Thursday, January 8, 2015

It is 2015 And Everything Old is New Again

by Sophie Perinot

“Nothing is original, even in sin.” Somebody said that. I thought Oscar Wilde, but I've had surprisingly little luck pinning down the attribution.  Doesn't matter for these purposes, trust me.

Here’s the thing see, the publishing world as we know it is coming to an end!!! (Gosh I wish I could chant that while holding a sign on a stick).  What world isn't?  Things change in all industries, all the time.  Back when the paperback was first introduced there was a tremendous amount of hand wringing.  And we all remember the hysteria that surrounded the e-book and the supposed extinction of the paper book.  Who can forget this heady moment when, approximately 2 years after the Kindle was introduced, the Guardian trumpeted the news that Amazon was selling more e-books than paper ones? Oh yes, the paper book was doomed, until someone recently, helpfully, pointed out (by gum it was the Guardian again) it was making a comeback (“Whisper it quietly, thebook is back …”).
But I don’t really want to talk (aka argue, because wow there is a lot of yelling going around) about whether these are end times.  Because I think, as a writer, there is a more interesting question—what are you going to do about it?

For the purposes of this blog-post let’s assume publishing is the Titanic.  It is sinking.  It wasn’t supposed to, it was supposed to let you quit your day job and make you a legend in your own time (not that it ever did that at any point in its history for a vast majority of writers), and now it is going down into frigid waters (with historically inaccurate sharks for good measure). This is your moment to decide what to do and THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER.  I picked the Titanic metaphor for a very specific reason—and no, I am not a fan of Leo and I am not going to start humming Celine Dion.  In this particular metaphor I am a proud member of the orchestra.  I can’t figure out where the lifeboats are, and even if I could, well, I am a writer.  Come hell—or in this allegory very high water—I have at least a couple more stories in me that have to be put to paper.  If somebody told me “your next publication date will be your last, after that you won’t be able to get your words printed on toilet paper with a crayon” I would still finish my wip, I would polish it and tie it up with a bow before trunking it.  I would go down clinging to it (maybe bop a couple of sharks with it as I sank).

None of us can be sure we will survive in the new (make that the new, new, new to the 10th power) age of publishing.  Nobody was certain in the past either folks.  I believe there is a certain dignity in pursuing your craft to the best of your abilities when things seem dire/hopeless.  It is an exercise in character.  And I say again (before I get tackled to the deck and pummeled in my last minutes) I am not suggesting this is the route for everyone.  But if you are of my mindset, pull up a chair, take off your life jacket (it is cumbersome anyway).  Let’s ignore the screaming and the abominable listing of the deck that makes it hard to keep the laptops from sliding off our desks, and let’s write the best thing we’ve ever written in 2015.

Gentlemen, ladies, it has been a pleasure playing with you.


JeffO said...

Books aren't going anywhere, not anytime soon. The big questions center on format and distribution: digital or paper? publishing house or self? bookstore or internet? Or some combination of all the above. You are quite correct, though: we have to decide, and the nice thing is, we have a lot of choices available.

Happy New Year!

Debra McKellan said...

What's the new publishing era looking like?

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