Okay. So I’m addicted to I Love Lucy reruns. I love AC/DC too, so shut up. It is a great show, and harkens back to a time when humor was clean, and acting was really acting, not delivering ham-handed lines and getting paid a million bucks an episode. It’s also been on TV since 1951, with no breaks. Let some of the crap on television today try and say that in 60 years.
One particular episode I watched this past week got me thinking. Lucy and her husband Ricky were out to dinner with their buddies, the Mertz’s. (They’re all pictured above. If you aren’t familiar, Google it.) Their waiter came over and took their orders. Now, from there, they embark on a humor jag, but I’m not going to comment on that.
I’m going to tell you what they ordered. Ricky wanted a steak, Fred Mertz pork chops, Ethel takes lamb chops, and Lucy chooses roast beef. That’s it. All the meals came with whatever sides were listed, and that’s what you got. No one questioned it, no one complained.
You placed your order and ate your food.
Everything (including writing) was much the same back then. Think about it. No internet. No Amazon. No way to get your book out except to mail your paper manuscript to one of a handful of publishing companies and wait for 6 months to get an answer (well – some things haven’t changed so much.) Then, if you were lucky, someone took your work and you embarked on a wearisome journey of communication by mail, editing and so on, until finally, a book was produced. The whole process might have taken 2 years, 100 phone calls, and endless mailings.
BUT. If you were good, you stood out. And if you stood out, the money was there. How many truly good authors were there? Not many. At least, by today’s standards. And the public had much fewer choices. Just like Lucy’s menu. It was roast beef, pork chops, lamb chops, or steak. Take it or leave it.
Flash forward. Minimize this screen and Google publishers. Even taking out all the spam and mistaken hits, how many do you find? Fifty thousand, maybe, if you were to take the time to count them, and good luck with that. All with little tags on their sites, ready to take in the work of whomever wishes to make the jump. If you make that plunge, your work flashes over in a nanosecond to someone’s inbox, and off you go. To the trash heap, or to stardom. Or perhaps just mediocrity.
Because, see, stars don’t shine quite as brightly today, for one very good reason. And thus we get to my point.
It’s a double-edge sword, you see. While the wonders of technology have made it easier to submit, edit, and publish our work (Amazingly, it’s not any easier to write it), it has also opened the floodgates for anyone who can (or thinks they can) write. If you have 50,000 publishers, how many aspiring authors do you have? How many submittals?
How many choices for the reading public?
Bottom line is this. It ain’t 1951 any more. If you want to sell five books (much less the number you really have in mind), you better bring your “A” game. Your plotting, writing, editing, covering, hob-knobbing, tweeting, blogging, reviewing, interviewing, and whatever other “ings” had better be top shelf. Because, if yours isn’t, someone’ out there has “ings” that will eat your lunch.
Remember that, the next time you say “It’s good enough”.