The more I look at the publishing world, the more I realize what a closed world it is. The mid-list hardly exists anymore, and unless you’re one of the handful of huge names, you don’t have a publishing contract and have to hope and pray each time you write a book that your agent can sell it (if you even have an agent).
There seems to be this resistance on the part of much of the book-buying public to move beyond the big names published by the major publishing houses. I wonder if part of the problem is that there isn’t really a proving ground for young/new authors like there is for young bands (bars/festivals) or new filmmakers (film festivals). People rarely go to readings, you don’t hear new literature read when you’re waiting in the dentist office (and while they might have Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, they don’t have Glimmer Train or Tin House other lit journals). There isn’t the public forum for writers to test the waters, try out new material, and polish their craft. And in most cities, there really isn’t a culture of going to readings or of reading new voices in literature unless they’ve been recommended by the NY Times Book Review.
Herewith, a few suggestions you can do to help rectify the situation:
- Donate a couple copies of your favorite literary journal to your doctor or dentist’s office. Perhaps someone waiting will decide to read a short story rather than a three-month old copy of Newsweek.
- If you hear about a fiction or poetry reading in your area, go to it. Better yet, organize one. If there’s a college or university in your area that has a literary journal, work with them.
- Bring a friend to a reading.
- Support your local independent bookstore by, you know, occasionally buying a book.
- Buy the work of new writers, especially those who are being published by smaller presses
- If you can’t afford to buy new literature, get it from your local library. Consider it a way of testing what’s out there. Librarians notice how many holds certain books get, and libraries buy books. Checking out books by new writers does help.
- Give books or subscriptions to literary journals as gifts. Who needs a new sweater? Give them something good to read.
- Surround the children in your life with books.
- Write and post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, your local library’s website, or wherever you talk about books online.