Amanda at Mad Genius Club posted last week with some musings on the current publishing scene – er, that is what I took to calling the Literary Industrial Complex, back when I first went indy around 2008 – Indy Publishing that is. When people ask me who my publisher is, I look at them loftily, and reply, “I own the publishing company!” Which I do – a nice little small enterprise that I came into as junior partner, and which the original founder sold to me when she regretfully concluded that she could no longer carry on. We do other authors’ books, as well as my own; regional and small-press stuff, nothing which would ever excite the interest of the Literary Industrial Complex or the minions thereof. No point to it at this late date; as one of the other indy authors I associated with at the time often repeated – “If readers love-love-love the book, they don’t really care who published it.”
I’m basically sitting off to the side, watching the various Literary Industrial Complex shenanigans with the detached interest of someone driving past a really complicated multi-vehicle accident on the interstate; one of those which features smashed vehicles off on the shoulder or the median, in grotesque positions, attended by lots of law enforcement, fire engines, ambulances and wreckers. Nothing much to do with you, you think – but that you do drive a motor vehicle on those streets, and such a smash-up is a possibility, even if statistically only a remote one. Books, authors, audience, readers – those of us in the indy author community do have that much in common with those who have caught the brass ring of the Literary Industrial Complex. The blessings of publicity which that happy situation can bestow upon the poor scribbler of fiction are enviable indeed: nothing like a generous advance, lashings of pre-release publicity, an Oprah pick, long lines at well-publicized and organized signing events … the stuff of which indy authors can only dream or perhaps nightmare about.
For myself, I wouldn’t mind a Cat-5 Hurricane storm level of condemnatory Twitter interest. It would do marvels for sales of our books and raise our visibility and I would care nothing because I barely use my Twitter account, as 9 out of 10 Twitteratti appear to be raving loons. My spoilsport daughter forbids this, pointing out that there are vicious and violently inclined raving loons out there; don’t want trouble, don’t start trouble.
The current no-holds-barred bruhaha concerns American Dirt by one Janine Cummins; a breathless and much heralded novel about Mexican mother and son escaping from cartel violence in Mexico by joining a migrant convoy and entering illegally into the United States. The author has garnered a boatload of criticism for this; not so much for justifying confounding immigration law by holding a literary pity party for the victims of cartel violence in Mexico, but for doing so while not being of Mexican heritage. Apparently, this constitutes a thoughtcrime of cultural appropriation. Well … apparently, trying to imagine the life and concerns of someone completely different from you, culturally, racially and every other way, is now an indictable offense against wokery. I suspect that Ms Cummins’ bigger crime in the eyes of writers of indisputably Hispanic background was that she got all the generous goodies of a huge advance, heaps of publicity, the Oprah pick, maybe even Hollywood movie interest – over and above those goodies to which they felt they had a better right.
Nothing much to me, of course; I’m just not that interested in reading American Dirt or even anything much on the anticipatory Literary-Industrial Complex horizon. I looked at this linked story; the most hotly anticipated new releases of early 2020 and was left underwhelmed, first by the covers … seriously, is there a fashion now for artfully-minimalist covers? A couple of primary colors, primitive shapes and blah typefaces? This is the best, the very best that the Literary-Industrial Complex has to offer, as regards to cover art to what is supposed to be, after all, the first and best chance to make a good impression on a potential reader/buyer? Dolly Parton once remarked in another context, “You have to pay a lot of money to look this cheap.”
Casey Stengal also asked plaintively, “Can’t anyone here play this game?” once upon the day. Fortunately, we indy-inclined authors can, when it comes to scribbling entertaining yarns to allure the casual reader. Which is good for us – especially considering the looks of our Literary-Industrial Complex-sponsored competition of late. Discuss as you wish – and consider checking out the weekly Sunday morning Ace of Spades HQ book discussion thread; talk of books, reading recommendations and a weekly picture of ghastly pants.