Friday, April 23, 2010

What Do "They" Want?

"They"covers a multifarious group of publishers, editors, and literary agents, all of whom "you" wish to join as a badge-wearing member of the publishing industry, which is split into the rival gangs of the book trade, publications, and media. New kids to the turf are the e-pubers, which sounds like a Latin conflation of the word for boys and a term for the pubic area, but which really means those who publish on-line, which is to say they blog and/or contribute to 'zines and other electronic media.


Just as "they" have their motives for doing what they are doing instead of, as "they" are quick to tell "you," being in some really profitable profession, "you" have your own agenda for thinking to write with the notion of being read by others. Some of the agenda that drives some of "you" is to show "them" a thing or two for suggesting "you" pursue a more practical, even saner path of livelihood. In similar fashion, some of "them" wish to contribute to the written culture of humanity by providing access to works that cause some of "us" to think, reevaluate or deepen impressions of the landscape about "us."

True enough, some of "them" are either owned by larger, profit-making organizations with stock holders, or are paying heed to marketing and sales departments who owe greater allegiance to schools of business management than they do to such abstract philosophies as literary content, provocative depictions of reality, and discussions of social contracts. Equally true, however, some of "you" are owned by desires to achieve powers that will cause many of "them" to regard "you" as prescient, iconic, possibly even trend-setting. How many of "you" would resist for long being branded thusly?

You, acting as yourself, have attempted the literary equivalent of dual citizenship, taking payment from "them" much as a politician takes campaign funds from lobbyists, even muddying the waters by becoming what "they" call "you," which is to say a skittish "author," which many writers wish to be called but would no longer wish to, were they to discover how "they" tend to regard "you." Hint: "We take on authors in hope of finding writers. We often have to let go of writers who struggle to become authors."

Still acting as yourself, you have an abundance of feeling about both sides of the desk. You recall a time when you had just been elevated to a position where you could contract a project up to a $7500 advance without the need to go through a committee for approval. A group of "friends" who believed themselves to be authors, and who had track records of some publication, saw you as one of "them," which is to say a publisher "them" as opposed to an author "them." They converged upon you like fleas to a new dog in the yard.

"What are you looking for?" these writers who wanted to be authors asked you.

"Something that makes me know I want it," the you who was now seen as "them" replied.

"No," really," these wwwba's said. "What kind of stuff?"

"I'll know it when I see it," quoth you as "them."

"Hah," one sneered. "That's like Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart not knowing what porn is but recognizing it when he sees it."

"Exactly," you-working-for-"them" said.

And the battle was on. "Traitor to your class," one of them who was especially fond of Bartelby, the Scrivener, accused. "You've sold out your friends."

"I don't know what a friend is but I'll recognize it when I see it," you said. Or perhaps it should have been "You" said.

What you knew then and have seen no reason to change is that when you write, you want to be a writer, and when you edit, you want to be an editor, and when you want to be a teacher, you set forth with enthusiasm what you believe, and when it is time for you to be a friend, you are all three.

That works for you.

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