Friday, June 26, 2009

The Publishing Police

The other night at the Erster Bar among the corpulent tourists and crapulent straphangers the bookish boys were busy shooting from the hip. Big Gee waxing philosophical. Murph the Surf smiling crookedly. The Quiet Man balancing on the head of a pin. The bookish boys and Pretty Polly with the emerald eyes. Call us an underground quorum. Call us the Mod Squad. All we needed was a tumblerful of gin and a splash of attitude. Hey, poot, throw open the window and take a leap of faith.

"Let writers write and publishers publish. Hey, I need my effin paycheck. This is a lost year. We're not seeing anything worth the paper it's printed on. Just crap. I think agents are holding back, waiting for business to pick up. It feels like they control things these days, doesn't it? I mean, we're all so desperate for a hit." A hit. Yes, indeed,
desperate for a hit.

"The've got a long wait ahead of them. This market shift is effin seismic. I just wanna publish one good book and publish it well. I mean, isn't that what we're supposed to do." Oh my caballeros, we're riding a dead horse. But who can blame us? It's hard not to feel a touch of the apocalypse in the air these days.

"Maybe once upon a time. These days we're just a bunch of rejection artists. It's nuts. Every Tom-Dick-and-Mary out there thinks that they've written a book. This one's written the next
Kite Runner. That one's written the new Freakonomics. I tell 'em, 'Nobody makes a living at it except for point oh oh one percent.' They don't get it. They don't realize that they've got to work at it. Then I tell 'em to go and publish it themselves if they think I'm wrong. Hell, everybody likes the smell of their own farts. After laughter comes the tears. Isn't that what blogging's all about?" Oh my caballeros, it's all too easy, the cynicism, the dismissal, the sadness. That feeling of betrayal which turns into anger, it's real. You learned to do something well and now no one gives a shite. I stared into the Well of Narcissus and tried to keep from puking.

"What are you gonna do? This business supports a lot of overhead but not many writers. It's all bass-ackwards. The brain drain is scary. These clowns at the top don't want creative minds, all they want is creative accounting. For two decades we were publishing wallpaper. That's over and done with. So how long before the jig is up and we all get the ax?" Not long. Every day we get a little closer to the edge. Look down, poot, go ahead and take a leap of faith.

They pour top shelf at the Erster Bar and the Mod Squad was getting loud. Louder than the bovine tourists, but not as loud as the PTSD crew. The Quiet Man and Pretty Polly wanted to shuffle off before the effin lobsters started strutting out of their tank. Quist used to say, "Discretion is the better part of valor." So we called for the tab and blew out the back way before the Publishing Police could get a bead on our whereabouts.


  1. At least the business used to support some overhead, if not writers. It's not even doing that any more. Maybe the business won't be so "bass-ackwards" by the time this thing shakes out. Maybe it won't even be a business.

  2. I agree with you Arsen about the business no longer supporting overhead. As for the future of publishing -- making written work public will still exist as a human activity after the shakeout. But will we recognize it and who will profit from it?