IN THIS ISSUE
- From the Editor’s Desk: The work isn’t always pretty or comfortable
- New on The Wordling: My toughest year in the freelancing biz
- News & Views: Did Liz Gilbert cancel herself?
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Hiya writer friends,
I left this editorial to the last minute today, something I almost never do, but I’m running late for my son’s end-of-year school play, so here’s a quick something I wrote earlier that I’ve been thinking about recently. I hope it helps you, too!
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind. – Anthony Bourdain
The same is true for writing. The work you put out into the world.
It won’t be easy.
It will change you.
It will bring you to breaking point.
It will break your heart.
It will challenge you in ways you didn’t think was possible.
You’ll question repeatedly whether it’s worth it.
And it will leave a mark.
It will fulfill you in ways you couldn’t have anticipated.
It will give you a deep sense of passion, and purpose, and faith.
And hopefully, through it, you will leave something good behind.
Enjoy the issue!
Natasha Khullar Relph
Editor, The Wordling
THE WORDLING RESOURCE
We now have a total of 200+ markets on our How to Pitch page, including writer’s guidelines for Wired, National Geographic, The New York Times, AARP, Financial Times, Writer’s Digest, and more. Find them here.
NEW ON THE WORDLING
I wrote this post in 2013, after a very rough year in the freelancing business. It was probably the hardest year of my professional life. These are the lessons I learned during that year. And truly accepting them and fixing them has helped me reach a point where I subsequently walked away from a six-figure job because I was doing more with my business. I know you can do the same. This is how.
NEWS & VIEWS:
Book backlash: When to pull a book from publication
The biggest news in the publishing world this week is Elizabeth Gilbert’s announcement of her new historical novel, “The Snow Forest,” set “in a remote, high-altitude corner of Siberia,” and… it’s subsequent removal from publication.
In a segment on Good Morning America, followed by a video on her social media feeds, Elizabeth Gilbert announced the project to her millions of followers. The backlash was swift and harsh.
“It’s really frustrating that you decided to publish a story about russians [sic] during a full-scale war russia started in Ukraine. And it’s not just war, it’s genocide of Ukrainians, ecoside [sic] of beautiful Ukrainian nature, rape and terror of civilians on occupied territories,” wrote one follower. “Such a tone-deaf move,” wrote another.
Over the weekend, Gilbert’s as-yet-unpublished novel was review bombed on Goodreads, with over 500 people leaving one-star ratings and critical reviews.
On Monday, Gilbert announced she’s removing the book from its publication schedule.
“I do not want to add any harm to a group of people who have already experienced and are continuing to experience grievous and extreme harm, so that is the choice that I have made,” she said in a follow-up video.
The backlash to the backlash
While many have applauded Gilbert’s decision to listen to her readers, the publishing industry in general has been baffled or disappointed by her approach.
In a piece titled “Eat, Pray, Pander,” for The Atlantic, Franklin Foer writes, “Being accused of complicity with a regime accused of genocide can’t have felt very nice. But by withdrawing the book, [Gilbert] has set a terrible precedent. In meekly complying with the angriest voices, she accepted their argument that setting a book in Russia is an act of collusion, even though that’s an entirely nonsensical argument. In effect, she’s allowing the irrational feelings of her readers to set the terms of acceptable discourse. For a group to block a book, it just needs to clog the comments on Instagram with hurt feelings.”
Was it a wise business decision?
I’ll state the obvious, since no one else has: The moment Gilbert announced this book, it became a no-win situation. Regardless of individual feelings about the matter, there is no appetite in the market for books that have anything to do with Russia right now.
The Guardian reported just this week that authors in the UK are receiving “enticing bids” for foreign rights from Russia, where a demand for escapist literature, including crime, romance, and fantasy novels, is currently very high. Many authors, the Guardian reports, are choosing to turn down this money, even though the offers are sometimes double what they have been in the past.
Regardless of how she may have felt about the book and its publication before the backlash, continuing on with publication would have put Gilbert at odds with readers she shares moral ground with. The 500 one-star reviews would easily have turned to 5,000 and the book would have been dead on arrival, given the lack of excitement for books set in the region, or a contentious release, something that goes against both Gilbert’s nature and brand.
An author’s first responsibility is to their readers. Whether or not a book succeeds is not down to agents or publishers, but the marketplace. Readers who love it and talk about it. Or readers who boycott it and never purchase anything by the author again.
For another author, it may have made more sense to take a stand and publish anyway.
But if she was to stay true to her brand and the person readers have come to know, Elizabeth Gilbert really only had one option. Which is the one she took.
Seven women accused star columnist at The Guardian, UK, Nick Cohen, of inappropriate sexual behavior, including years of unwanted sexual advances and groping of female journalists. The incident has thrown light on not just the Guardian’s silence on this matter, but an entire media industry that seeks to protect itself at the cost of its female members.
The Society of Authors in the UK has published guidance for authors on how to protect themselves and their work from “the impact of new technologies,” and Publishers Association announced that it’s forming a new AI taskforce.
And finally, Pulitzer winning author Cormac McCarthy, has died at age 89.
UK: “As the shock news of a probable sale spread through the newsroom at the Telegraph, an air of optimism broke out among its journalists. It was perhaps not the reaction you might have expected when the future of one of the UK’s biggest and most influential newspapers had been thrown into uncertainty for the first time in almost two decades.”
INDIA + CHINA: “India and China have ejected each other’s journalists in recent weeks, virtually wiping out mutual media access and deepening a rift between the world’s two most populous nations. New Delhi denied visa renewals this month to the last two remaining Chinese state media journalists in the country, from state-run Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television, according to people familiar with the matter.”
GUATEMALA: “One of Guatemala’s best known journalists is facing up to 40 years in prison on Wednesday in a case that has raised alarm about a squeeze on democracy in Central America’s largest economy. José Rubén Zamora said he believed the charges of money laundering, blackmail and influence peddling against him were filed in retaliation for stories published by his newspaper that alleged corruption by the government of President Alejandro Giammattei.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
– Allen Ginsberg
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