Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Hacks & Hustlers
a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work : [as adj. ] a hack scriptwriter.
Alrighty, only one of these definitions applies.
Jack Clark committed a turrible sin by self-publishing his novel Nobody's Angel in 1996, (he sold it out of the taxi he drives in Chicago), but now Hard Case Crime has re-printed it and it's a good thing. Great read. I fall all over myself praising it at Ransom Notes and still don't quite make the case for why the book is so good. I guess you'll have to read it yourself. And it won't take you long. He brings in the story in just over 200 pages and that's just about the right book length as far as I'm concerned. Turns out, Jack is also a singer-songwriter like former taxi driver Tom Russell, (who's working on a book too). What gives with that?
But getting back to the sin of self-publishing... I've never understood why the practice is so absolutely derided and its practitioners such pariahs. Sure, there's oceans of shit in print and only more of it now that the technology is inexpensive enough, but as far as I'm concerned it's only following in the natural path of other similarly democratically revamped mediums like music and film. No music snob would turn up their nose on a song or musician simply because they were self produced and unsigned. Likewise, the small, maverick and guerilla film makers creating art or dying in the process are treated like heroes even when their product falls waaaay short of satisfying.
Are there tons more shitty music and films available now? Absolutely. But do you only listen to bad music or watch bad films now? Hell, no, you turn it off if it's unworthy. And how long does it take to determine that? And how many personal favorites have you discovered through word of mouth that turned out to be somehow self-generated, released or marketed? Artists create because they have to. The really driven ones find a way to hustle a living or partial one out of it. Should they? That depends entirely on the merit of the work. How long does it take you to decide a book's not worth your time? Why do you have to have the approval of a publisher who's let you down before, before you'll checkerout?
Am I more likely to pick up a book with an attractive and professionally rendered binding, printing and cover? Without a doubt. But that's the self published writer's problem to deal with. If somehow they can overcome the odds and get their book in my hands and compel me to read the first sentence and then the first page and then the first chapter... bully for them.