Yes, you understood that correctly. A mahoosive, monosyllabic, barely linguistic grunt, expressing a profound feeling of resignation. Or perhaps you’re reading too much into it…
Whatever the case, ‘Ugh’ is as much expressivity as I can gather under the circumstances.
Those of you waiting for news of a new JD’L novel are going to be disappointed. Gallashan, like K’an before it, isn’t going to make it into print for the foreseeable future. Together, the two novels represent three years of work, for which readers will read and I will be paid in exactly the same measure: nothing whatsoever.
Among other things, I’m told my fiction isn’t formulaically correct for ‘the market’, that it ‘falls between the genre cracks’, that it isn’t ‘Game of Thronesy’ enough, that I don’t anthropomorphise my forces of antagonism, which will leave readers unsatisfied by the resulting lack of interpersonal conflict (scenes between the good guys and the bad guys won’t be exciting enough for you).
All of these comments, in my opinion, arise in fear-based thinking; thinking in which nothing matters more than profit – not even spectacular, entertaining flights of the imagination. My lot, for now, appears to be like that of Icarus. I was inspired, flapped extraordinarily and overcooked it on the altitude.
So, this is me falling back to earth.
It’s a frustratingly straightforward problem in essence. You want to read my novels. I want you to read them. However, the process which makes that perfectly natural exchange of energies possible won’t allow those two things to happen.
It’s worth saying at this point, and completely openly, that I understand the problem may not lie with the industry at all but with me, my ideas and the way that I present them in fiction. I’m not quite so pig-headed as to believe that I’m an infallible literary genius. And what about those sour grapes, I hear you asking. True, I have bowls and bowls of them and their aftertaste is ever-present.
Nevertheless, If I’ve got the art of story-telling so right before, it does seem odd that I’m suddenly getting it wrong after all these years, when in my view I’m creating better-crafted, more exciting work than ever.
What’s really on the minds of publishing’s gatekeepers these days? How do they make their decisions? Commissioning Editors don’t really commission like they used to; they can only second guess the outcome of the next acquisitions meeting, where the marketing team rule the roost, and make decisions accordingly.
Anything different or challenging that doesn’t appear to have mass appeal in the eyes of the marketing department or doesn’t resemble something else that’s been successful before isn’t even going to be discussed. Where’s the space for creative originality and groundbreaking entertainment possibilities here?
I can only conclude that corporate fiction publishing no longer serves the reader, nor the writer, nor even literature. It only serves itself.
You’re not going to like this – you’re not going to like it A LOT – but here’s how the industry has altered what writers do and the knock on effect it has for readers, using me as the example.
Rather than cracking on with my next imagination-bending, mind-expanding novel – as I’ve always done – there’s a new me, a robot me, living under a new machine-like regime.
Here’s how it works:
I create several short proposals, based on my backlog of ideas, and present them to my agent. My agent measures them against what has recently been ‘successful’. When one of my proposals looks like a fit for the ‘market’, I write the novel, making certain to tick all the formulaic marketing boxes along the way.
I’m not joking. I’m actually doing this right now.
Thus, you, dear reader, get a book a lot like that one you read last year that was pretty good but you can’t quite remember the title. The author’s name will have escaped you too, as the industry has already chewed them up and spat them out.
But, hey, the publisher made a profit across the season’s new titles, the robot writer got what robots get (a very minor greasing), the robot readers out there got what they wanted (at least, according to the marketing department) and everybody’s happy. Welcome to the not-so-brave, not-so-new world of fiction publishing.
Or, as I prefer to say: Fuck. That. Noise.
If there are any real editors out there, ones who want to do what editors used to do, here’s my throwdown: request my novels, request my short stories, read something that doesn’t abide by a set of profit-led rules. Then make me an offer that’s going to cover several years of unremunerated work.
Well, it was worth a try, I guess.
I’m toeing the robot line for now, because I’m out of options. Writing currently earns me less than a week’s minimum wage per annum and it’s been like that for quite a while now. If I want to keep doing it, I need to find a way to make it pay. So, please don’t be surprised when my next book reads like something you’ve read before rather than the joltingly unconventional material you’ve come to expect from me.