Last night I submitted my novel to the next agent on my list. This time caring less about protocol and more about leaving my fingerprint on my submission. I don’t really know why some part of me feels it will make a difference, nonetheless it does. Somehow I can’t make myself believe that personal marketing has any impression on an agent’s psyche, especially when the bottom line of any business is profit.
I don’t know whether it’s caused by self-doubt but I find myself thinking more and more about why I didn’t try to write a commercial novel. It is not as if I deliberately tried not to either. I had an idea which wouldn’t leave me alone. Eventually I decided to follow this idea to its conclusion. It wrote itself. When I try to be objective I find myself searching for excuses to explain why it won’t be published, and at the head of the list is its genre.
Now I find myself wondering if that’s what I should do. If I want to write so badly why not try my hand at something more populist. Do I have it in me to write about camp hairdressing vampires, junkie wizards or a detective who is addicted to knitting jumpers for horses? As this point I don’t know.
Perhaps I wrote something ‘literary’ to give me an excuse to fail. If I had written something commercial I would only be left with the fact that perhaps my writing is not good enough?
It’s not that I have anything against commercial literature. It’s merely that I prefer a book to have soul. Catch 22, Yellow Train, Shantaram, Seeing and Yes Man are very different books but they have an aura about them which can eat through your skull and devour your brain. Books like these are seldom published these days. And it saddens me.
For me the honesty of the printed page is the last domain of the thinking man. Many naysayers claim that we are witnessing the death throes of the book. They claim that the advancement of technology has rendered the book obsolete. I would rather say that the stagnation of the publishing industry has been an act of suicide. The reluctance to take gambles and the obsession with ever-expanding profits mean that fiction no longer has any trailblazers. The novel has been moving sideways for decades. Despite this I don’t believe we will ever witness the death of the book, it will merely change shape.