Why The Publishing Industry Can Suck My Dick

novels, publishing, women

I decided a year ago that I no longer want to publish books through the traditional publishing industry — even though that was my singular dream since I was nine years old.

The publishing industry is dead. Between ebooks overtaking print sales and chain stores dictating what gets published, the business is finished. It’s inefficient, outdated, bloated, corrupt, and it has willfully buried its head in the sand all these years, to the devastation of writers’ careers and literature.

It deserves to die. The publishing industry is racist, sexist, and it heavily favors white male authors over others, especially in literary fiction, which produces the next generation of American literature. If women and non-whites can’t get published and can’t get reviewed and can’t get on prize lists, we will not be able to contribute. For that reason alone it deserves to die.

Meanwhile, the rise of internet technology has brought authors closer to our audiences and given us the chance to give ourselves careers. No longer can an elite group of racist, sexist anachronisms shut the door to the rest of us. Any of us can make literature. The gatekeepers that kept so many of us out are failing because prejudice always fails — how can a business that limits the chances of large groups of people possibly succeed? Greatness always surges through.

I’ve been working on a new novel project that I’m very excited about and that will involve interaction and participation with readers. I’m not ready to publicize the project yet. However, Seth Godin’s announcement that he’s leaving traditional publishing behind is huge, and since I’ve already decided to do the same I decided I should say so. With a huge bestselling author like Godin going, the world will follow. I have no sympathy for big publishing. They had their chance, and thousands of young novelists like me had their careers thwarted or redirected because of their incompetence. I am very happy to have the T.V. and screenwriting career I have today, which I wouldn’t have had were it not for the inadequacy of the publishing industry. But now the way I feel about it is — they don’t fucking get to publish my novels. I will publish them myself. Because I’m better at marketing myself than they are. I’d rather sell ebooks than print — because that’s what I would rather buy.

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I just spent an hour searching the internet for statistics about the racism and sexism in the publishing industry. Couldn’t find any — I know I’ve read some before, so if anyone can send some, please do. However, anyone working in this business knows about it already. Here are a few pieces I did come across:

Literature Gender Gap. Majority of readers are women but 30% or less of books published by literary houses are by women: http://su.pr/2Ag3sO

Some male critics review male writers by a 3:1 ratio. http://www.bookslut.com/blog/archives/2011_02.php#017213

http://www.slate.com/id/2265910/pagenum/all/#p2

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/08/all-the-sad-young-literary-women/61821/

http://www.thefrisky.com/post/246-jodi-picoult-accuses-book-reviews-of-favoring-white-male-literary-darli/

http://amyking.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/why-weren%E2%80%99t-any-women-invited-to-publishers-weekly%E2%80%99s-weenie-roast/

http://www.complete-review.com/quarterly/vol3/issue4/sexist.htm

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And these statistics excerpted from an article by T. K. Kenyon (see link below): Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for 2006 in major review publications: 56%:44% Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for Jan-June 2007 in major review publications: 63%:37% Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for at the New York Times Review of Books (very influential): 72%:28% Ratio of male book reviewers to female reviewers at the New York Times Review of Books: 2:1 Percentage of articles written by men to those written by women in the five “thought leader” magazines: 3:1 Percentage of male book buyers to female: 45%:55% Women constitute only 17 percent of opinion writers at The New York Times, 10 percent at The Washington Post, 28 percent at U.S. News & World Report, 23 percent at Newsweek and 13 percent at Time. Overall, only 24 percent of nationally syndicated columnists are women. From: http://www.bloggernews.net/112350

Anorexia: Make It Work For You

drama, storytelling, women

I was a teenaged anorexic. I wasted away while others watched in alarm. I got noticed.

I lost my period for a year and a half. Teachers called me in after class because they wanted to “have a talk”. I was shy and geeky and awkward and had no idea how to engage men. But as I got thinner, I became more vulnerable, more fragile. My outside matched my inside, telegraphing to the world how much I wanted to be cared for.

I’ve read that a woman’s sexual body language includes physical gestures intended to make her appear smaller. At 16, I had no sexual voice, but I knew enough to make myself smaller. Anorexia plagues high-achieving smart girls (it was rampant at Princeton) — no doubt because there’s a logic to it. It’s a way of succeeding, competing in the sexual arena. Against other women, against ourselves, against estrogen-rich bodies that want to keep us fat.

I didn’t have a lot of friends as a teenager, but anorexia changed that. Inexplicably, the most popular girl in our class befriended me. Another anorexic. One night, I was spending the night at her house. We were changing out of our school uniforms, and as we stood there in just our tights, she said “You’re getting really thin. I’m really worried about you.”

“I’m really thin? You’re really thin. I’m worried about you.”

Our friendship might have been a case of keep your enemies closer: suddenly, I was in danger of becoming thinner than her, more fragile, more noticeable, more starving on the inside and thus able to starve on the outside. More deserving of love by virtue of my neediness, fragility and discipline. This was a rival she needed to keep tabs on.

It takes courage to carve your story down to the barest flesh and heart and bones. We cloak our work in extra material, extra words, extra flesh, fat, because we’re afraid of showing our true selves.  We’re afraid it’s not good enough, so we pad it out with more dialogue, more description, more scenes, more jokes. If you’re really afraid it’s not good enough, chances are you need to get leaner.

Find the emotional heart, track that and don’t be afraid to show what you’re made of. Your story is an anorexic carving out her body so that her tenderest, most vulnerable frame will show. She has an intuitive understanding, a radar, for detecting exactly what she has to do to inspire love, care, nurture, attention. She’s a smart girl. She shivers in the glare of scrutiny, exposed, eager to show you the curves of her bones, all the well-traveled paths to her heart. Her body screams: SEE ME. NOTICE ME. CARE FOR ME. LOVE ME. Your story starves its frame to focus maximum attention on its most tender parts. And you want your audience to feel like concerned teachers and parents and competing anorexics, so moved on seeing it they can’t help but help. You want your audience to feel so sucked in, they’re part of it now. You want your story’s starved drama to be emotionally compelling, and your audience’s response co-dependent.

Risk

drama, features, screenwriting, storytelling, T.V. writing, women

I think the Ed O’Neill character on “Modern Family” is based on my real dad. He’s engaged to his 29-year-old maid. She’s an evangelist from Brazil. He still pays her to clean the house.

This is not the kind of story I would ordinarily tell on the internet, because I’m a private person by nature. But I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this space to be. And I’ve decided — if I’m going to write about story, I need to fucking tell stories, right?

Story is risk. When you’ve got something to lose, you’ve got a story to tell. When you’ve got something big to lose, you’ve got a big story to tell.

Though on the surface it’s funny, the story of my dad feels raw, acute, and dangerous. Talking about it publicly feels risky. I feel like I have everything to lose — by telling it, I risk being unsafe, insecure, unloved, or exposed. And that’s where this story lives — where the risk is.

Get big, get brave, get risky, or don’t tell stories — because no one gives a shit about the story of how comfortable, complacent and compliant you are.

Story doesn’t grow in the middle of the road. But my dad’s fiancee’s village in Brazil seems to have plenty of poor relations who need new houses (hint hint Dad) where I suspect it thrives.