Friday, November 09, 2018


If you want to be a famous literary force that everyone admires and invites to parties, esp. if you don't mind living in a city, here's what you do.  You COULD become a reviewer, maybe with a specialty.  Say you want to be a star in the Native American firmament.  Go online and come up with a list of books recently published on your subject.  For instance, go to  That's the branch of the famous Powell's that's on SE Hawthorne, a smaller and funkier place in a hip neighborhood.  If you got there in person, take enough money for a meal.  I recommend "Bread and Ink" which is close by and has a sort of literary overtone.

The books on this list were all by indigenous authors.  Classic and recent, history and novels, essays and poetry.  Some are a little more mixed genealogy than some people like.  You'll find out more about Pocahontas than either Warren or Trump knows.   ("Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat" by Paula Gunn Allen.)  Find and read all the books.  Library, Interlibrary loan, second hand bookstores, Good Will.  Whatever.

Then you start a blog that looks good, make up a letter that looks as good offering to review books about Native people, including Canada and the far north.  When the books come, write the best reviews you can, look for places to post them online, post them on your own blog, and spend hours and hours reading more of them.  You can live anyplace.

That's not publishing.  it's reviewing and it is almost extinguished by the economic and editing restrictions of paper news and magazines.  You can praise yourself for helping others. Reviewing is vital.

If you want to publish, particularly your own work, you will need money.  Even if you are depending upon the internet, you will need money because publishing is not just making something available.  Personally I don't publish because I don't like people editing me.  But that's arrogance.  Everyone needs to be edited, because editors can make work palatable and because editors know what sells.  (At least they think they do.)

Publishing is about selling.  No writers publish -- because only publishers have the time and money to publish.  They pay editors to go find out from other publishers what they think is selling.  (They might not be right.)  You can do that stuff but then you won't have time to write.

Today there are a lot of ways to "publish" in terms of creating a paper book, but awareness of those alternatives is low in both producers and readers.  For a lot of people there is a kind of illiteracy that makes them believe that print sort of springs up like mushrooms, all by itself, without design or purpose.  Maybe it's from being over-impressed by the industrial revolution that gave us printing presses and then individual's machines like typewriters.  These devices don't think, so some people erroneously believe a computer doesn't have opinions or control results.  The possibility of print that writhes and rearranges and controls spelling or even vocabulary is just beyond belief.  

Likewise, authors have the idea that what they get onto a page or screen is controlled and purposeful, though socially there's as much sub-creation proposition and interference as there is for internet feed to a computer screen.  The equivalent to electrons is money.  If you want money, that controls everything else.

Therefore, publishing is based on advertising, the same as any other merchandise.  As many have pointed out, advertising sometimes has only a marginal relationship to the actual product.  Sex sells, so every advertisement considers how to get sex into the image or word.  Most novels are read by middle-aged women, so covers feature soulful and artistic portraits of slightly younger women of the same type that a middle-aged woman would like to think she was and secretly still is.

If you want control and you have the resources, this list is a good one to think about and learn from.                           Small Book Review With Editing

Naive writers (not stupid, just inexperienced) have probably not thought about hiring others to do these things.  You need to go to the website to find out what each of these entities do, from correcting grammar and spelling to reorganizing the whole manuscript or even challenging the intent to write such a book.  A writer can be insulted!  Particularly if the writer is working on what we sort of stigmatize as "literary," which is to say a vision with a particular voice that might not be accessible.  If instead the author is trying to sell merch, you need this list and these helpers.  Just choose them carefully and be prepared to pay.

Lately there has been reflection on how much editors become more like co-writers so that some products have been admired for what the editor did rather than what the actual writer created.  If -- like me -- one is motivated by narcissism and a hunger for praise that's personal and authentic, this is interference and maybe offensive.  This will not help sales. offers a dozen kinds of advertising and identifies the ones that count, particularly Kirkus, reviewing which is the key to library orders that guarantee a certain level of sales.  Getting a book made into a movie is covered as a matter of sales, but not making a movie, which is even more of a group effort than publishing.  The website also offers a sort of personal concierge who can guide and advise an author. does not address two important forces in publishing.  Both are personal.  That is, the modern reader appears to be as interested in the person of the writer -- what they look like, what they've done, where they are, how they live -- as in the actual writing.  This interpretation of reading is a form of participation in the life of the writer, a book as a license for intimacy which can quickly become invasion.  Constantly calling up and knocking on the door of the writer prevents actual writing.

The other thing is a form of community, a circle or network of similar writers who encourage each other, make contacts, present a sort of culture-ette that a reader might like to feel a part of, but which is also highly practical in getting something published.  One cannot read as fast as one can write, but a group can feed the appetite of a reader enough to keep it burning.  The trouble, again, is that this prevents one from writing by taking up time and it costs money to host and travel as portrayed in movies about writers.  If an author runs dry, reviewing can be a helpful strategy and strengthens relationships, but it adds the time needed to read books as well as writing them.  

An editor would jerk this little essay up by its ears and improve it greatly.  But I haven't got time.  I have ideas to write.

No comments: