Years ago, I attended a workshop in which the well known, award winning editor told us his job was to filter the submissions and choose the best for his readers.
So far so good. We have people here, including me, who have read slush, and of course, no magazine no publishing house, no newspaper or even newsletter could survive long if you just took whatever came in over the transom and put it out for people.
[And no, before you say anything, no, most of these things AREN’T going straight to Indie. Most of the “fails” I am seeing on indie aren’t even real fails. They’re just things I don’t like, or things that offend my sense of how well something should be researched. They are not actually bad stories. Most of them. The majority of fails that “fail” across the board are actually what Kris Rusch called “Recital Pieces” i.e. stuff the author has written, polished, cleaned up and sent out to “editors” who are no such thing (or at least not good ones)) until the poor manuscript is dead, dead, dead. This is made worse by people-who-think-they’re-editors insisting on perfectly grammatical English when writing anything creative, emotive or persuasive. (Rolls eyes.) In other words, the worst of slush never made it to Indie.
Why not? you ask. I have a theory. The absolutely bottom of the barrel you got in slush was someone looking for affirmation, confirmation and pats on the back. Those are probably still submitting to book publishers and magazines in hopes of being published by “real” editors. Okay, maybe those aren’t the bottom, but the patients in mental hospitals and people writing on wrapping paper with chicken blood (you wish I were joking) aren’t even organized enough to put it up.]
But later in the same talk, the words “to educate the public” came out. In fact, you couldn’t spend much time around editors without hearing this. Stuff like “It is our duty to educate the public” was bad enough, but then there were things like “We need to broaden minds” or the one I think should be justification to send someone to the South Seas without a boat “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”
The thing I’m here to tell you is that they HONESTLY believed that. These people who, by and large, had mediocre degrees from excellent schools — ie had studied English because they already knew it and it wouldn’t be much work — and imbibed the Marxist indoctrination from their teachers without so much as quibbling at the fact that Marx never understood distribution, or that his theory of value meant if I spend a lot of time polishing a turd it should be worth the same as gold polished the same time, thought they needed to “educate” the vast majority of people who have jobs, raise families, create things, do things, and, yes, read things.
One does not know whether to admire them for the lack of understanding of economics or the hubris.
In fact, they’d either become persuaded that what their professors preached was “smart” because, well, their professors preached it and acted like they were smart or — for the slightly brighter — realized that if their dim-bulb professors could have a career from spouting the “right” (left) nonsense, it MUST mean that the power in society was with the left and that saying these things would get them those rewards.
As far as that went, they were right. We are surrounded by jumped up mediocrities, in writing, in editing, in academia, and even in science: people who got handed huge rewards by saying what the lefties in power wanted to hear, and joining the crusade to “educate” people.
Their hubris might never have done much, mind, without the changes in retail that allowed them to do all push in marketing. (I.e. the large bookstores where what was actually put on the shelves was pre-selected by the publishing houses “confidence” [how much they told the stores to stock.]) Or, of course, by a corrupt press that did things like report “bestsellers” based on laydown, before a single copy sold. (Years ago there was an article on how a supposed bestseller had sold two copies. An unusual case, but not that out of the ordinary, when a lot of “bestsellers” got there on laydown (i.e. one week and out.))
However, the changes in the market place and the completion of the long march in the press and academia, gave the left a lock on these fields. And unfortunately none of them had ever run a lemonade stand, or understood that while unsweetened lemonade might be “good” for people, for a definition of good, people just won’t buy it.
In other words, when you’re selling something to people, you have to give a damn what people want to buy.
I know that’s a strange concept to many people. And yet, it is the truth.
And the problem for the left is this: they try to solve things like “people just don’t want to buy this” with more “education”, more control, more attempts at making people buy what the left thinks it’s good for them.
It doesn’t work. The end result of the “push” model is the magnificent inefficiency of communist countries, where the few things for sale no one wants. (The left senses this too. Notice the mandate to buy health insurance, because if it wasn’t mandated you might not choose to buy. Or you might buy a policy that doesn’t cover abortion and sex change operations, just because everyone in your household is happy with what they got at birth, and is not/is no longer able to conceive. They know what’s good for you, Hater.)
The only reason people didn’t starve behind the curtain is that you can’t quite stop free trade. You can just make it illegal. But, well, that never stopped anything. (The illusion it does is another leftist thing I don’t get. Laws aren’t magical.)
When I was a kid in Portugal, while the “smart” people tinkered with the economy, people would make a living from the weirdest things, including but not limited to, learning to make bread during bakers’ strikes and sellin— I mean, letting your neighbors have a loaf and it’s it great they gave you a gift of money?
You can’t stop free trade. You can distort it, hide it, or make it take unexpected turns. But you can’t stop it. Now that they no longer think we’re the only animal who uses tools, maybe they’ll come up with a new definition for humans “the ape who trades.”
The problem is when what you’ve been trading is your “correct” opinions for all the coddling that the establishment can provide. Because see, the market isn’t there to support it. It just isn’t. No matter how loud you shout, you’re competing for a diminishing ability to reward your shouting.
Yes, we’ve seen Marvel admit that gosh darn it, the dogs just don’t like the food. But my guess is they’ll double down. Because the real market is not selling comics to people. It hasn’t been that for years. The real market is the executives selling themselves to the progressive establishment.
And the problem is the progressive establishment. It achieved control of a society it despised, and it went right on despising it, and trying to “improve” it and “educate” it.
The problem is that if people had complied, society would have stopped working, because these people produce nothing but theories and screeds.
And people couldn’t comply with that. So free trade continued to flourish.
The progressive establishment in those institutions it has taken over, killed, and now wears as an Edgar Suit, has tons of excuses as to why the dogs don’t like the food. One of them is that we’re all “haters” and “oppose diversity.” (In principle? It’s more that I don’t give a damn about their type of diversity. I don’t really care what’s between your legs, who you sleep with, or what shade of tan your skin is. I care mostly about the contents of your character, and in writing, whether you can write.) Another is that we’re just too darn stupid.
For years, I heard the decline in book buying blamed on everything, from TV to games, to people being illiterate and these stories being just so gosh darned complicated they don’t understand them.
Look, can people (as a multitude) be stupid? Sure. I mean all you have to do is drive in any major city to find yourself screaming things like “What do you think your turn signal is for” or “Get off the d*mn cell phone” or even “Driving baked seems like a good idea, because?”
But people, as they are, are the market. Or at least the people who read for fun are your market, if you work in any aspect of getting fiction to market.
Do people want to read Regencies that are basically modern characters in regency outfits? Sure. At least judging by sales ranks. So if you want to make money, is it worth it spending the time I do going “ARGH, that’s just wrong?” Probably not. It might be worth it TO YOU if you’re me that is, to walk the line and get as close as you can to what the public wants while keeping things semi-historically accurate, though.
But in the end, what matters if you are making a living, providing the public with a product, is that you …. provide the public with the product it’s telling you it wants to buy.
Can you make a living without doing what the public wants? What if your genius demands that you do something much better than what they want?
Ah. Would your genius be counting on government grants, rich friends, or a working spouse?
The market is the market. If you want to make a living in the market you adapt to it; you don’t demand it adapt to you. As for your “genius” the chances of it being appreciated in the future, if it won’t sell now, are vanishingly small. Shakespeare wrote for the groundlings, after all.
I don’t know how much longer we’ll have government grants. We’re running out of other people’s money. At any rate it’s immoral for you to receive money stolen from other people (or did you dress that up in prettier words) to support “art” that won’t sell. Patreon, go fund me (wealthy friends) and wealthy spouses might last longer. At least there the money is given willingly. But it’s not a big market, or a thriving one.
In the end the market is the market. And not just for humans. In biology books (yes, I read a lot of those,) I keep coming across things like “this small insect makes a living by seeking out and eating the sap of the blah blah tree.”
Making a living. It’s a law of nature.
And no one ever really made a living by “educating” the public into ideas the public was NOT interested in. The Edgar-suit wearing institutions and companies just masked that for a while and rewarded appropriate noises, not money-making work.
But that’s a good way to go bankrupt. It’s also a good way to create competition, which WILL appear to serve the market you’re leaving un-served. Like you know, indie publishing, and news blogs, and… Enough things that all those people the elites have been trying to educate realized they were neither alone nor powerless.
And now the times …. they are achanging.
It’s almost funny watching all these people making louder and louder noises, of what used to be the approved kind, fighting for the one or two spots that can still be rewarded by the establishment. Almost. Except it’s sad too.
And it’s funny watching them positing conspiracy theories and “hatey hate mc haters” as to why things are changing, when the answer is “you refuse to serve the market. The market found those who would.” Or, IOW, the dogs don’t like the food, so they found a way into the kitchen and are eating the elites’ filet mignon.
And now they’d better learn to swim, or they’ll sink like a stone. For the times, they are achanging.