Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Publishing crazy and doomed thinks Cheetham

Also in today's blog
Susan Hill's creative writing course
Louise Doughty's "c w" course

Actually "Crazy and Doomed" is the heading on Anthony Cheetham's opinion column in this week's issue of The Bookseller. Whether he headed his piece with those words, who knows? But they sum up the content of the column.

For anyone reading this blog who doesn't know who Anthony Cheetham is, he was formerly CEO of Random Century and Orion, and now is Chairman of Quercus and The Friday Project.

He writes : "So what is the problem? Perhaps it has to do with the idea that we operate in a mass market environment; that it makes sense to sell books in the same way as socks or sausages or cheap flights. This is an illusion which persists, although we know that only a fraction of 1% of all books published could be truly classified as mass market. The industry's big players are relentlessly focused on seeking out that 1%, piling them high, and discounting them as deeply as they dare."

And later he writes : "But it's still a crazy system. Crazy because it's not an effective or efficient way of serving readers who are not a homogenous mass market, but a complex series of layered and overlapping communities with different tastes and interests. And because it's crazy, it seems unlikely to last."

Susan Hill's "Creative Writing" course

My heart sank on reading that, in September, publisher/author Susan Hill is adding yet another "creative writing" course to the long list of those already in existence.

She writes, "But more than anything, my qualification is probably a passion for fiction and a desire to nurture and encourage real talent. I don`t want there to be more novelists I want there to be more better novelists and to foster originality - not to create Creative Writing Course Clones."

Good writers are born, not made, and they don't need the kind of help offered by these ridiculous CW classes which serve only to increase the number of second- and third- rate writers.

Today, even on published writers' forums, there are people who express themselves clumsily, can't spell and have problems writing more than one-liners.

Of her year-long writing course at the Daily Telegraph, Louise Doughty wrote -

"It was Sunday lunchtime when my partner wandered into the kitchen and said, "Take a look at your message board." No fewer than 162 writers had wriggled their way through the labyrinthine processes involved to post their "The day after my eighth birthday…" sentences. To put this into perspective, under normal circumstances, a dozen letters to a columnist is considered a deluge.
By the end of the following day, we were in the high hundreds, and by the time I had to set the next exercise the following week, 1,808 people had responded and two bags of post had arrived. As I write this, there are 3,174 responses on the message board to that exercise alone.
After the initial flurry of interest, the responses, counting post and online messages, settled down to anything between 300 and 1,000 per week. A hard-core of contributors soon formed, mostly posting their responses online, where they met to discuss each other's work and, occasionally, fall out in spectacular fashion."

Does Susan Hill really want to clutter her life with a crowd of wannabes who, if they had the necessary gumption, would write a book and get it published, even in today's "crazy and doomed" publishing climate, under their own steam?


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