Publishing and the Hollywood Blockbuster Syndrome

I've noticed something.  When people talk about great characters, and great writing, they usually cite shows like HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IN THE NEW BLACK, HOMELAND, BREAKING BAD and MAD MEN.  No one's talking about movies, are they?

It wasn't always this way.  Under the studio system, film directors (and screenwriters) worked constantly, and churned out movies quickly-- and among them, many of film classics. At first, TV was obviously inferior--it lacked the budgets and production schedules were rushed (in comparison to film.)

But a funny thing happened after the studio system fell apart.  Film became a slow, poky  business that relied on so-called blockbusters. (Yes, there are indie films -- but getting one of those off the ground is also slow, and sometimes impossible.)  Directors and screenwriters were lucky if they worked on one project per year.  By comparison, TV writers, working on series, wrote dozens of scripts, and honed their writing craft in a way that movies did not allow.  

Which brings us to publishing. Recently, I read an article in The New York Times entitled "I Was a Digital Best Seller!"  The author's into digital publishing was a flop.  But peeling back his complaints, I find that he discovered the virtues of digital publishing.  He writes, "If I were writing for a traditional publisher, I'd have to wait months to see my work in print. This time, I'd be read within days, on top of the news."  Digital is fast.

So, the question is, who will be producing the better books in two or three decades?  The traditional publishers who take a long time to publish one book, and who, increasingly, place big bets on celebrities and "brand name" authors?  Or, the indie side in which writers publish lots and quickly?  Where are writers most likely to hone their skills?

I don't think the answer is obvious.  And it may well be that just as orange is the new black, indie publishing is the new cable.







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