|Photo from Brandmaker News|
Virginia Wolfe had such strong ideas about her writing that she self-published (through the publishing company she and her husband built). She wanted editorial control over her words. Ms Potter was, likewise, headstrong and knew what she wanted. Both (in these films, at least) came across as standing a little outside of society, though, not necessarily having many friends, and suffering greatly from mental afflictions such as anxiety.
I can relate.
I was talking to Dave about this tonight because for the past few weeks I've been struggling with the idea of figuring out what the market wants, what publishers want (you know, besides good spelling and structure), and whether or not I can do what is wanted. It is a struggle for me because I don't read a lot - I don't read a lot because I read slowly (I've seriously considered learning Braille to find out if I couldn't read more quickly that way, but then again, it's not easy to get new releases in Braille either), and also because I struggle to maintain focus for any length of time.
I bought a copy of the Sleepers Almanac No. 6 and have been reading the shorts in that to try and get a feel for what the editors there are moved by. I absolutely adored Grey Sky Morning by Jack Cassidy. One other story, I won't mention the title of, did nothing for me at all - it seemed to have no point to it. So, it's a mixed bag. I haven't read all the stories, or even half of them, so I can't say what the mood of the anthology is yet. Still, I found myself wondering if my writing would fit at all.
Writers are often encouraged to write for themselves first and foremost, but that is some sort of cruel joke in many ways. Publishers definitely have a concept of literary fashion, 'This is in, but that is so 2004, and no one is reading that kind of fiction anymore, it's been done to death!'
In order to do the kind of work I want to do (for an income) - teach writing to others - I am compelled to get published, which means I have to know what sells, because what sells is the bottom line, right?
The thing is, a big part of 'what sells' these days is the author.
At the Melbourne Writer's Festival last year I attended a panel on 'Author as Brand', where the panel discussed the phenomenon of authors presenting themselves as a brand, with both its advantages and disadvantages. A strong point was made for 'being yourself'...
Do you see my problem?
Okay, well, how many authors are socially awkward, introverted and possibly even off-putting when they open their mouths? How many are not funny or charismatic? Maybe quite a few? How would Beatrix Potter and Virginia Wolfe fare in this bold new world of self-promotion - where 'networking' is a catch word, and you've got to have the X factor when you walk into a room? If publishing is a popularity contest and the writer has never been socially popular, how does the writer manage?
I wonder if the Emerging Writers' Festival or the Melbourne Writers' Festival will ever run forums on 'How to Make Friends and Influence People for the Socially Inept'? I'd be first in line to sign up for those forums!