Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is There Room For the Literary Writer on the eReader?


I was reading someone’s “how to” blog recently. The subject was of course how to be successful (meaning $$) as a writer. The crux of the advice was write what people want to read. Well what do people want to read? Paranormal? Romance? Murder Mystery? Erotica? Thrillers? Vampire Stories? Science Fiction? Urban Lit? Chick Lit? YA Lit? Literary Lit? Oh oh, what’s Literary Lit?

I consider myself a writer whose work touches many of the above genres, but not in their purest forms. I find myself amazed at what Smashwords and a few other retailers categorize as African American Literature. The online stores blaze with glaring covers of us holding guns and cradling a big booty chick under such monikers as “Revenge on a Cheater” or “Getting The Man Before I Get Got.” Well these titles may be facetious, but you get my drift. I even have a couple of stories that fall near that genre..Betty’s House and My Manhood is Very Important to Me. I like earthy language and sex like anyone else. I just hope someone finds a little more to bite into when they read my stories. I admit my short stories receive very little readership. Maybe it’s the genre. Full length books do a lot better.

However there is more to literature (African-American or so-called mainstream) than genre fiction. For us African American writers and readers and to the retailers, I ask where are our new Toni Morrisons, James Baldwins, Ralph Ellisons or Richard Wrights? Why isn’t the digital atmosphere being lit up with modern day Kerouacs and Allen Ginsbergs? How would Updike or William Styron fare? Is there room on the eReader for the literary writer? My guess is in these troubled times the only concern for Black Folk is our no good cheating better halves. And the the mainstream readers, it’s all about a suave vampire who lives in the kingdom of Yawnyore and shape shifts.

“Discovery” is a big catchphrase is “new era” (another catchphrase) of publishing. A good portion of writers have decided they are not going to wait until near death to be found by agents and publishers. They are taking their writing lives in their hands and going forward to kindle kingdom. Many genre writers are doing quite well: Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, Darcie Chan, Joe Konrath and the list can go on. But what if you’re the kind of writer who decides his/her vampire character should do more navel gazing (introspection) than neck biting? What if your description reads “Blood burst from his neck in splatters of ruby exclamations marks” rather than “red blood shot from his neck”? Do you stand a chance of being discovered?

There are many men adrift and homeless these days. But what? No modern day “Of Mice and Men?” Sure plenty men are doing women wrong. But don’t we want to delve deeper and find out why? I’m not sure how it happened, but somebody had to discover our literary greats. Well I do know there were a lot more “little magazines” back in the day. So there were more Editors to discover and give a platform to say a Charles Dickens or a Charles Bukowski. But how does a Charles Harvey get discovered? Excuse my self-indulgence for a moment. In the mid nineties I had an Agent to shop around my novel and in doing so she shopped around some short stories. The stories found a place in some anthologies and a popular literary publication called Story. Well the Agent is gone now and Story is no longer published. I’m out here winging it in the sea of vampires and damsels (strong willed of course) getting swept off their feet. Wish me luck on my upcoming novel, The Road to Astroworld. There’s a serial miscreant in it but no vampire. You can read a few excerpts on the blog. And don’t let the discussion end here. Feel free to refute and dispute and point to your own or someone else’s success as a literary writer.
Charles Harvey
Cheeseburger (an award winning literary short)


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