There’s a certain irony to seeing someone who has worked against themselves so successfully that, having arrived at their great goal in life, they find they can’t practice their beloved trade anymore because they have to work at other things all the time to support their new successful status. That’s the politician for you. It’s no news that they now spend more time raising money for the next election than they do considering the problems of the city, state, or nation they were elected to govern. And they have to. In Washington, the stock-in-trade is complaints—you get elected by convincing the public that the current office holder is messing up, and it’s always easier to complain about someone who currently has the job than it is to actually do the job. So once you get the job, you find yourself constantly having to support keeping it, rather than just doing it. Which works out well for our politicians, because the awful truth of the matter is, they don’t have the answers. Not on the right, not on the left, and not in the middle. We live in a fallen world, and we’re supposed to have the greatest brains alive working for us all now, and how many of the basic problems that have dogged man for the last six thousand years have they solved? So it all works out pretty well for the politicians. If nothing else, all the complaining serves as a distraction from the fact that they don’t have the answers.
Writers have the same problem. You work at your craft, you write a work, you get good comments from readers, you know it’s ready to go, so you publish it and then—and then—and then you have to start marketing it. Oh, dear.
Even if you get published by one of the big six, with their vasty marketing staff and connections, more and more they are going to leave all the heavy marketing lifting to you. You would think they would recognize the writer as a talent—someone specialized in their field like, oh, let’s say a marketing specialist, and they would leave the writer to do writing while letting real marketers do the marketing, but that’s not the way it happens. And if you don’t take off fast enough, you never will, because publishers don’t like Poes or Melvilles anymore, writers who take a while to find their audience. Now, writers are like radios, tube versus transistor. Once upon a time, you turned them on and let them warm up for a while before you could use them. Now, if they don’t start playing right away, they’re busted and you throw them out and get another one.
Now, I think we can all agree these days that, as a result of all this pressure put on them to market themselves, drawing them away from their core talent, this can’t be good for the quality of the product. Asking writers to do the marketing is as reasonable as asking marketers to just do the writing themselves. Reading enough books these days, you might just get the impression that that’s who’s doing it, too.
Which might explain why we get so few good ones anymore.
Politicians, I mean.