The value of writing: BlazeVOX, surfeits, aesthetics and capitalism.
Two things this lit community of ours has heard a lot of noise about recently: BlazeVOX’s seemingly unpublicized co-operative publishing model and the wonderful Mudluscious novel(la) I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur by Mathias Svalina.
I’m not going to add my two cents to the multitude of commentary Geoffrey Gatza’s decisions have already garnered. You have Google, go for it. Largely I’m refraining from comment because outside of my initial reactions of ‘Holy fuck that doesn’t seem ethical’ and ‘awww shit, BlazeVOX is one of my favourite indie presses’ I am still not entirely sure how I feel about the situation.
What I will say, is that the whole furore definitely has elements of being a “good thing”. Isn’t it about time us artist types dropped the bullshit and affected disdain/ ignorance of the M word (money) and the E word (economics)?
In the days since The Bark broke the story, small presses have come forward to talk about their own business models, to tease out definitions from the deluge of mud surrounding the terms ‘vanity publishing,’ ‘DIY,’ ‘co-operative,’ and ‘self-publishing.’ Writers everywhere, I imagine are having the same pub discussion as me with other writers, namely ‘Would you pay?’.
So the positive side of the whole thing is that there seems to be a more open discourse about the financial side of writing opening up. It’s easy to laugh it off and joke that there just isn’t any money in publishing indie lit, either as an author or an editor, but that just isn’t true.
This writing life of ours produces. We produce a lot. The objects that we produce are produced from valuable materials. As a result they have a monetary value.
Where should the money for these materials come from? Is the writer somehow ‘purer’ than the editor for not being mixed up for something as vulgar as cash?
What’s struck me through this whole situation is how we are finally getting to a point where we are asking about the writer’s responsibility in this financial situation. Roxane Gay has a great post up at HTMLGIANT that examines just how overstuffed we are as a community. We produce so much surfeit to a narrow demand. I am also guilty. I think about how much time I spend on my own work as opposed to reading. How much money do I put where I want my mouth to be? Sure I read a good amount, but how much of that is review copies, gifts, browsing?
The surfeit of product, or at least the continuously pumping machine is key to the wonderful I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur. I was blown away by this book. I bet you probably will be too. Every piece in the book begins with ‘I once started this one business…’. These businesses fill seemingly unwanted niches. The book asks the value of product, and asks the reader to really consider who is fulfilled by what we constantly create. It’s blurbed as a critique of capitalism. I think it is also a critique of indie lit.
Over at Big Other, Tadd Adcox has just started a series of posts on aesthetics. This is excellent timing. I am guilty of throwing around the term ‘aesthetics’ without really considering what it means or what it has meant. Aesthetics are not so far away from value. Tadd considers the purpose of creation. Perhaps that is a key to our surfeit. Are we (writers) guilty of simply producing too much without considering the essential aesthetic value of our product?
So if anyone has any answers, I’d really, really appreciate them.