Since the posting yesterday, where I took publishers to task for giving corporate writing firms money that would be much better served going to actual writers with good books to promote, some people have suggested that I might just be shooting myself in the foot by making such a public pronouncement of disdain regarding these fairly common publishing house practices. I am, after all, still trying to get a book deal from a publishing house, which is, in fact, a corporation.
Let me make myself clear here: One should never have to choose between speaking his morals and furthering his career. I know that to some it might seem a conflict of interest for me to take publishers to task for their practices while at the same time courting them for what they can do for my book and for my writing career. But to me there is no difference, no conflict of interest. By these dissenting rationales, no one should ever speak ill of the government, for it is the government, after all, that provides for our safety and well-being. Why bite the hand that feeds? My answer: because sometimes that hand needs to be smacked back into place. Sometimes the hand forgets what was keeping it nourished and healthy. The hand fills up on junkfood and needs to somehow be reminded that it REQUIRES something nutritious before it drowns under the weight of its own excesses. I am thankful that there are publishing houses large enough to make writing careers possible for many different kinds of writers. If there were no “publishing industry” then there would be no possibility for me to take my writing ability, and hopefully make a living off of it.
But here’s the thing. Many of the writers I am in contact with have been conspicuously silent about all of this stuff. It’s as though nobody wants to put themselves out on the line for something morally right because it could harm them, even though I know that THEY know that I have a goddam good point. So I’m irked. I mean, how fucking bad does it have to get before somebody says something? Think about it. We’ve completed 4 months in 2006, and already there have been scandals involving a writer who isn’t actually a 20-something ex-truckstop prositute gay male with AIDS, but rather a 40-something straight woman, to a man who came from the depths of addiction to turn his life around, culminating with Oprah choosing his book to make him THE literary success story of 2005, only to have all of that success and admiration torn away in an instant when it was discovered that he lied about how long he’d been in jail, to a Harvard undergrad given the biggest advance ever for an unpublished writer only to find out that her book was filled with plagiarism. If the publishing industry isn’t suffering from a crisis of faith from the general reading public, then it never will. But let’s face facts: people that give a crap about reading have got to be a little sick. They have to be thinking that the captain is asleep at the wheel. And the captain ain’t us writers. No, we’re just the flight attendants. And unless we start making our voices heard by the people upstairs, they’re always going to treat us like redheaded step-children, like day laborers on temporary visas, or worse yet, like they kow that we know that they know that we’re illegals and they can call the INS any time they feel like it if we don’t do exactly as they wish.
FUCK THAT. I love having authors come in to my site to do chats. I love how many readers are responding positively to futureproof. But I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to kiss anybody’s ass, if I’m going to silence myself when I witness obvious atrocities and the bankrupting of the industry that used to bring some pretty worthwhile shit to the forefront of the public consciousness. And they still do, don’t get me wrong. There are still books being published that are incredible. I know this because I read books by these writers, I meet and talk to these writers all the time. But they aren’t getting the publicity. They aren’t getting the notoriety. Where’s my proof? Until James’ A Million Little Pieces, Oprah had discontinued her bookclub, save for a few “classics” (though I wouldn’t consider Faulkner classic by any stretch) because, according to Oprah, there just weren’t enough quality books out there. That isn’t our fault, the writers. There are millions of us. Surely to god there are 10-12 worthwhile books printed a year. Right? RIGHT?