Friday, March 28, 2014

Taxes Won't Solve This Problem

I can remember, as a high school student in the 1970s, observing the advent of personal computers. The Apple, the IBM, the Commodore 64, the Radio Shack TRS-80. The Internet, in its earliest stages, remained the province of government officials and university professors.

Oh, how I longed to possess one of these space-age miracle machines. I begged my parents to help me buy one. (I already had a part-time job, and could contribute to the cause.) But what did I want it for? I didn’t know, exactly. In fact, I didn’t have a clue. I only knew that I wanted to join that exclusive club of the sophisticated and privileged.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Institutionalized Racism in Publishing?

Just this morning, I came across an interesting post from one of my friends on Facebook. My friend, who (like me) happens to be black, posted links to articles from yesterday’s New York Times: here and here.

Long story short: There aren’t enough books out there for black kids. Most children’s books feature white kids from the suburbs, not colored kids from the ’hood. Who will be their heroes? Who will be their role models? Surely Encyclopedia Brown or Charlie Bucket (my favorites, in my wonder years) will never do.

Who is to blame for this institutionalized racism? And what might be a way forward? Curiously these articles are fuzzy on both counts, but one described the situation as “apartheid.” Which (at least for me) implies forced segregation at the hand of the white man.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

All Hail the Agents

Much has been written in recent years, about the evolving role of literary agents. Some would say that the brave new world of self-publishing has made them obsolete. Others insist that they’re just a den of dinosaurs, struggling to stay relevant and steal fees from unsuspecting authors, in a world that has passed them by. No doubt the current environment brings new challenges for the business, but I daresay that the reports of our demise are quite premature.

First, as to the rise of self-pub: Surely we’ve all heard the success stories of self-published books that went on to greatness; The Shack and Fifty Shades come immediately to mind. But why do you suppose it is that these stories garner so much ink in the popular media? The answer, of course, is that they’re so rare. For every gonzo hit that you hear about, there are tens of thousands that barely left the gate.