I just finished my week two journal assignment (or at least a first draft of it) for my context of writing class. Here is what we had to write about:
What societal or cultural value do publishers serve? Considering that several key works of American literature were self-published (like Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), do authors really need publishers? In your view, how do publishers help—or hinder—the dispersal of important stories? In an age of easy electronic self-publication, do we need a class of professional publishers? Use examples from this week’s readings to make your point.
Check out what I wrote:
A battle of credibility and popularity
While I intend to write about Bob Stein, The Institute for the Future of the Book and the theory of Collective Understanding for my paper – as I established in my first entry – I would be remised if I did not take the chance to talk about literary magazines and how they serve modern authors.
Young, unsigned authors, much like myself, have few options. We can go door to door and beg at secretaries’ feet or wait outside parking lots for the opportunity to pitch to a petrified mid-level executive – but that grind wears away at the best of people. The two easiest options to get our stuff read are to self-publish or to submit work to literary magazines. While I respect both courses of action, submitting work to literary magazines has more credibility.
Consider the person who tries to gain notoriety via self-publishing and distributing their work over the internet. While there is strong rhetoric that the internet has an ability to judge the content and determine it worthy or unworthy, I feel there to be flaws in the logic. Consider game shows, namely singing competitions. How often does the person who sings the best win? Can society say that they are judged purely by vocal capability or is there some facet of the critique in which popular opinion is involved? Meaning is some portion of why we like them based on personality or image? Can’t we say that about people who self-publish and promote across social media networks? I find that to be the distinct connection between the two.
Literary magazines, conversely, are a place where writers can gain acclaim based on their words and nothing more. The acclaim from seeing your work in print, or hosted on a site with established credibility, adds a gravitas and exposure to your work. English teacher Nancy Barile, in an article for Scholastic.com, wrote something very similar: “Creating a literary magazine for your school teaches students the fundamentals of good writing and publishing and provides them with a place to see their writing in print. It gives them a sense of audience, which is crucial for young writers, and it can foster a community of young writers and give them status.” (Barile). While Barile was writing about high school aged writers, the sentiment translates. The community of the school reads the student’s work and judges it without bias because they, themselves, were not handing it out to passers-by on a street corner. The same can be said for professional literary magazines.
Credibility in everything we do is key. I think, at a very base level, the difference between gaining acclaim in literary magazines versus gaining acclaim via social media is the difference between credibility and popularity. People often confuse something being popular as something being credible and that is not often the case. If I were to consider changing my paper topic that reason would be one of the things why I would consider looking at literary magazines.
Barile, Nancy. “Create a Literary Magazine.” Scholastic.com. Scholastic Inc. 3/14/11. Web. 5/7/14.