Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How to Become Great

"To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

This Hegel quote was part of the signature of an e-mail I received from a staff person at Penguin Putnam dealing with some bit of business about my novel Sister India.

It's tough to hang onto this philosophy when one has been for long involved in the publishing business. We've been having a lot of conversation lately on this blog about market requirements, and what to do about them.

To meet Hegel's standard of indifference to public opinion and to get published would require one of several STRATEGIES, it seems to me:

1. Make the work of such transcendent quality that it might eventually be recognized for its value, though not necessarily in the writer's lifetime. And trust to either luck or young proteges to see that that reevaluation happens.

2. Self-publish, like James Joyce, among others.

3. Do such amazing and relentless self-promotion that a new standard, a new market is created.

4. Rely on accidentally meeting the requirements of publishers while doing one's own thing.

5. Meet enough market requirements to get in the door, while ignoring others. Make only the tolerable compromises, without damaging what feels vital. Promote like crazy.

Number 5 is my current choice.

How about you? OTHER OPTIONS?

(Every time I think I'm going to write for only a line or two, turns out that I'm wrong, I go on...)

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