All those traditional publishing complaints about the self-publishing/online writing slushpile rather get thrown into perspective by this development. If Lanzendorfer is correct, hopeful online writers haven’t made one bit of difference to the practices of literary journals. The MFA industry has. Time and again, writers and others involved in the book world have complained about it. And here’s one evidence of it doing actual harm and penalizing poorer writers.
There is a massive problem of felt entitlement around MFA programs, as has been chronicled at length. The problem is clearly not being helped by the fact that there’s an alternative path to writing success that MFA participants are apparently ignoring. Yes, jump into the online writing/self-publishing slush pond. You may be drowning in a pool of talentless peers, and struggling to get your head above the general level, but know what? Looks like exactly the same will apply in MFA programs these days. So much so that literary journals are effectively putting up paywalls to make you stay away. At least the internet doesn’t do that.
But it doesn’t confer an obvious qualification and other snob value brownie points either. An MFA does. Publication in an accredited literary journal, of course, also confers snob value. And this is snob value you pay for. Why wouldn’t you? It carries the Jonathan Franzen Seal of Approval.
Chris Meadows ran a couple of insightful pieces on how The Martian went from self-published surprise hit to Ridley Scott movie script. And the problem of snobbery that still lingers despite such breakout successes. The hidden, prejudiced assumption he cites there is that “self-publishing was vanity publishing.” Well, despite the work of Penguin Random House and Author Solutions, it now looks as though the equation has been turned on its head.
Snob writers from snob backgrounds are now paying snob fees for snob credentials and the snob kudos of proper publication in real literary journals. Not for them the sordid smut of a Fifty Shades-style popular success. They aspire to higher things, with real publication, on paper. After all, that’s what they paid for.
Read the rest on TeleRead.
See also: Why literature is no longer art.
[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]