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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Commercial success or literary lust: the dilemma facing many of our promising authors

By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine Staff WriterWhen it comes to writing and writing eloquently, many of our young and energetic writers without a doubt have that talent. However, how does one translate that talent into a magnificent literary machine, producing commercial success as well as literary fame, is a whole different ball game. Writing has many genres, and whatever the genre one chooses to write, it makes no difference to a commercial publisher if a manuscript submitted to him or her does not meet the requirements for a commercial profit.     Nowadays, financial success in the publishing business seems to be growing more and more at odds with the most basic elements necessary to become a respectable author acclaimed by literary experts in academia. Before taking one’s work for serious consideration, an editor must make sure that the name behind the manuscript has already crossed a major threshold: salability.      In other words, who are you to write this book? Can your name sell books? Did you become notorious as a result of a social or political scandal over the last five years? Notoriety here has nothing to do with the author’s skills to write compellingly. It all has to do with the power to lure readers into the retailers’ bookshelves. If your name can sell, don’t worry about the writing. The ghostwriters will get the job done.      I believe this is a great disservice to literature and to all that it plays in shaping minds and souls and society for that matter. A friend of mine, who is a very good writer, conveyed to me the other day that he was deeply disappointed when he stopped counting the many rejections he suffered at the hands of commercial publishers. He wanted to give it up and close up shop. When I asked him what was his main aim after spending countless, sleepless nights to bring to bear an important masterpiece, he told me that his main priority was to break through a major publishing house. “I felt ruined, used and ashamed,” he said as his voice was shaking. Then I asked him if he has ever tried a University Press. He said no, but I knew why he never bothered to go down that road.      Most beginning writers come into the fray under the misconception that they can be both literary and commercial at the same time. A writer must live off his or her works, they will say. Why can’t I be an excellent writer with the magnet to influence humanity and still being able to earn my living, paying my bills? This is a legitimate question, but one of which the answer can only bring bitterness to many writers.      The lucky few, who are lucky enough to break the ice, will quickly learn that the two criteria mentioned above (literary and commercial) are clearly mutually exclusive. The accepted manuscript, very often, turns out to be very different on the bookshelves from the one originally submitted—a major psychological blow to an author who wholeheartedly believes in the inspirational values of his or her work.       The biggest stunner to these authors is the shocking understanding of what makes an author literary or commercial. They have come to understand that marketing is the main factor behind what an author will definitely become, not the writing. As sad as its sounds, one must grasp the obvious fact that the publishing industry is fore-grounded under the same capitalistic values in a world that is only made up of bottom lines.       Literary fiction is made up of masters with oeuvres whereas commercial fiction is made up of genres, which makes it easier “for a publisher to pitch a writer as the new James Patterson [by telling] bookstore owners that mystery lovers will buy the book [or] the romance novels, family dramas and horror” will attract tons of buyers. Every writer dreams of commercial success. But there is price to pay. You will have to “sell your soul to the devil of profitability,” Jodi Picoult tells us.       It is tough to compromise what you write, especially after you took the giant step to set out to write the Great Caribbean or American Novel. However, there is still hope to secure a great spot in the literary world long after you have been rejected by mainstreamed publishers. Small and medium publishers are as good as a big one if your work can be offered to a worldwide audience such as the Worldwide Web: the Internet. University Press is a great venue to explore, for it can offer your work to an academic audience.        Few writers have been able to gain fame in both worlds: literary and commercial. But your works will sway a lot of readers and, perhaps, enter the great shrine of literary masters if you are persistent enough and if you know that the road to success has a lot of obstacles. Be RELENTLESS! Don’t GIVE UP !Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is also a novelist and chief editor of CSMS Magazine. You can read a synopsis of his latest novel “Alicia.” Click herehttp://www.themulticulturalgroup.com/books.htmlAlso see Contemporary Novel: http://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20050626I9

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