I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with a friend who works at a literary agency when I was visiting New York City. When I asked her what her agency was acquiring these days, she rolled her eyes: “Every [publisher] wants books by celebrities. Nobody’s buying debut novels or books with photographs because they’re too expensive to print. It’s getting ridiculous.”
Like many book-lovers, she bemoans the effects the recession has had on the publishing industry: publishers are taking even fewer risks on unknown authors and books by non-celebrities. “It’s frankly a miracle that anything’s getting published besides political memoirs and weight-loss books.”
I remember reading that after World War II, people in England were so eager for new books after the end of paper rationing that for several years publishers could put out anything and everything and be pretty much assured that it would be gobbled up by the book-starved public. Not so today.
What, then, is a would-be author to do?
Like the strutting male birds in Planet Earth, I think writers today need to make some adaptations. The old displays of plumage (a neat idea and some cool writing credits!) aren’t always enough anymore. Now, it’s almost necessary to conjure up some mini-celebrity for yourself out of thin air through things like blogging, writing a popular column or e-newsletter, or self-publishing a successful book or e-book.
In my next few posts, I’m going to focus on blogging, since it’s an easy-access medium that anyone can use and since, done well, it can open up a wealth of writerly (and sometimes publishy) opportunities. I’ll try to analyze why some blogs are awesome and some blogs suck, and illuminate some techniques you can use for keeping your own blog awesome (Step One: Care about your subject matter so much that you compose blog posts in your sleep).
Goodnight and good luck!