The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Monday, April 24, 2006

DIY vs. RIP - 3

Some more thoughts on the issue of DIY literature:

One of the commentators at Bookninja, TT, comments on the question of why independent productions (that is, creative work packaged and distributed by the artist) don't seem to be as viable in the publishing world as in the music business:

The music world has, for various reasons, become a place where all the interesting work comes from the independent world and the independent world is where the mainstream looks to. The publishing world isnt like that at all, again, for a variety of reasons.... One reason that you skirt near, however, is the community. An indie artist can actually sell work and sometimes as much as mainstream artist. Currently there isnt a separate thriving indie publishing world....

The sentence "the publishing world isnt like that at all, again, for a variety of reasons" is an understatement. However, overall this is a very interesting comment. Developing a community -- that is, a passionately enthusiastic audience -- is crucial to developing an indie scene in any branch of culture. But then why assume that just because one doesn't exist for self-published work it never will? Maybe this criticism is a clue.


Developing an indie scene for self-published work is not meant to be an absolute alternative to mainstream publishing. Consider the music world analogy again: indie labels are not a replacement for major labels. For many bands, they're a stepping stone -- unless, of course, the indie label develops the marketing and distribution clout of a major music label.

The main criticism that should be leveled at major publishing houses at this point in time is that they have walled themselves off too much. They are creating a situation in which DIY publishing (sometimes called "POD" for published-on-demand books) is necessary.


And in any case, it's not always true that a community for DIY lit doesn't exist. There are some excellent sites devoted to DIY lit that are already creating the kind of community that TT describes above. (See nomediakings, for example.)

This phenomenon quickly leaves itself open to charges of DIY lit somehow being shallow and unsophisticated. For example,
one literary genre that has succeeded in creating an indie community is science-fiction writing. But there's a lot of snobbery against science fiction -- some of it justified and some of it, well, snobbish.

What, then, about a literary form like poetry? More and more, it is finding a home for itself on the net -- in poetry blogs or online magazines. And all this, too, is very often DIY, or something close. How can the phenomenon of DIY poetry be explained?

As DIY lit grows in a specific field, so do the institutions around it. A more formal poetry community is also growing on the Net. For evidence of that, see this article from Publishers' Weekly. [Hat-tip to The Reading Experience.]


To return to the issue of the major publishing houses and their current strong tendency to inhibit submissions from lesser known writers: The common thread to all this seems to be that the publishing industry has to change ... and some of that change is going to have to come, however grudgingly, from the top.


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