June 8, 2012

BEA No More?

I'm a firm believer in the idea that everyone has different opinions, and that's what makes the world go 'round. However, I also believe that because there are so many vastly different opinions in the world, we should do our best to respect not only other opinions, but also present ours in a way that conveys our own messages without being rude or short-minded.

An opinion is just an opinion. It should be clear, but doesn't have to be true for everyone.

So. There's this article by author Michael Levin discussing several things, including how BEA is a waste of time, how publishers lie and cheat, and how the majority of authors today are "scriveners suffering from low self-esteem".


I don't agree.

I respect the variation of opinions here, but I cannot respect the way Levin has attacked not only the publishing world, but authors themselves. In fact, it makes his entire argument, in my personal opinion, seem childish and immature, and forces the reader to view him as cynical, close-minded, and pessimistic. He seems bitter, as though he was wronged once/twice/thrice before. I don't believe the proper way to voice your opinion is to attack the person/people that believe otherwise, or include an entire group of people in your own bitter resentment lullaby.

I'll let you read the article on your own, but I will say this: No one is hiding the fact that publishing companies are interested in making money. Loads of money. In fact, the majority of publishing companies will admit to it, or, at the very least, show it by continuing series by authors who have developed outstanding fan bases and/or outstanding sales. One doesn't need to know the amount of books sold to understand what is popular, especially in the YA market. Also, I don't know of any author that hasn't admitted to be excited that foreign rights were sold to his/her book. Now, I agree that there might be money owed to authors in terms of traditional publishing. However, I do not agree that self-publishing is a way to avoid this. Self-publishing is hard. It is near impossible. There is marketing to do, book covers to make, editing to be had, ARCs to promote, etc, etc, etc, and it's nearly impossible to do all that on your own and make a penny. Of course, with anything, there are exceptions. But the way Levin is explaining his opinion of the current publishing world by suggesting that soon we will have an author revolution on our hands? I could not disagree more.

Yes, traditional publishing is difficult.

It is exclusive.

It is, at times, unfair.

It is about branding yourself.

It is costly.

It is everything self-publishing is and more, but it is not a sinking ship.

Levin discuss his opinions on BEA, stating that "the usual panel discussions" are evidence that the publishers and community that put on the event "aren't smart" especially since, in his opinion, "the traditional New York publishing model is on its last legs."

I'll say this: The YA field of publishing, traditional or otherwise, is not only about books. As of recently, it has become a plethora of authors discussing, examining, theorizing, and evolving YA literature, characters, and plot. The YA community is a thriving market. With a few exceptions, the blockbuster reads in the past decade have all been YA books. This is why there are panels. This is why there are authors that make school visits. This is why there are authors that hold conferences to help teens write, and posts blog post after blog post about the publishing world. The YA community, as a whole, is about encouraging writing. It's about making a difference. It's about acceptance, and positivity, and leading by example. It's about making a brand for yourself by creating an identity with your fans. Most of the time, it's about being a writer and not an author at all. Perhaps it's because publishing companies are promoting more and more YA literature, that Levin is feeling excluded and bitter, but he should note that part of being an author is having to anticipate trends - and have a bit of luck. Certainly, a non-fiction adult novel is not going to sell as well as a YA paranormal these days. Is that the publishers fault? Not at all. If publishers published ONLY non-fiction books in 2012, J.K. Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY would surely still be the #1 bestseller of the year. Is that because Rowling targeted the YA world first, or because she is a talented writer? Both, probably.

The YA community is, mostly, about celebrating the diversity of the genre, the love of the writing craft, and the knowledge that we should not shy away from difficult situations/problems/reads/characters.

There is good and bad in everything. Everything. Perhaps that is why we should remember why we do what we do instead of damning the industry completely.

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