Published for Pay

Blue Girl Reading (1935). Frederick C. Frieseke (American, 1874-1939). Oil on canvas.

Blue Girl Reading (1935). Frederick C. Frieseke (American, 1874-1939). Oil on canvas.

I received a very niceand complimentary e-mail  from a reader of Stories Online . However, as she or he has chosen to remain Anonymous, I can’t just re-print his/her e-mail, but in the e-mail there was the following:

If you are not already publishing for pay somewhere, I would imagine it’s only because you haven’t tried or haven’t met the right editor or publisher yet.

Well, I have been published for pay, but not for a great deal of money, when I was a regular contributor to the now defunct Ruthie’s Club and I’ve received remuneration (again not very much) for contributing to other websites, but I haven’t been published in print (unless you count the option available on Lulu to buy my fiction in paperback format).

It would be easy for me to pretend that I’ve specifically chosen not to be published in a more legitimate fashion and thereby enable my books to be available at Waterstones, WH Smiths and Asda, but the truth is that it is very difficult to get published in that way and I just haven’t got the patience, persistence and self-belief to put the effort in to realise that ambition. And in any case, I cherish my anonymity rather more than I expect to gain from the paltry income which is all that the greater majority of authors ever earn. For every best-selling author and the many more who earn a tolerable living, there are many more who earn just about what you get from working at Primark or McDonald’s (although in much more pleasant surroundings).

The publishing industry is in a strange kind of crisis, rather like that in the film and music industries, where the traditional ways of doing things have been overturned by the internet and where there have generally been more losers than winners. Self-publishing threatens the traditional publishers who are now much more conservative in what they choose to print, but their relative decline is not necessarily a good thing. It isn’t just long lunch-breaks and juicy advances that are threatened, there are also the services that the traditional publishers and literary agents offer the writer, such as professional proof-reading, publicity, book-tours and kudos.

Even though I don’t participate directly in the publishing industry and just use free outlets to circulate my fiction, it’s a worry to me as to how the literary professions will survive or rather, given the example of the music industry, in what shape literature will survive. People still want to read books (whether electronic or paper-based), but there will be a rush towards the cheapest and most accessible which may very well mean that fiction which requires dedicated effort to read and, of course, write will no longer be published in the future.

So, although this probably doesn’t bother the average reader of Literotica or Stories OnLine, it bothers me. What will the world be like if adventurous fiction like Will Self’s Umbrella or James Joyce’s Ulysses can not find a publisher?

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