Today's Tune: If I had a Million Dollars
Jessica over at BookEnds had a post on making money as an agent/publisher this week, and in it she shared an attitude that I often wonder about. She mentions the attitude a number of unpublished authors share: that publishers and agents only want books that will make them money. To which her answer was pretty much, "No duh."
As I mentioned in comments over there, this mindset baffles me. I kind of get it, I suppose. We're artists, and we want to share our art. It's about expression, not money. And it would be just wonderful if there were businesses out there that existed only to distribute art for the sake of art without a care in the world as to how they were going to pay for it.
But therein lies the problem. Publishing is a business, not a grant distributor or non-profit organization. How can people get down on them for... wanting to make money? Of course they want to make money. If they didn't make money, they couldn't continue to produce, you know, BOOKS.
No business can solely take on projects that only a handful of people will ever purchase just because they want to support starving artists. It sucks, but it's true. This attitude feels, to me, like extreme ignorance about this industry. If you'd like to be published through traditional channels, you have to accept the fact that you are no longer just an artist - you are a business person. Working for a business. To criticize the industry you want to be a part of for wanting to remain in the green is incredibly disingenuous and naive.
Believe me, I hate the fact that more people are willing to buy and read a mass-produced, not-so-well-written thriller by This Week's Bigwig Author than a heartfelt rendition of true Pulitzer-level artistic merit, but this is reality. The general public doesn't appreciate "artistic" literature; they appreciate "entertaining" literature. The public and what they buy dictates what the industry does. And I don't mean to get down on Bigwig Authors, because they have their own merit and are only doing what we all hope to do - achieve success.
This is the other bit that gets to me. Aspiring authors will grumble about the industry being too commercial and too concerned with the almighty dollar... while they're out there querying agents and submitting to publishers in the hope of achieving some sort of compensation. Even if they're not "in it for the money," at the very least they're in it for recognition, which is a form of compensation. They want someone to look at their work and say, "This is worth publishing."
Many people disapprove of how publishers work, and they prefer to remain true to their artist-heart and not "sell out." This attitude is fine. I can respect it. Art is important, and I will always support it. I just grow weary of the hypocrisy around those who talk a hefty load of smack against the industry that they are simultaneously trying to sell their work to with their other hand.
We all want respect. Recognition. Acknowledgment that our art is valid. I get it. If you can't agree with how Big Publishing functions, that's cool. If all you genuinely want is to see your name on a bound book, there are options for you. If you want your book to reach a lot of hands and be read and appreciated, well, that's a tougher road, but there are options for that as well.
Let's call an orange an orange - yes, publishers want to make money. No, they don't owe you publication, even if you're brilliant. Crushing and cruel though it may be. Either way, this community of the Unpublished is here for you.
But f'realzies, cool it with the whining about Big Bad Moneygrubbing Publishing. This is the industry you want to be a part of. You know it's a business. They don't hide that fact.