CON GAMES: Print Comes Tumbling Down At Aspen Words

ASPEN, COLORADO–Here’s the reveal from Summer Words from Aspen Words: a new wave of editors and agents–no gray hair here–see a world inclusive of the plain old book without putting the same old, same old at the epicenter of publishing. To use a phrase from the dawn of digital time, these relative newbies “get it” well enough to realize the world has changed–and maybe even for the better.

Natch: the old ways remained powerful and palpable at Summer Words at The Gant Aspen. One of the first panels at the conference featured an agent who has incoherently decided Twitter is only for a certain type of writer–this despite the millions of fans who follow the tweets of sundry literati. The same panel featured two novelists, both women, who only began their literary careers after years at two of our finest literary magazines.

My takeaway from said panel: don’t bother with Twitter if you can get a job at The Paris Review.

But the worm and the word turned at a panel called “The Business of Publishing,” populated by agents and editors not yet of a certain age, with no fear of the aborning digital apocalypse.

Based on the panel at Summer Words, the publishing industry is no longer quite so black-and-white. Let’s say your book is in a clean, well-lighted genre, like fantasy or science fiction. In that case, self-publishing might not only be possible but desirable, according to Brettne Bloom, an agent at The Book Group once in the fiction department at The Atlantic magazine. Nor has e-publishing been ignored: Kendra Harpster, an editor at Berkley Publishers Group, pointed out NAL/Berkeley has launched an imprint called Intermix that “introduces original e-books from new authors and offers favorite backlist titles from beloved authors not previously available as e-books” according to the website description.

And then there’s Book Country from Viking Penguin–represented on the panel by associate publisher Chris Russell. At Book Country, according to the site, “writers can find and connect to writers just like them, workshop their manuscripts, learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, and build their first audience as they prepare to publish their books.”
With no apologies from the agent on the first panel at Summer Words who didn’t “get” Twitter, Russell said that an author’s social media “definitely can make an impact.” And Brettne Bloom, who represents multiple bloggers, says that blogging “translates into major success”–though only “sometimes.”

Wretches? You now have permission to feel less wretched so long as you don’t eliminate the ink altogether. With self-publishing, social media, blogging, ebook imprints, and online communities, the door to publishing of all kinds is open for business, with the walls there for climbing if you’re so inclined.

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