Going on the Account: Written Up

So Forbes released its list of this year’s ten highest-paid authors.  And no surprise, James Patterson (Inc.) is first, as was assumed would be the case…

Frankly, the old question comes up when I read such stuff: Where is the love?  More precisely, why is it so important to look at units moved and positioning your sales vis-à-vis your peers?

In some ways, the whole question of the Cincinnatus imperative is inevitable, wherein the question of whether we write for something other than the advance must be raised.  And frankly, Louis B. Mayer’s motto Ars gratia artis has only a limited amount of weight compared with where that all ended up over time, to the point where the current state of MGM’s liquidity is becoming a major running gag in an on to itself…

But are we now in the Information Age (or Post-Information Age if you go with those folks) at the point where this shouldn’t mean anything anymore?  Are we now poised where the thinking about writing that was influenced by industrial processes no longer applies?

As of late, I’m finding that the old childhood myths about a writing career seem rather quaint, but for different reasons.  In the past, it used to be that when you gave up on your writing career, it was because you accepted that something was wrong with you, and settled for some established mediocrity wherein you agreed with everyone else that no, you were not a writer.

Imagine all the folks who could of, should have, been realized, and compare them with the ones who were that we ask, why where they?  And there are a few folks on Forbes’ list that fit that later category, where you read a page and cry for the canon that this is the high art…

For good or ill, we now have the tools whereby we can reach the masses without relying on the established channels for distribution.  I say good or ill, knowing full well how much crap we’re going to endure when we get to go through this stuff, but is it any worse than the process whereby someone with a unique voice outside the expected gets shunted because it doesn’t fit into the market model?  What if Kurt Vonnegut gave up before the critical mass of received rejection letters was hit, which allowed him to become the icon we now have?  And think about the rejection letters Jules Verne racked up before he broke it big, not to mention Philip K. Dick’s two walls of rejection that preceded all the films based on his works (though we’re still waiting for someone to tackle The Man in the High Castle)…

And by comparison, ask yourself: Who amongst these ten at the top of Forbes’ list would you not read unless the life of a family member was at stake…?

It’s a new world out there, where you can work as a writer and have something to put in the hand of your audience to show for your effort without the gates being closed on you, rightly or not.  The only real determinants of your success are the true real rules of the market (as opposed to the ones that certain vested interests want you to buy into), where there’s a more honest exchange between artist and audience that hadn’t been seen before.  And it doesn’t look like there’s that level of exchange going on right now between the members on Forbes’ list and the readers, all said…

Bitter and cynical much?  Lord, I hope not…

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