The Internet has turned newspaper and book publishing upside-down. As a writing professor, what do you teach your students to help them survive in this chaotic publishing atmosphere?
I think that the Internet is the great equalizer. It is much, much easier to get leverage and to get things done now. You can approach almost anyone via the Internet.
But it boils down to the same thing it always has: write a good, unique book and then worry about the rest of it. Most students, because it is also easier to get published online sometimes (almost no overhead for the publisher), seem so fixated on getting published and on getting validation that way that they lose track of the bigger picture.
Does it mean anything at all, in any meaningful way, to create a “sellable” story when the threshold for publication is often very low? Not really. So I generally have to deprogram students in my writing workshops. Make them focus on their own writing line-by-line, because this fixation with the idea of being a writer as opposed to working very hard on the writing itself is very damaging.
Also, don't forget that the Big Giant Book Sale is still going on.
(Jeff: "Hey, Evil! Where you been?!" Evil Monkey: "Off on vacation, reading fantasy." Jeff: "You have a very thoughtful look on your face, although it might just be the monocle." Evil Monkey: "No, I have been thinking, actually." Jeff: "About what?" Evil Monkey: "About fantasy. I have some questions." Jeff: "Questions?" Evil Monkey: Yeah, like: If the talking animals central to the plot were just people, would I give a flying fuck what happened to them?" Jeff: "Ah, you're going for the deep and wide questions." Evil Monkey: "Or: If this scene explaining how the magic works was deleted, would my reading pleasure be diminished in any way?" Jeff: "Good point..." Evil Monkey: "Or, or, or...If that evil guy were smarter, would I be enjoying the book more? Or: If that there "squiggle" were re-named a "hobbit," would I notice any difference between "hobbits" and "squiggles"? Or, or...Where the fuck are the grocery stores? Food just keeps "appearing". Like it's...magic. Where's everybody's gold come from? They just have money all the time to buy shit and yet I never see them working for it. And if everybody is pretty and handsome, how do they know? Or, or...If that mountain range on the cute map was named something more specific than "Sinister Mountains" would I find the higher elevations in this here chapter more fucking convincing?" Jeff: "Don't hurt yourself there, Evil. Just sit down and take a breath." Evil Monkey: "...Sorry. I just got overcome with emotion for a second." Jeff: "Oddly enough, I'm deeply enjoying George R.R. Martin's fantasy series right now. And none of that goes on. It's a stunning, stunning book." Evil Monkey: "Good for you! Good...for...you....Well, I'm not reading Martin. I'm reading something decidedly more problematic." Jeff: "What's it called?" Evil Monkey: "I'm not telling.")