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Monday, September 13, 2010

Writing "literary" fiction and trying to sell

No one starts out trying to write "literary" fiction. I just started out writing and my early novels were lumped into "literary". Literary quickly becomes a code word for books that don't sell. But why you are writing has nothing to do with selling books. Then you get published by a large publisher (Bantam in my case) and get a little money and selling books becomes very important. You always want to sell your books because it is getting out there your view or art for want of a better word. When I was struggling to get published in Chicago in very much the survival mode I just thought about getting published. Period. You just wanted to be heard.

Then you do get published and it turns very quickly into "do anything to sell." This is not why I started writing in the first place, but you are quickly lumped in with every person cashing in on celebrity and star power with a book. Obviously you are clearly outgunned in an arena you never had any business in in the first place. But you continue to publish and do all the things to push your book. In the age of the Internet it is particularly brutal. Writing on the Internet is one way authors promote their books. I decided to write to sound out different ideas and I happen to like the form. But there is a pressure all authors must deal with.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's were not out of print at the time of his death. This is usually why people cannot buy a book, but it was actually worse. Scribner had books they could put in bookstores, there was simply no demand. And if you read the reviews at the time, quite a few people slammed The Great Gatsby. Again literary fiction, even great literary fiction has to struggle to make it's way. As a writer of fiction in the year 2010, I am happy to be read at all. If only by the few. But if I stumbled into a bestseller, a very big if, I would still have to sit down in front of the computer and wrestle with the same old demons. I think that's what being a writer is all about.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel is Rocket Man due out in the fall.

Books by William Hazelgrove