For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching the WGA strike and thinking about its implications for all writers and other creatives. (Here’s a cool video for fans to take action and here’s even more info.)
More fodder for consideration came in the form of the Devil’s guest blog right here on Murderati last Thursday AND the release of the Kindle, Amazon’s new electronic reader. Newsweek posited that this little machine — and other technologies — will change the face of reading. Among the suppositions is that writing will become public, a community endeavor.
Does that idea send a shudder down your back? It sure makes me pause. Frankly, I don’t think creativity should be democratic. Though screenwriters and playwrights have dealt with massive input in their works for decades, I wince at how this would play out for novelists — especially if the people doing the input had no more vested interest than $9.99.
When the Devil gave his choices on Murderati, the one that was by far the most popular was: #2. Here, writers would earn massive amounts of money but would get no recognition; fame wouldn’t even get close enough to kiss their knickers.
I picked number two. My answer probably came as a surprise to some people who know how much I go out into the world and market my works. I do love the recognition and the ego-boost from fans. I like the give-and-take of personal interaction. From my video on MySpace, you might get the impression that this is what’s most important to me. But it’s not. Though I may wax romantic about my chosen profession, the bottom line IS my bottom line.
I want to make money.
Which brings me to the mish-mosh of all of those influences above — and more. Something’s in the air. Consider the National Endowment for the Arts’ study about the demise of reading, or all the WGA writers’ blogs including this poignant one from tightropegirl, and you’ll get the feeling that there’s a tilt to the world, that there’s a shift among those who write; those who review and buy our works; and those who steal or profit unjustly from our literary efforts.
I wonder . . . Has creative writing ever been accorded much respect? If the answer is "yes," it seems to me, nowadays, it’s afforded even less.
There’s a strange assumption that anyone can do it.
I think, at least in fiction, part of the reason for this shift is that ANYONE can. It used to be that vanity presses just cost too much for the average Joe. Now they don’t. There are also scads of e-publishers and small houses that will publish anything.
I’m not arguing good or bad, pro or con. I’m just saying that this has devalued people’s perception of the craft.
In addition to this change, publishing houses themselves are throwing more and more books into the market. You’d think this would be a good thing. I don’t. I think more and more books are left flailing because of the lack of attention. Consumers are too overwhelmed.
When I watched Jeff Bezos from Amazon on Charlie Rose last week, I felt a nagging discomfort.
In a few years, or a decade, how will writers be paid? If books all become $9.99, what’s the formula for reimbursement?
We’ve seen how the major studios are dealing with screenwriters. They don’t want to relinquish even pennies on the dollar. Can we expect that publishers will be more generous in the coming years? Even with the decrease in production costs, will they pass those savings onto consumers while upping the pay to the people who generate their products — the writers?
All of this makes me uneasy. On the one hand, technology will help one of my children, the one with the visual impairment. Increased font size for any book will be a glorious boon. I also like the electronic revolution for its environmental benefits — less felled trees equal more oxygen; that’s a good equation.
On the other hand, I can see a day when the creative act of writing and the execution and polishing of true craft, will be treated as if they’re popcorn — plentiful and pure fluff — with no value at all.
That’s a bleak thought.
What say you?