Page 77 - Vol. VI #10
P. 77

“How about the CNN thing?” She sighs.
and without despair.”
 “These days,” she says, “it’s all about Oprah. We tried to book you on her show but she went with this other writer, you know, the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces. It’s a memoir about drugs and alcohol, too.”
It’ll later come out that this other guy is a fake. That he made up all kinds of stuff about his life and tried to pass it off as the truth. Like a typical alcoholic, I blame everything on everybody other than myself, and in this case it’s the writer of A Million Little Pieces. He stole my light. He stole my big chance. I want to catch the next plane to New York, or Boston, or wherever the hell this fool lives, and show him what a real psy- chopath is.
My good friend is not around anymore to calm me down, but I know what he’d say if he were. Let it go, Brown. For Christ’s sake, be grateful for all the at- tention you did get. Do you know how many writers live their entire lives without ever even having a little taste of that?
Talented writers who for whatever reasons couldn’t get past the Gate Keepers now have viable alterna- tives. So far as literary journals go, where before there were only a few dozen to submit your work, soon there are hundreds of online magazines out there. Anyone with a computer and basic website skills can set one up and proclaim themselves publishers. The downside of this new era is that everyone can get their work published, giving rise to the issue of qual- ity. The Gate Keepers may have lost their hold on the industry, and I won’t argue that many a good book never saw the light of day because of them, but it’s the Wild West out there now. Anything goes. For better
And he would be right.
And I would be shamed into silence. It’s for certain my friend never received the break I did and he was a better writer than me.
That day, before my editor hangs up, she, too, tries to lift my spirits.
or worse, the prestige factor of proclaiming yourself a published writer doesn’t carry the same weight, because it doesn’t have the same filters, the stop-gaps of powerful editors and agents. The question is, how important is prestige? What exactly is it? How is it measured? Through sales? By dollars? And who, by the way, anointed the New York elites as those most qualified to judge writers and writing? Can’t these editors and agents, like the rest of the human race,
“Don’t worry about the numbers,” she says. “You just keep writing and leave the business end to me. I pub- lish big commercial writers, so I can afford to publish writers like you, too.”
I appreciate her loyalty.
I am lucky to have an editor like her in my corner. Most importantly, however, I am sober. I don’t have to complain and whine and get drunk over this. My big bruised ego will somehow survive without a drink. There cannot and will not be any more pity parties.
be fickle at times, biased, or just plain wrong about whether a book is worthy or not of being seen by the world? Tearing down the Gates of the Gate Keepers could be the best thing that’s ever happened to litera- ture.
As with my last book, it retails for about twenty bucks, and before it hits the bargain tables from Wal- Mart to Barnes & Noble, I order a carton for $1.06
a copy. But I’m never billed. The books are on-the- house. I store them under my bed and begin work on another memoir, a kind of sequel to the last—writing, as Isak Dinesen said, “a little every day, without hope,
I send my next book to my agent and editor two months in advance of taking a trip to New York. I want
By the time I finish my next book, the Gate Keepers of Literature have suffered a near mortal blow. New York publishers have shrunk from thirty-something companies down to five, merging their various im- prints and eliminating others in a last ditch effort to weather the changing times. The internet is easiest to blame, but whatever the cause, book sales have hit an all-time low, and to make matters worse for New York the cost of producing a book has dropped dramati- cally, giving rise to a multitude of small, independent publishers all over the country. Add Amazon to this dynamic. Add those self-motivated writers sick of re- jections and willing to pay to publish their own books. Add the closure of Walden Books, Dalton’s, Crown and Borders, and you have the perfect storm for the end of one era in American publishing and the birth of another.
Book Five
to hear what they think in person this time, so we meet for lunch at an expensive restaurant in Manhat-
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