I read Garrison Keillor's article on publishing in the Baltimore Sun, he states that in a world where it is so easy to become published on the web the value of writing is diminished, and it struck me that Garrison is expressing his angst about today's writer because it is easier to get published.
It takes less than five minutes to publish a new blog, using freely available tools like Google's blogger, Facebook, Twitter or if pictures are your passion, Flickr.
Does publishing on the web mean you are published? In the sense that you have written a book, and its published?
Well, you can always try once tainted vanity publishing, and with publishers such as Lulu, you don't even have to pay the printer for the honor of publishing.
Being published is not the sign of success. It's how many books you sell that counts.
There have always been a lot of authors, and with the opportunity to publish so many books today, the bar has been raised even higher to get ahead of the pack.
Perhaps today's successful writer, and I suspect yesterdays, is not just a writer but a good promoter, a marketer, a speaker, someone who is sociable with their community, and willing to share their success with others.
Garrison wrote, "Back in the day, we became writers through the laying on of hands. Some teacher who we worshipped touched our shoulder, and this benediction saw us through a hundred defeats. And then an editor smiled on us and wrote us a check, and our babies got shoes. But in the New Era, writers will be self-anointed."
Does that mean that only editors, publishers and the elite can decide if you are worthy to be a writer?
I think what has changed from the old way of publishing is that there's more room at the table for how writers rise to the top. We will always have reviewers, publishers and editors, and they play an important role. For example, I recently wrote a blog post about selecting your top five social media books for your library because I was chatting with a book seller about Amazon.com and the company's review service of books. You might find 100's of reviews, but if you wanted 5 books that should be in the core of a particular professional's library for their profession, you have to go to an expert in your field to know what's important. That's the role, editors, publishers and reviewers play, they select, they prune, they focus and in the process we as readers receive clarity, greatness and efficiency.
I wonder if Garrison needed to be anointed to believe that his work was good, he certainly states that there is value in having to work through the old way of publishing, it was a tough road to travel, and if you won you knew you'd arrived.
The steps to publishing are easier today, but the heights of publishing are no less precarious now than they were when Garrison received his first advance. Fame, success, peer review is just as difficult to achieve, but I do believe there is more opportunity to succeed with the new world of publishing.
I think that means we will discover more writers, and while the successful ones will not necessarily always be anointed by publishers, the readers in the end will get to decide who is good and who is great.
I don't think the old way will die entirely, I think that now there are more ways to get published, and more ways to achieve success. Maybe the one point Garrison bemoans here is that it is not just about being a writer of distinction, but also a marketer that makes an impact.