I know this editor is a little biased, but I truly think that some of the best books are coming out of small press now. New York has, for the most part, abandoned great stories in exchange for the flashy unauthorized tell all, the political bloviating disguised as literature, every new diet craze to come down the pike, and big name authors who sometimes appear to be doing nothing more than fulfilling a contract.
I'm not complaining as much as it may appear, because I still browse the aisles of Barnes and Noble to find a new Stephen King book, or a book that promises to slow the aging process. But the great writing of old seems to be beyond the radar of New York. I know it has to do with the dollar, and the fact that young people don't know what good writing is, and maybe because the Eudora Weltys of today can't take the pressures and heartache of trying to sell a novel in New York City. And what am I complaining about--many of these great writers are sending me query letters. The editors at High Hill have desks filled with amazing manuscripts.
But it is sad to think that because we're small and maybe not as well-known as St. Martin's Press, we might not get a query from the next Flannery O'Connor because she doesn't know we exist. And instead of persisting, this new Flannery might quit writing and take up knitting instead. Or worse yet, she will write her wonderful prose and stick it in a box under her bed never to see the light of day, or a Barnes and Noble shelf, or a blurb on Amazon or a fleeting mention in Twitter. And then there's the possibility that the lack of good publications coming out of New York, and the surge of low quality e-books, might make the readers of the country even less apt to buy a novel written by an unknown author than ever before.
It's all new territory, and publishing is going through a pioneer stage that we haven't seen since the 50's. I always tell my audience at a conference or workshop that we're back to the days of Jacqueline Susann, where an author has to fill the trunk of his car and hit the road in order to sell books. Jacqueline sold Valley of the Dolls to truck drivers and nuns as she drove from the east coast to the west. She was a genius at marketing and it slowly pushed her book to the top of the best seller list. She did it all without the initial help of New York.
A good thing to do is browse the pages of Amazon, find small presses that sell books on their websites, often at a discount price, and ask at the bookstores for small press books. That is where the treasures are sometimes hidden. I love the business, and I'm quickly realizing that there are too many great stories and not enough time. But until I can no longer work, I'll be publishing great books by terrific authors in the hopes that their work won't be lost. I have several authors now that have crumpled up their rejection letters and pulled those dusty manuscripts out from under their beds. We're publishing their books because they're good. We're publishing them because we're trying to keep great literature alive. Of course if anyone out there has a book that proves you can reverse a persons age by 20 years and give them the brain and body of a thirty-year old, I'm interested.
Just a hint...this is what I want to look like.