There is so much I’d like to say about politics right now, but in a time of extreme polarization I feel very little can change people’s minds regardless of facts and insight. I feel both weirdly energized and depressed by the spectacle that is happening this election year. We’ve got who we’ve got because society has cultivated leaders for the past 20 years or so with an us versus them mentality instead of a bipartisan approach that could get things done in the interest of America. It is easier (and cowardly) to cross one’s arms and say “no” rather than work on a hard fought compromise. Sigh.
In some ways a writing career has some parallels to politics. Here are a few I came up with:
- Writers get endorsements by way of blurbs. A good blurb from an esteemed writer with a following of readers could boost a writer’s sales much like a candidate bringing in celebrities, current and ex-presidents to stump for them.
- Special interest groups play a role in promoting a book or an author. This could be family, reading groups, or reviewers with clout like Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly or New York Times.
- A publisher, much like a party, gives a book/author a strong or weak push to the public. Bigger authors have more money dumped into promotions than smaller authors or publications, much like a presidential campaign versus a state congressional seat. And then there are the independents who have to promote all on their own.
- Depending on what an author writes, people may get incensed, inspired or moved in some direction much like a strong speech at a rally.
There are probably more similarities as well, but this makes me wonder how many writers would endure if they were subjected to the cruelty of the current US political system? Here are a few thoughts:
The day a person decides to run for office they are vilified when they chose a party. Perhaps not in their immediate community if the sentiment bleeds pure blue or red, but eventually the moniker of the chosen party will turn off a segment of people regardless of what one says. Without a doubt there are readers who will never open romance books and others who would never touch noir or science fiction. This a consumer’s choice and while there may be occasional disparaging words said about a certain genre, imagine if writers were called out on the radio and television shows and mocked for their writing on daily basis. This has happened in the cases of a few high profile publications like Fifty Shades of Grey and Morrissey’s List of the Lost. However, this literary snarkiness is rare and does not feature the outraged vehemence like so many political pundits and hosts.
What if by writing within your genre, you had to tear apart fellow writers to make an impression with the public like is happening in the primaries? Would more readers emerge from the woodworks, wanting to read an author’s work because they insulted another writer or would readers stay away from the mean spirited scribe’s work? I imagine it would be the latter. In the UK there have been a few incidents of authors (RJ Ellory and Stephen Leather) sockpuppeting. These are rare and in the noted incidents, the authors tried to hide their identities. I’m sure the public’s outrage (and disappointment) has not helped sales.
What if one publishing house doesn’t like that another house is going to publish a book that they have huge ideologically disagreement over. They badmouth the publisher and author with rumors that attack not only them, but go after their family and friends. When that and several other low tactics don’t seem to work they decide to nuclear: shut down the entire printing world. Whether it is gumming up all the printing presses, destroying all available paper or putting out a computer virus to corrupt all manuscripts, the object is that no books will be published, even if it includes their own catalog. So if they do this, they win right? Ugh. This is what happens with government shutdowns and other brinkmanship maneuvers. Nobody wins, everybody loses.
I could go on, but I’ll stop now before I make myself too sick. Thank God, publishing as twisted and messed up as it is has not as despicable as our freak show 21st century political process.
Any analogies you can think of?
Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity short story award in 2014 and 2015 as well as the Anthony short story award in 2014. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Jewish Noir, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at http://www.chekhovshorts.com,
and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record. www.tsrichardson.com