Publishing transparency – a terrible joke and galvanized oxymoron. There are always a variety of questions which stem from my non-literary world friends:
- How do you get published?
- Do you need an agent?
- How much money do you make?
- Can you put me in your next story?
I answer them to the best of my ability, which, being an unpublished nobody, is not very well. But I have done my research (you may be surprised at how many aspiring writers do not) and I found it rather difficult to have these basic questions resolved. You would think that the information was readily available, but the truth of the matter is that there is massive interference. You cannot simply type ‘Writer’ into Salary.com and be bequeathed an answer, nor will publishing houses merrily divulge that sort of information; this isn’t ESPN dealing out contract details. However, the advent of blogs and Twitter has opened the proverbial door between authors, their readers, and their aspiring-to-be-like-them minions.
Authors like John Scalzi and Maureen Johnson frequently answer public inquiries in regard to the windfalls and woes of authorship, thus removing a few of the bricks in the wall. Scalzi posted this seven years back, and, although aged, it provides fantastic insight about book deals; while Johnson takes questions on her Twitter - although she may use you for cannon fodder if you don’t step lightly. Also, prolific authoress Lynn Viehl damn near shattered the wall with her full disclosure concerning her time on the NYT Bestseller List, royalties, and advances.
These glances through the looking glass are important because it provides a semblance of cohesion between established and aspiring writers. These people, once nobodies, now names in lights, offer, I think, hope. It is not the promise of success, nor the encouragement of good writing, but the emotional, human effort of an otherwise heartless business. These are real, tangible authors with real voices, sharing the truths which too often are sugarcoated and processed, or dismissed altogether.
And I feel that this has always been my issue with many industries and countless people – the lack of trust, the refusal to step from behind the curtain. People and corporations, more often than not those with money and fame, so easily forget, or repress, their beginnings, and they fail in building that connection to the next generation – they allow the bridge which they crossed to burn, scoffing at the suggestion to rebuild it. And that’s a terrible thing, that’s no way to live.
As writers, as people, we owe as much to those who helped us traverse our failures as we do to those who celebrated our successes. And with authors such as Scalzi, Johnson, and Viehl allowing public eyes to peruse their monetary accomplishments, you can only applaud them for their trust. They get it. They understand this process we call life, even though it doesn’t always seem to apply to it. They understand that no one forever owns the sky.
And no one ever will.