Monday, January 23, 2012

Yesterday and Today for Writers

Sometimes I wonder if literary giants such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck could survive as novelists in today's publishing world.

No doubt Hemingway could find some war to cover; Fitzgerald might get lucky and land a position as a screenwriter; and Steinbeck wouldn't have to look far to find downtrodden folks for subject matter.

But it's the other side of being a writer that could pose problems for them -- such as promotion, blogging, twittering, and social networking. Perhaps even the most basic elements such as getting their foot in the door of a publishing house -- or harder yet -- with an agent.

Can you imagine Hemingway sending a query letter to a publishing house and trying to sell this idea in one sentence? "It's about a fisherman who goes out and catches a big fish but sharks eat it on his way back to the port."

Or Fitzgerald describing a story "about a mysterious rich man who falls for a rich married woman and they are involved in an automobile accident that impacts a lot of people."

Or maybe Steinbeck querying a publisher about a "story  of a down-and-out family from Oklahoma that faces hardships as they seek work in California."

Okay, perhaps I'm simplifying this a bit but I wonder if queries, by today's standards, would have doomed many of the authors? Or if their manuscripts would have been lost in slush piles, or worse yet, rejected by some green editorial assistant?  

Fortunately for them, and for us, they came around at a time when they could devote their time to writing and not everything else involved in the publishing business. 

Until the next time...

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