The Unmarketable Unknown

Notice anything about the commercial market of storytelling in the last decade or so? See any trends? It’s hard not to notice the disparate gap between new ideas and known commodities. Money has always taken the front seat, but the power brokers used to take risks. New stories captured huge audiences and became a phenomenon.

While attending a writers conference in Chicago, I heard a presenter say that publishers want material that is readily marketable and therefore needs to be derivative of another successful work. That commerciality trumped a new idea. That prose took a backseat to easy reading. My thought was, how does literature survive?

Would Dickens, Poe, Rand, Lee be able to survive in our current climate of redundant arts? I question the publisher’s estimations of readers and their appetite for fresh new stories. The only thing that creeps through that original is what’s pulled from real-world turmoil. Great works of fiction that draw from the social issues bleeding in the headlines.

I worry about the written word and its ability to sustain the careers of talented writers. People who drain themselves for their creations are met with a real conundrum, write the next Harry Potter daguerreotype or write the story only you can tell. Knowing the publishing industry is looking for the familiar, it’s a harder choice for someone who wants to write for a living.

I don’t have any answers, but I’ve made my choice. I can’t tell other people’s stories. I’m going to continue to tell the stories I want to read and deal with the outcome from there. What do you think is the best course of action for a writer looking to break into the published world?

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