In the past when anyone heard I was a writer, they would say. “Would I have read anything you’ve written?”
The second question was: “Has anything you’ve written been made into a movie?”
"Really what movie was that?"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
"That was your book?"
"Yes. Except it was called Nothing To Lose and it was about a fat girl who is a copywriter for a department store in Newark."
"What part does Johnny Depp play?"
The third sentence from my new best friend (after a curious pause) invariably went like this: “I’m going to write a book. I have a fabulous story and I’m going to knock it out as soon as I have some time.”
‘Knock it out’ is a phrase you use for making cornbread or knitting a scarf. Outwardly, I would say, “You should.” Inwardly I would say, “And I’m going to do a remake of Gone With The Wind starring me and George Clooney.”
Today, if anyone told me they were going to knock out a book and publish it, I would believe them. Today anyone can write anything (excepting for two or three taboo subjects) publish it within minutes and sell it 24/7 on Amazon. There are a whole slew of lazy people who don’t even write original material but steal entire books like War and Peace or Moby Dick, call them War and Piece or Maybe Dick and publish them under their own name.
You’d think I’d be annoyed by this but I like it. I not only like it, I condone all of it. What I like best is that publishing has become a rough and tumble, wild west enterprise similar to the early stock market days when they hawked stock on the street. Here’s the deal: until Jeff Bezos invented Amazon, the coolest company in the Universe, publishing was so holy and so ivory towerish, every writer was a supplicant at the altar. If by some miracle God, I mean a publisher, chose you, it was basically unbelievable. You were unworthy so it could not have happened. The writer remained numb as in you could have had your appendix taken out without anesthesia. The publishers knew how you felt and took advantage of it. After the initial nod of acceptance, you never heard from them again except to receive editorial changes. Once the finished ms was in their hands, you might as well have died. They even wished you did die so they didn’t have to look into your hopeful annoying eyes and answer your pitiful and annoying questions. One day, years later, you received a hardcover book by 4th class mail and Holy Toledo - it was your book. You visited every bookstore within a hundred mile radius, tripping over pyramid displays of Danielle Steel’s book, but you never saw your book for sale. If you did see it, there were two lonely copies hidden on the highest shelf where only Kim Kardashian’s new husband was tall enough to see them.
Suddenly, as if we are all in a Woody Allen movie, the tables are turned (that’s a silly expression and I don’t even know where it came from) and the shoe is on the other foot (again ?) With the invention of the Kindle and with Jeff Bezos letting the whole world publish books for free and sell them, the ivory tower publishers are dumbstruck as in being hit upside the head by a mallet. Holy shucks - they forgot to ask for e-book rights for all those books they let go out of print. And look at those cheeky writers publishing right and left bypassing them completely. They don’t even know what they’re doing. In fact, a lot of publishers are trawling the kindle store looking for best selling independent authors and begging them to sign with them. John Locke, who has sold one million copies of his e-books has just signed with Simon and Schuster (a house that was once my publisher) to produce and distribute print editions of his e-books. My e-friend Dee Dee Scott nailed it when she said: print books have become a subsidiary right. Locke kept all of his other rights and threw S & S a bone. Am I dismayed that there’s a lot of barely coherent writing clogging up the Amazon servers? Not at all. Without the false screening of traditional publishing, the reading public has now become the arbiter of what succeeds and what fails. You don’t need the venerable New York Times Book Review to give you their imprimatur. K.C. from N.C. will review you succinctly. “I didn’t want it to end.” or “Worst book ever.” Some say there is an army of spite reviewers who will give an e-book one star if it competes with their own book. So what? I said it was like the wild west, every man/woman for herself.
Let the faint of heart go back to the ivory tower. They might even let you up.