Monday, December 22, 2008

The Argument for Online Literary Journals

There have been many times when I sit back and think about the shape my industry is in and just scratch my head. How did it get this bad? My answer is always the same: the industry is getting old and tired and the corporations that run it have no idea who readers are and don't seem to care to know. It is all just product to them. Therefore, it's dying.

I also always come up with the same answer to solving this crisis: the Internet and small presses. The Internet has saved us from so much disaster already. The online communities that have been built on it has saved the US politically. It has produced jobs, not enough to save everyone, but a number have been created. It has also saved a lot of people from the loneliness and isolation we've all felt during these rough emotional Bush years.

So how can the Internet save the book industry? Online literary Journals: we need lots of them. Journals akin to The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast and io9. Journals with book reviews, short stories from new and upcoming authors, commentary, op-ed pieces, columns/blogs/cross-posts by authors and editors, even insider rumors about the industry, and blogs, lots and lots of lit blogs. I tried to turn into this. Maybe I will try again. Some -- most -- don't see my vision. I'm getting used to this. Sometimes I see into the future too far for others to understand what I'm saying and it comes out sounding like crazy talk. But I know this is the future. A future where new authors are discovered by tons and tons of small online lit magazines. Maybe they will be the frontend of small presses that produce the books of these new writers -- and make a profit.

Someone will start this. That someone will make a little money, not a lot, just a little. And it will catch on. They will discover, just as the SciFi world already knows, that the way to survive in the book industry is to have a constant flow of fresh new authors. To find them you must have open submissions. The new authors are out there just waiting to be discovered.

This will bring excitement and new energy into the book industry that is now tired. The authors in the mainstream are getting old. Yes, Toni Morrison will sell books, so will John Updike, and Cormac McCarthy, but let's be serious these greats can't live forever. The whole industry can't rest on the works of people who are getting on in years. As for younger authors there is Jhumpa Lahiri and Colson Whitehead and the "Johnathan's." But does it make sense that you can count on your hand the number of young authors who can excite people into buying new books?

The corporations that currently own the publishing industry have long given up on cultivating new writers. They think of this as an expense that can be cut in lieu of producing (actually over-producing) books with a "proven market." Mistake, mistake, mistake! Those who love books should follow the lead of people like Wildside Press who produce books for the fantasy industry. Their model is an exceptional one and is forward thinking. They have online magazines that thus give them the authors who write their books and the audience who will read them. It is a smart, good business model. It is a smart good book business model.

This is my advice to the industry for the next year. I wonder if anyone will listen.


jenn said...

Just to add, I am aware of the many university-like online journals out there. They are great and serve a function. What I'm talking about in this post is something more exciting and commercial. Journals that are updated daily and are kept current. This is actually an exciting industry, but you would never know it with the publications that we currently have both in print and online.

Manchild said...

Hello Jenn,

How insightful you are. Had I chosen to give up when everybody kept telling me "you're ahead of your time," my life wouldn't be the same today. Never give up.

"Believe." Believe when nobody else does. Besides, you've come too far to turn back now.

Don't let yourself get lost in the darkness. Don't forget that the "obstacles" we all encounter are there to see who wants to succeed the most.

"But by grace still go I."


Anonymous said...

Hi there, much love is evident from your post.
I firmly believe that those who read will lead. I'm also a web developer who put pen to paper after an event nearly engulfed me while on the bus to work in the city of London one fine day.

The technologhies you lament are actually discovery mechanisms that will, in time lead the users to our beloved books.
I'm still working it out myself, though my books sold over 700 copies which is pretty decent for a first novel and more importantly I've recieved great feedback.

Daniel Obachike said...

Opps... how rude of me. I did the last post but didn't mean to be anonymous.

Daniel Obachike

jenn said...

Thanks guys for commenting on my post. Most times I feel (know?) that I'm speaking to the ether. Thanks for letting me know that someone out there is listening. Your encouraging words are received with much gratitude.

Have a happy new year!

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