Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

4 Bloggers Have A Conversation About The Book World

Back on the 19th of January, I had an interview with author Philippa A. Rees.

Four Blogs Have A Conversation about the Book World

Image Courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski ~

In her blog post, The Egotism of Expertise- Interior Conformity, she said:

“A few recent posts have been devoted to a collective wail about the impossibility of non-genre books ever being discovered in the goose step parade of all the others who polish their boots and take steps in synchrony with guidelines and expectations.”

But the story of this conversation goes back to January 5th on Vivienne Tuffnell’s blog, Zen and The Art of Tightrope Walking, and the post, The Loss of Joy. Here are a few brief excerpts:

“Did blogging drive away my joy in writing?”

“No, I think it started to go around the same time I began to explore the possibility of publishing.”

Then, she speaks of being “…drained by the demands from all the other aspects of self-publishing.”

And continues with:

“There is a vast ocean of books out there and a flotilla of rafts bearing authors all pointing their oars at a speck in the ocean indistinguishable from all the other specks, shouting, ‘BUY MY BOOK!’, all at the tops of their voices.”

A bit later, the riposte:

“And if you don’t sell, you’re a failure. You’re told to pull up your big girl panties, do your research, do the necessary work of learning new skills. Or give up and stop clogging the ocean with your specky books.”

There is much more to ponder in Vivienne’s post; but, I’ll leave it to you to discover an eloquent plaint that I feel many writers keep to themselves as they struggle through the landscape of today’s Book World

The conversation continues back on Philippa’s blog when she interviews Vivienne in the post, Defining the Gulf: The Debate: Writers seeking Readers. At what Cost? To Both?

Philippa:I get the impression from your blog that essentially you still believe that your original reasons remain intact. It is the gulf between expressing those truly and creatively and the erosion of the world that values books, or your kind of books. So essentially your despair lies in the so called ‘market’ and in its maelstrom the impossibility of finding readers. Is that the nub of it?”

Vivienne: “I think it’s a big part of it, for sure.”

Philippa: “If it is, would it be fair to suggest that it is the loneliness of being unwilling to compromise? You don’t want to write for the prevailing market. I don’t either, in fact I would not know how to, so is the essence of this problem the very uniqueness you want to write about?”

Vivienne“The prevailing market is founded on the very stale essence of what has already sold. It’s thrice chewed, and therefore pap. That’s not to say there’s nothing good or worth reading but the essence of much of it is tired and jaded. Some of the most famous and excellent authors have found that writing the same story over and over again is what their fans clamour for, and if they diverge from a tried and true formula there are howls of protest from readers and publishers alike.”

Again, there is much more of worth to read in that interview—two women discussing some sad and depressing qualities of today’s Book World

The next writer in this conversation is Ashen, on her blog, Course of Mirrors, with the post, … the gulf between writers and readers …

She says, concerning the above interview:

“This disrupted my sleep, in addition to lots of other stuff going on, so I tried stepping back for a wider perspective. No answers, only a few muddled reflections …”

And, later, these dynamite thoughts:

“In our present culture the commercial speed train whistles through every zone of life. Publishers are among many enterprises struggling to survive amidst overproduction. The ‘Road Closed Pending Repairs’ signs Philippa refers to in her interview grow like mushrooms….Plenty of people I know look beyond the more-is-better and cheaper hype, but their numbers won’t topple the algorithm-driven logic of mass-cargo firms like Amazon (click for latest newsletter.) Their long term strategy is to please the consumer, which, now, increasingly, includes writers who self-publish … To make profit in an oversaturated market requires ever-new smart inventions.”

Then, a bit later:

“I never shook hands with or exchanged a hug with Vivienne, but I empathise with her loss of joy, and her frustration with the ironic and antagonistic attitudes of people who belittle deeper strands of truth for fear of looking inside, and the sense of being a square peg that doesn’t fit the neat round hole of genres and algorithms.

“Many writers will recognise these obstacles, including Philippa, and myself. How do we attract and persuade people to sample the green growth in our plot? At the same time, I’m convinced we are co-creating artists of our continuous self-invention. Mourning a not-yet existing frame for our work  might hinder this process, which moves and dances naturally through each breath.”

Again, there is much more to ponder in Ashen’s full post

So, I want to add to the conversation by recalling something said in one of my past posts, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

I won’t pretend that what I quote from that post is the main point of this conversation about the Book World (spanning the minds of four writers); but, it is brought up and bemoaned—my response is personal, yet may resonate for other writers

From that past post, this quote from Tobias S. Buckell:

in business school there’s this point made that if you interview rich people who have won the lottery, you might come to believe that playing the lottery is the only way to become rich. I thought that was interesting. One of the things I’m constantly trying to point out is that we’re not doing nearly enough to highlight both median and failure modes, because that’s where the real lessons lie. As for myself, I find message boards where new writers struggle to sell more than a few copies interesting, and where I harvest data about the low end.”

And, to end this post, I’ll share a link, from my past post, to the post of Tobias, where that last quote came from:

Survivorship bias: why 90% of the advice about writing is bullshit right now
Check Out Our Latest Poll…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
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8 responses to “4 Bloggers Have A Conversation About The Book World

  1. philipparees January 28, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    A very succinct summary and tracking post Alexander; for me somewhat tripped ( a little) by the improbable gift from an improbably generous reader. Not that his gift invalidated this extended conversation but rather pointed it more sharply What his extended ‘essay’ revealed was that there WERE readers for impossible books, who found in them deep revelations. That only endorsed the value of the conversation you summarize!


  2. philipparees January 30, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Reblogged this on INVOLUTION: Science and God: Reality Redefined and commented:
    This summary which Alexander Zoltai pulled together from four different posts (in different places) might now reach and comfort others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. courseofmirrors January 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for this summary, Alexander. Tobias Buckell’s take on publishing is sobering. Obviously chasing formulas for success among the cross-currents of expert advice can be a waste of time. It would be more rewarding for writers to read good books, some of which sporadically take wings, and pop into our view, from oracular depths nobody can fathom. While this does not cheer, I’ll keep writing, because I enjoy the process :)

    I recall how photography took off, allowing people with no art ecucation to experiment with what makes an image interesting. Since e-book platforms are like giant public galleries, more people are motivated to develop their language, which can only further the collective intellligence. But like a technically perfect photograph, unless it has something extra, the aesthetics of light, what’s in focus, composition, a sense of poetry … it won’t quite touch us. I believe, in time, public taste will become more demanding of writing.


    • Alexander M Zoltai January 30, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Two of your sentences stand out, shining, in a glowing comment:

      “Obviously chasing formulas for success among the cross-currents of expert advice can be a waste of time.”

      “I believe, in time, public taste will become more demanding of writing.”

      Thank you :-)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Digging into My #Archives . . . | Notes from An Alien

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