‘Be there no dew, nor let there be rain’ – saturation.

All around us, the traditional publishers are in a state of — shall we say ‘chaos’. That’s quite polite, and also plays on the state of primal chaos where nothing is formed, and that which was is devoured. The old ‘we are the only gateway’ dominance they held is gone now. The situation in Indies is… having a shake down too. And with it of course certainty and predictability of outcomes are not what they were.

People — authors, editors — are seeing their incomes vanish, careers die.

Many authors are rushing in into academia( see Cedar’s Post) as a backup plan. Here in Australia you can get a PhD…. On your own novel. There are accelerated tracks for authors to get MFA’s. Or if you tick all their boxes and mayhap are brilliant… they’ll just promote you to a position where the fact you don’t need a MFA or PhD to teach at the college. Now, I’ve met a fair number of self-taught engineers and electronics wizards who prove qualification is less important than skill, aptitude and being able to learn. So: who or what qualification you ought to need to teach is lazy man’s option – what really counts is that you can do it well. And yes, the old saying: ‘those that can’t do: teach’ may hold truth. But, holy macaroni!… is that what a college wants or needs… or what the students want or need? For any subject, let along ‘being a writer’ – because surely the most important part of being a writer is appealing to enough people to make a living of some sort, and how to do this? Or is this a ‘take creative writing to get in touch with your inner-self’ option (I thought that was dildo salespeople?). Or ‘the career path for writing… is a teaching job, teaching people to write’.

I suppose I am being needlessly idealistic here, but call it a product of doing the one of the toughest academic courses in aquaculture… led by people who were frequently consulted to design and set up systems… who had never built or run commercially successful units. When I got my first job on a fish farm, I learned very rapidly that I knew a lot of theory, and nothing much about the reality, and that the advice they’d handed out at a price had sent a lot of people broke. I ended up taking a lot of advice from one of the few success stories – who had developed his own system, made it work, and then, because he really enjoyed it, took a post-grad degree in it – and continued to run and make money from his own. That was advice worth taking and indeed worth paying for. Which is why I suggest you follow, and yes, chip in to the Business Rusch.

One of the frequent yowls is that – thanks to the ease of e-book publishing we’re drowning in a sea of bad self-published books which would never have made it through the traditional industry. To paraphrase and blend Tom Simon and the Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy… I guess that about wraps it up for Samuel Clements. The shakeout is happening – partly via covers and ‘also bought’ and also I think through price. At one stage cheap meant sales. Now… cheap is also an indicator of value. And I don’t think we’re near saturation yet – this is surely saturation. And yet it supports an industry and some of the authors. Now THAT is Traditional Publishing working its butt off sell books.

Do you think we’re full up? Would you as a writer sign up for a ‘literature’ type course? What would you expect? What is this literature stuff anyway? And what other sites can you commend to writers – and readers?

28 comments

  1. I don’t think we are “full up” yet. People are still finding new ideas for stories, and other people are buying them. No, I would not take a “literature”course unless I had some way to find out and get inwriting in advnace that the course would really be a study of what the topic was supposed to be (say, Restoration dramas and politics of the time, or Chaucer and his Continental contemporaries) that did not slide into a screed about [insert -ism here].

    Websites? Writer Beware, most certainly. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/ The Passive Guy’s blog. http://www.thepassivevoice.com Both are good for finding out who to avoid, and keeping up with the foibles and follies, and some of the laws, about publishing and writing.

      1. I’m taking a workshop on doing covers. Amazingly useful. It’s amazing the stuff you look at your whole life and never figure how the effect is achieved, till you’re told. I trust the person teaching it, though — a professional cover designer.

  2. A lot of higher education these days is a scam, teaching at a high cost what is available for free elsewhere. The tier-1 universities are extremely valuable, but the lower tiers often aren’t.

    I considered teaching computer science as my emergency backup plan(1). But then I remembered that if I’m laid off, so would be a bunch of other computer people in Austin. We’d all be running around like headless chickens looking for jobs – so a job in computers is probably not the ideal solution.

    (1) I’m the main provider for my family, so if I get laid off we’re in HUGE trouble.

    1. ‘if I’m laid off, so would be a bunch of other computer people in Austin’ – as usual, common sense… that does not seem to have occurred to the authors all rushing to qualify as backup.

      1. I’m not sure. It is possible that a lot of those industry dahlings don’t know how to anything else, so getting qualified to teach might fall under “better than nothing”. Besides, there are probably a lot of people who want to learn to write for reasons that are not related to wanting to make money off of it, so the problems with the career field might not affect university employment.

        In my case, BTW, I write and teach classes for IBM, so I got a relatively cheap ($9000) M.Ed. to be able to show employers outside of IT that I can do technical training for them. I can’t say if it was worth it or not – so far I haven’t needed to use this insurance policy.

  3. I’ve never taken a course in Literature. I suspect it would involve reading and lovingly dwelling over things I would never read voluntarily. A basic Creative Writing course might be useful for a beginner. I got my (writing) education piecemeal on Baen’s Bar, but it might have been quicker if organized. Certainly the received wisdom of a concentration of successful writers was useful in the real world.

    Sites to recommend? It’s important to stay up to date in areas that impact your genre(s). I follow several sites in numerous fields, here’s a selection:

    Climate:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/

    Archeology:
    http://johnhawks.net/weblog

    Space:
    http://www.spacex.com/
    http://www.planetaryresources.com/

    Whatever you write about, it pays to follow the new stuff. You not only sound more authoritative, but it can spark all sorts of ideas.

    1. The archeology one is new to me :-). Yes, my problem tends to be finding science (particularly biological) which have not become political. I actually like to jump to my own conclusions!

      1. I’m not sure if being political is bad. I’m saying this as a fan of Eric Flint’s Socialist Joe’s World (when is he coming up with more?) and Tom Kratman’s conservative Carreraverse.

        Sure, you lose some loud mouths who boycott you. But for every one of those, you probably gain a number who enjoy reading a perspective on things they appreciate.

        1. 🙂 I was unclear. I mean online science magazines, where I want to read the science, and reach any political conclusion I do on the basis of logic.

  4. When I attended college many years ago, I took a literature class as a freshman. Surprisingly enough that was my introduction to sociology. Brave New World, 1984, were required reading. Plus the basics of literary style. I have no complaints with that course; however, forty years later when I took up writing as a hobby, I gravitated to the internet (plus self help books like ‘How to write a Damn good novel’) for my education in writing. I can’t write erotica; but, erotica writers who have little courses like- Scene vs Said, were of practical help. Other writers with mini-courses given out free, like some of the recent posts here and a couple of other sites I visit are a better help than a college level course in my opinion. Especially when I read the stuff produced by college educated ‘Journalists.’ today.

    1. Yes, brainwashing seems to come with a lot of courses ;-/ I’d concur- reading and practice CAN make you a great writer, without going to college. I’d love a straight ‘technique’ course though (which still doesn’t appear to be taught at school/college)

      1. Yes a straight technique course would be fantastic. The bunch of small business courses would be useful too. Budgeting for inconsistent income, quarterly taxes (at least in the US, no idea how that works elsewhere), accounting, basics of contracts, perhaps a sampling for work organization techniques that are functional for at least some people. I can think of a lot of things that I’m trying to figure out and that other people must already know.

        Ever taken (or taught) a course that seemed especially useful?

  5. Hell no. Three degrees (and an unspeakable amount of debt) later, my conclusion is that college is good for one thing — meeting the right people. It’s how I met my husband and my best friends.

    It hasn’t helped me get a single job better than what I could have gotten straight out of high school, and in fact has hindered getting jobs. People assume that if I have so much education that I couldn’t be happy in a “low education” job (most of which actually do need some intelligence to do well), even when I was losing my house.

    1. Uhuh. Been there. Got the t-shirt. Desperate for a job, any job, young child, wife pregnant and a radiographer (meant she wasn’t allowed to work back then) good at doing almost anything manual, good at stick to it… ‘you’re too qualified’. I had to unlearn the writing I was taught. It did teach me how to research well, where to find things – before internet that was important, and also gave me network of people who I can ask and a lot bizarre aliens to write about. (Invertebrate zoology proves life is just bizarre).

  6. I did learn a lot about writing my freshman year in college. Granted, it was in an introductory writing course that everyone had to take, but it taught me a lot about different types of writing styles, compared to my primary education that taught me how to underline nouns once and verbs twice in grade school then thought me how to how to underline the the “Simple subject” (noun) and the “simple predicate (verb) in High School. I also took a course in creative non-fiction writing that was a lot of fun. But now I have two degrees, and associates and a BA, to go with some Grad school, and I’m a telemarketer. It didn’t do me a whole lot of good.

    1. I got more about the formal parts of English grammar from taking Latin than I did from much of the required English coursework earlier in my studies. Now that was a course that helped my writing, even if I’m still pretty much illiterate as far as Latin is concerned.

      I’d picked up much of my feel for the English language from recreational reading.

    2. The formal grammar side was somewhat neglected for my kids – my older son taught himself when he went to Uni and discovered he needed to. My younger one never did, and it cost him dearly. So actually that is valuable IMO.

  7. I’m currently in college. I added an English minor to my major because UNM offered English:Professional Writing, which is focused entirely on practicalities. Editing, grant writing, writing copy, publication design (if that’s what it’s called)… but they’ve decided not to separate it out anymore, so I can’t switch to a major in English and keep the “Professional Writing” part on my documents, even if I took the same classes.

    But I’m reluctant to change my major to English for other reasons, too. First, the reason I didn’t start out in English is that I figured that a science degree would make me more employable *and* would help my writing more. (My asteroid miners now have a clue.) I figured that I was entirely able to learn English on my own, so taking the classes would be a waste. I’m not sure if I’ve changed my mind about that or not. One thing that I would have to do if I changed to an English major is take those basic literature classes and creative writing classes that my Professional Writing concentration does not require. (I would also have to hang out with people who speak of “theory” in a way that does violence to my scientific soul.)

    If there was a class that covered modern publishing software and other basics related to publishing, I’d take that in a heartbeat.

    1. Yes, to basics course – but I’d need to be sure THEY knew how to do it well, or you end up with a repetition of my highly qualified Professor advising fish-farmers on how to set up systems that 1)weren’t economically feasible, 2)Often just didn’t work under real, large scale conditions.

    2. There are. Online. WGM — run by Kris and Dean. I don’t get a cut, but I’ve now taken … three of them. Good value. I understand the writing ones that are in person, over there, are also good. I don’t have the money.

  8. I don’t think the market is full. For one, if the market were saturated or over-saturated, at this moment, I think I’d see more good Mahouka fanfic. If the market were really full, I would expect to be able to find solid fanfic even for very obscure properties.

    As a writer, I’m deeply suspicious of the economic utility of going in for advanced skill training at this point. My technical writing is good enough to supplement my other, non-writing, skills, which are the ones I want and need to be using for my coin.

    As an aside, my backup plan for this year’s NaNoWriMo attempt is to write business letters for my characters.

    If I’m putting money or serious time in on skills training, of course I’m more interested in instruction I know to be competent. I do not have general confidence in that for college and creative writing. I’ve heard of instructors who knew how to teach the material, but if I’m not going to Brigham Young or the University of Oklahoma, or if they’ve left by the time I can go and learn, I wouldn’t know where to look at a college.

    I’m at least as interested in practicing on my own, reading, beta reading, workshops by authors I know, internet resources, and writing fanfic. These seem to have better ROI for my creative writing skill, compared to hunting up a professor who helped some other writer, who may have had better developed fundamentals, or a different set of problems.

    Literature includes Homer, Kipling and Kratman. I don’t have a better definition this morning. Kratman and his works were where I think I first developed my reading ability to where I could appreciate the added levels in literature. The fun of the candy coating /and/ the chocolate inside. I suspect that the focus on literature in college, hence as transmitted to many students of English, focuses more on the joys in carefully disassembling the shell and dissecting the chocolate than any other pleasure. My full listing includes both stories that I’ve enjoyed finding stuff beyond the obvious in, and stories that have passed the time test in grabbing people, even if I haven’t read them fully.

    Most of the websites I can think of, that wouldn’t occur to many people here anyway, are fanfic websites.

    1. Critical reading as a writer (which, BTW will steal your simple joy of reading as a reader forever. You can’t go back. It’s like innocence – once it is gone, it’s gone) is probably the number one skill I’d say a writer needs to acquire. The price is high though.

  9. I took an English Lit. degree (well it was Lit, combined with creative writing and linguistics), and it hasn’t done me a lot of good career-wise. I did enjoy it, and it taught me a lot about writing, so I don’t regret it at all. Well, except for being forced to read Wuthering Heights. 😛

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