One of my favorite authors is Milan Kundera. Though The Unbearable Lightness of Being is my favorite of his works, Slowness comes in a close second. Reading it is like taking a long, shoulder-dropping exhale. It’s not one of his more critically acclaimed books, but I just like the idea behind it, that romance and life are sweeter when you’re taking your time.
But who has that luxury anymore? It seems like we cram so much into our daily lives now that there’s no room left for those quiet moments to sit back and savor the things that really matter to us.
Some people thrive on the speed of the modern world. But I’d say that the majority of people wish, as I do, that we could have more time to meditate, to relax, to write. And to read.
Consider the popularity of e-books. I’ve read so many blog posts and news stories about how publishers need to adapt to this new digital paradigm, but few, if any, have talked about why this technology has suddenly taken off. Ironically, I’d say it’s because we don’t have the time to read anymore. If you have the fortitude to get up early every morning and sit at a breakfast table and read the newspaper, God bless you. I usually prefer to do my reading at night before bed, but usually I get a couple of pages in before my computer-weary eyes can’t take it anymore. Sadly, it takes me a couple of months to slog through a novel these days.So the e-book assists our natural desire for inertia. It helps us put on the brakes by giving us time to read. If you use an iPod like I do, you can make the most of the minutes in the grocery line by catching up on the news or that horror novel you bought. You can read on the subway, at the doctor’s office, or any other place that lays fruitless claim to our time. Sure, it’s not as cathartic as reading an actual book, and I still prefer the tangible feel of pages, but it’s damn convenient. Do I think e-books and book apps are the future of publishing? Absolutely. Our increasingly fast-paced culture makes them a necessity.
And if publishers resist, if they refuse to accept this, then they’re denying that the most precious commodity their customers have is time. It’s not about the cheaper e-book prices (though that helps); it’s about giving people a chance to breathe.
If you’re a writer and you have a full-time job, or you’re a stay-at-home dad/mom, or you’re trying to make it on your own as a freelancer or small-business owner (somehow I fit into all of the above), then when do you write? I’d really like to know. (Seriously, use the comments below.)
Do you wake up at 4 am every morning? Do you work into the wee hours of the night while the rest of the house is sleeping? Do you write during your lunch break? I’ve tried them all, and each of these options hurts. But you do what you can for your art.
Last week, a good friend asked me for some advice on finding a publisher for the children’s books she wrote. I went into the typical recantation of how she could buy or subscribe to an expensive listing manual, how she could start using social media to market herself, how she could go to conferences and workshops, and so on. (If you want a more exhaustive list of options, check out the March 8th blog at BookEnds, LLC. If it doesn’t overwhelm you like it did me, then you’re a trooper.)
And she simply said, “Wolf, I just don’t have the time to do all of that. I have kids, I have freelance projects. When are you going to launch Pubmission?”
That’s really what’s at the heart of this online business I’m starting (that should launch in April, by the way). I’m trying to give writers, editors, and agents the gift of time. Because we could all use some.
It’s simple math. The less time you waste trying to work an inefficient, outdated system, the more time you have to do what matters most to you, whether it’s writing or making books. Last year, I put my own attempts to find a publisher for my novel on hiatus because I just didn’t have time to do all the legwork, to jump through all the hoops to feel like I was getting nowhere.
When writers sign up for Pubmission and upload a submission, the site will ask them to generate a list of tags (or keywords) to describe their work. Publishers and agents essentially do the same thing when they subscribe—they enter a list of needs, whether it’s a sushi cookbook, an article on fireworks safety, or a steampunk science-fiction novel.
Then Pubmission plays the role of matchmaker. Writers instantly see which subscribing publishers line up best with their works, and publishers see which submissions match their needs. Simple. And, from someone who is both an editor and a fiction writer—it’s about time. Time we could all use for doing what we do best. For doing what matters.
If I’m wrong about this, let me know. Maybe you like lugging Writer’s Market around with you. Maybe you don’t mind spending the day coming up with effective 140-character witicisms. Maybe you think writers should make big sacrifices (friends, family, life) to become their own marketers. Maybe opening envelopes and sifting through stacks of endless mail is time well-spent. If so, by golly, let us know how you’re managing it all. I’d really like to know.