|"Late 19th-century bookseller's sign
in one of three languages on the Rokin, Amsterdam."
Courtesy of Herman Brinkman
of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and sxc.hu.
So about that price: I’m not the least bit unhappy about it, although when I was young, it disturbed me. Came to terms with it, you see. I willingly pay that price because I just don‘t measure success in the same way that the marketplace measures it. In fact, success is a word that sits uneasily with beauty and shapeliness and art.
* * *
The big houses of New York City and elsewhere are increasingly commercial, as their editors openly admit to writers. I’m afraid this is no longer a brave thing to assert. It is the stuff of casual conversation between writers and editors and is the subject of many posts and articles. The days of literary-minded gentlemen who wanted to contribute to making the high culture of their country and make a modest 3% profit are long gone. (For that matter, their beloved houses are all owned by overseas investors.)
Anybody of reasonable intelligence and patience with a willingness to revise may attempt to write a commercial novel. If you are one of those who wishes to do so, I leave you to the field and to any pots of rainbow gold you find along the way, with the reminder that most competent commercial books aren't rainbows and don’t actually lead to a leprechaun pot spilling over with money. You might do better with scratch-off tickets.
But if you are mad to write and mean to hew to making the books you are meant to write, those books that will change you as if by alchemy and, one hopes, bring deep pleasure to others, then you may well have to relinquish any delusions of a publisher hoisting you toward raging popularity. This is a concession that must be made if you refuse to make other concessions to the marketplace. In fact, unless you are among the lucky souls whose creations are anointed as a lead book to a major house--that particular gold ring is another matter, although even it comes with no guarantee--you will probably not have to worry about what to do with any raging popularity. Instead, you will be busy trying to let the world know that your book exists. And if you haven't done so already, that might be a good time to give up measuring success or beauty or shapeliness or art by worldly means.