Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

It's not a good time to be a writer. It's not really a good time to be in any position, but in recent days I've found the news increasingly discouraging. It started last week when Houghton Mifflin announced that it is no longer considering manuscripts of any kind from any writer, and, for the time, is sticking with contracts they've already made; the publisher of that press is now resigning.

Random House, the papa bear of all publishing, announced it is cutting two of its imprints. While no job cuts were announced, one can only imagine that they are coming.

Simon & Schuster, another NYC publishing big gun, is laying off part of their staff.

Some writers have already been quoted basically saying it's no big deal--it just means more quality writing being published, and less crap--but that's simply not true. What it means is established crap writers with a following will continue to get paid to write, while new, fresh writers will get left out.

Their will be exceptions, of course; there's always exceptions, and that's what every writer hopes to be--the exception. 

And this news doesn't just hurt writers; if that was the case, it wouldn't be so grim--writers have never made money doing what they do. There are literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of agents out there that have no idea if they will be able to continue with their job next year; while there are some big literary agencies out their, most agents work for small boutique firms, and they will be hurt. Independent bookstores have been hurting for years, and this is not going to help the problem; locally, two independent bookstores that were landmarks to SoCal (Acres of Books and The Book Baron) closed up shop; while Borders and B&N stock up on Grisham and King, these little guys are one of the few kind enough to sell the unknown writers of the world--the writers who actually write quality, but don't sell millions of copies each book.

So this Christmas, if you can spare a dime, support the publishing industry by buying a few books as gifts. And if you really want to be saintly about it, go to a small bookstore to buy it.

Buy books for relatives that hate reading--just tell them if it wasn't for little unknown books, Hollywood would have nothing to adapt come Oscar time.  Movies like Revolutionary Road were never bestsellers.

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