I guess I thought the discussion was behind us. Like the discussion of whether or not Napoleon was actually present for the battle at Waterloo. And that doesn’t make it any less painful to continue to say. But…
the antiquated and romantic notion that major publishing companies scour the earth for writerly genius and then, upon discovery, tirelessly go to work to bring that genius to the world… (and, let’s be honest, make that genius a bunch of money in the process)… is long over. If it ever existed to begin with.
Sure, there have been the “lightning strikes” here and there. But, think about this statistic for a moment: Three to four hundred thousand books are published every year. And that’s just the ones that make the radar. Got that in your head?
Now I want to look back at Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. There are other examples, but these two come quickly to mind. Bottom line? They toured their asses off, and performed their work all throughout the land, in order to become what they became. Dickens to the point that it ruined his health. And, if I’m not mistaken, destroyed his family to some extent. Some geek may shoot me down on that one. Which is fine. That’s not my concern here.
The music business, by the way, has been trying to explain this to us for quite some time now. Most of the truly great songwriters and troubadours pulled out of the major record labels long ago to do business on their own. The reason? The major labels no longer did anything for anyone, except, maybe, a few of their remaining superstars. Ergo, most of the major labels are dead, or dying.
So… here we are. It’s fine to go ahead and continue believing in the stigma of self-publishing if you want to. But the musicians are all laughing at you. Just so you know.
The poet in particular, like it or not… if that poet wants to reach an audience or sell any books… has become again (as the poet was throughout most of history) the wayfaring folkie selling his or her wares out of the trunk.
What I’m mainly wanting to say in the midst of this mess, however, is “Hey… it ain’t so bad.”
I am fifty-one years old. I no longer have to teach to make ends meet. Though they meet only barely. I get to travel the backroads of this beautiful country for a living. I get to hang out with some of the coolest people who are still hanging on in this crazy game too.
And, even though self-promotion and sales are among the greasiest and grossest things to ever have to do, I am, honestly, having the time of my life.