I had a really great post planned for this week, but then–shockingly–I ran out of time. So we stick with books once again. Not such a bad compromise though, right?
This week I began a new YA paranormal romance/fantasy series, Rachel Higginson’s Star-Crossed series. I only read the first book, Reckless Magic. By all accounts, this book and series was right up my alley. It’s about a 16-year-old named Eden Matthews who discovers she’s an Immortal, a Witch, and one ostensibly cast to save all of magic. She meets a boy, but he’s the Crowned Prince and she’s the would-be leader of the Resistance against the monarchy, etc., etc. The plot’s not important–or at least not in this space. My review isn’t even important (though you can find that here). What’s important is the revelations that reading this book brought to light.
The Indie Publishing Double-Edged Sword
As I continue to plod away at my own work as well as advise clients on what to do with theirs, the question of indie publishing and the changing paradigm of publishing as a whole continues to roll through my mind. While my work and my future relies on indie publishing’s success, more often than not, the Master’s degree on my wall calls out something different. I spent the better part of a decade of my life studying literature and then another decade teaching it to others, I cannot ignore all that I’ve learned, all that I’ve taught, all that centuries of literary criticism has taught us about what really works.
But here’s the thing I love books. I love what they do to me, where they take me, the thoughts I have because of them, and the deep, gut-wrenching place they make me go inside. And I want more of that, more of them, and indie publishing gives that to me.
I also love people and believe in the inherent abilities of each of us to create and participate in the conversation. I want indie authors to succeed because, like my students, I believe they have talent that should be shared and not squashed by a bourgeoisie sense of what is and is not “literary.”
More importantly, though, I want to read their stories. I want them to join in the collective voice of our art as it expands and allows more and more would-bes to actually be.
Here’s where the problem arises: these would-bes cannot do it on their own.
Completing a manuscript may make you a writer, but refining that manuscript, taking criticism on that manuscript from those who understand it in a literary sense, and, finally, using that criticism to reimagine that manuscript, that makes you an author. The editorial process is about more than just fixing typos–though that should be done too. It is about asking the macro questions about your novel, its characters, plot, and development that make it better and allow it to exist on an entirely new level from that original manuscript you came up with on your own.
Literature, indeed all art, is a collective process.
But Is It Better Than the Alternative?
The beautiful new reality of the publishing industry, the re-designed normal, if you will–is that the greed of the “big five” and the theft of art from the artist is largely disappearing from our field. And I love that.
However, in our quest to appease rabid fans without the constraints of PR firms dictating release dates and make a “real living from ‘writing'” we need to also remember the importance of refined work, indie or otherwise. Because it is only the truly refined which survive.
Wile indie publishing will continue to give voice to those otherwise silences, I feel like this whole experiment is going to go down in flames if the art of writing good books with great plots and memorable characters is reduced to the science of churning out as many books as you can for $3.99 on Amazon.
I could go on, and I could (clearly) give you more specific examples from the aforementioned book, but I don’t want to call anyone out because the problem is bigger than one heroine or one undeveloped plot line with potential. There are also many, many exceptions to this rule.
I also want to reiterate that really liked the idea of Reckless Magic. I think that Rachel Higginson has an amazing world created and some really promising characters–characters who I wanted, so desperately wanted, to like. She has talent, but it is largely untapped since she’s experienced some success. And that, I fear, is the real detriment…
What are your thoughts? I know I’m being general here, but what do you feel the role of editing and more “literary” elements should be in the indie publishing world? What is happening to the art of writing as a result of these changes?