To me, the mass marketing and money end of writing is the over-ripe cheesy-smelling end. But its time I came to terms with it, pop my head out of my butt where I still exist in some kind of quaint yesteryear of typewriters, fountain pens, Hemingway and Woolf when you could count on five hands those who were publishing novels out there at primordial houses like Harcourt, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, and Scribner. A writer still spends six months, six years, six decades writing a novel. Then the real work begins: Finding an agent, understanding “the market,” current publishing options (because Unbound, for instance), marketing oneself in an industry that’s undergoing convulsive changes, all those publishing house mega mergers. Good god.
I’m terrified of other writers who don’t share my terror. You know the ones I’m talking about, those upbeat, cheerful writers, those “agile book people” who lick their finger to see where the wind is blowing and jump in. Well, I know a woman from Malibu whose entire wardrobe consists of outfits each made of a tenth-ounce of string. She’s upbeat and cheerful, too. Not me. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, so at least I can say I’m normal. But just thinking about getting published makes my eyes foam.
Well, I ask you. Is there a reason to feel flattened by the sheer magnitude of the competition? The UN predicts that the earth will sag under the weight of nine billion humans by 2050. With something like six billion people already writing and jockeying for limited shelf space/place in the “supply chain” out there, should “less talented” writers than J.K. Rowling, writers like you and me, just become drunks and write for a hobby? I’m suddenly thinking it’s time to go back to bed and stay there. Sleep is my new hobby.
The BBC podcast below is one of those wake-up calls you get from the front desk Hotel Bookocalypse.