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Monday, October 18, 2010

Publishing in the Age of the Great Yawn

The Internet is empowerment. This is what we always hear. It gives everyone a chance to be seen, heard from, opinion, publish, record, you name it and you an do it. We can go and launch podcasts, release press releases, twitter into our neighbors face. In Walt Whitman's words: "I will not be denied!" So this is a great thing...yes? Well it is here so it doesn't matter if it is a great name or not. But if you have sent out a resume, published a book, distributed your song, shot out your press release, blogged until your fingers fall off, then chances are you have experienced the great democracy of the Internets colossal yawn. Or to put it in a more direct way: nothing comes back.

This is a strange sided effect of our collective empowerment. Let's take publishing. Once upon a time there was a thing called a publishing industry and if you wanted to publish a book then you had to deal with this beast. Chances are some of you have caught the supreme back hand of that industry in a few form letters. You had a choice, make your work better or give up any idea of publishing. Even then of course there was no guarantee, but if you did manage to get through and your book published then you were let into an exclusive club. Your book may not become a bestseller but you were a published author and this brought a certain result you could count on--a book in a store, maybe one, books in libraries, maybe a few, and respect of your peers.

Let's take pubishing now. You want to publish a book, you do it. In fact you can do it in a week. Boom. Game over. You are a published author. Might get some reviews, sell a few, maybe your book will get bought by New York. The problem is not that you have sidestepped the old publishing industry its just that everyone in the new industry is publishing a book. So what does that mean? Think of a highway with a thousand hot dog stands. You all have a product but only so many people can eat hot dogs. It is at this point you experience the supreme indifference of the Internet. The great cyber void just doesn't give a damn.

Self publishing is honorable. Authors from Hemingway to Faulkner have done it, but rarely was the result so instantaneous or cheap. This kept a lot of people who did not have the passion for the word from attempting this very expensive and arduous endeavor. Indifference on this scale is something few of us have had to contemplate. We usually always had someone to register our work, our individuality. But with everyone wired into the same circle there is just not enough individuality to go around. So people don't respond. You send out a hundred resumes, a hundred books, a hundred CD's and nothing comes back. That's because we are talking numbers in the hundreds of thousands floating around out there. You are one of the many. And what is worse you can be dismissed with a keystroke.

While others had to deal with the supreme indifference of a country scattered and barely wired, we have to deal with cacophony of voices calling from every corner for our notice. And we miss their calls, because we are busy calling out too. Like ships in the night, we end up missing our own salvation.

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

Books by William Hazelgrove