|Posted by Mark Cantrell on February 9, 2014 at 9:30 AM|
First time for everything, if you can find where it starts
In this age of blogs and digital self-publishing, Mark Cantrell is curious to know what exactly constitutes an author's debut these days...
Lately, I've seen a few mentions of 'debut' authors in the so-called quality press and I have to say it got me wondering what actually constitutes a literary debut these days?
Presumably, it refers to an author who has got a 'traditional' publishing deal with a third-party publisher. They've been through the rejection mill of seeking an agent/publisher and finally found themselves passing into the ranks of those deemed worthy of becoming an Author (yes, complete with capital letter).
Now, the debutantes I'm referring to here aren't writing the kind of material that generally finds favour on my literary palate (and I don't say that to knock them), but then we are talking about the so-called quality press here, which means all the debutantes who write my kind of material are most unlikely to get a look in.
Okay, I'm talking about The Guardian here, you know that progressive left-of-centre newspaper that generally panders to the noblesse oblige sentiments of the affluent upper middle classes, and tries to pass it off as progressive left politics. So, yeah, they're generally going to plug the kind of books and authors that fit the indulgences of those who like to congratulate themselves as a cut above the rest. You know - sophisticated and intellectual in their tastes, switched on to the issues of the day, and deeply concerned for the lower social castes unable to appreciate the higher literary forms. Of course.
Now, that's got bugger all to do with my point here; just felt like throwing it into the pan to see how it sizzled, but back to the point of the literary debutante.
Take me, for example. My novel, Silas Morlock, was published late last year by Inspired Quill (IQ). Presumably, this makes me a debutante (although not the kind that'll make the pages of the so-called quality press, he says in an ever-so-slightly tongue in cheek growl of class sabre-rattling). But does that actually count?
Well, this is the thing - what constitutes a debut? You see, I have self-published a number of my works. My first novel, Citizen Zero, an anthology of fiction, and a poetry collection, were all Indie published, but before this I have also published cheap chapbooks, and a few quickfire 'pulp' digital titles for the sheer hell of it.
Go back a bit further, and Citizen Zero gained an airing in fairly complete form in a blog, and before that an earlier - and shorter - version of the novel was briefly published by a third party publisher of digital fiction called Online Originals (circa 2000), so doesn't that actually constitute my debut?
Some might suggest none of these count. Others might add, nor does my book deal with IQ, since it's a new small-press outfit. We have to remember that, alas, the publishing world is rife with its own variants on class conflict, and it's one that lacks the blessed simplicity of an outright punch-up between 'bourgeois' and 'proletarians'.
So, what does it take to be a debutante author? Does self-publishing count, either as an ebook or on a blog? How about a third party but obscure publisher? What about securing a publication with a well-respected small press. How about a new venture that has set its sights on growing to become a well-respected publisher, is that allowed to constitute a new author's debut?
Or, and this is the clincher, do you have to go through the 'proper channels' to be a debutante? Must you first be vetted by the established traditional agencies of publishing, before finally being delivered up in hardback by one of the big corporate publishers that dominate the industry? Do you, in fact, have to wear a tiara and go to some fancy ball?
Hell, maybe even that's not enough. At the end of the day, perhaps to make a suitable debut, you need a mention in the pages of The Guardian or one of the other quality broadsheets; otherwise you're just another author jostled by the 'hoi polloi'.
So, as you can see, I'm rather puzzled by all this debut business. There's a first time for everything, but in this convoluted world of publishing, with its hidebound status games, its tribal point-scoring, and the internecine snob sophistry, the beginnings and the ends seem to get lost in the tangled squabble.
There's a debut in the making, here, somewhere, if only I can figure it out. Maybe somebody out there has got a clue or two. If so, answers are most welcome. All it takes is somebody gutsy enough to be the first, so come on don't be shy - what do you think makes for an author's debut?