusp of change, and that may well be true. It may even require change. But no matter the technology (POD at Barnes and Noble, the Kindle, E-zines, or chips in our head) I believe one thing will not and should not change: editors and agents remaining the bridge between the consumer and writers. The consumer needs someone to guide them toward quality, and the single thing I learned from yesterday's discussion (something I knew, but hadn't articulated in a long, long time) is that the writer is often the last person to determine the quality and value of their own product to the marketplace.

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