Though our publishers will tell you that they are ever seeking “original” writers, nothing could be farther from the truth. What they want is more of the same, only thinly disguised. They most certainly do not want another Faulkner, another Melville, another Thoreau, another Whitman. What the public wants, no one knows. Not even the publishers.
Henry Miller, as quoted by Jon Winokur at AdviceToWriters.com
I count Henry Miller among my favorite authors. But here in the Tropic of Porter, I could enjoy that comment of his a lot more if I didn’t think it made today’s least savvy writers feel smarter than they are.
In my corporate career, I’ve seen corner-office carpet curl right up at the edges under chief-executive declarations of devotion to “creativity.” The suits always want to:
- “Change the game.”
- “Take it to the next level.”
- “Reach out” to their staffers and ask those employees to “share” (without extra compensation) the innovative marvels of their fecund imaginations.
And the traditional publishing establishment is a creature of corporate structure, of course, whether privately or publicly held. It exists to turn a profit for its stakeholders. Corporations tolerate disruption badly, poor sales unhappily, and creativity not at all — lip service only.
However, if you look at Miller’s passage again, you’re likelier than you were the first time to notice the next to last sentence.
What the public wants, no one knows.
No one knows.
Not even writers.
A couple of recent events have made it clearer than anybody might like that authors can be as far from knowledgeable as Miller complained the publishers were. [Read more…]