Sunday night I went to see Amelia, the movie about the famous aviatrix (I love that word—don’t get to use it enough, in my opinion) and I was surprised by a few things—things that had an awful lot of similarities to the current predicament many writers find themselves in these days—that delicate balance between promoting and fulfilling their artistic dreams.
For one thing, I hadn’t realized Amelia was married to George P. Putnam, yes THAT Putnam, of Putnam Publishing fame. Furthermore, this icon of Good Old Fashioned, Respectable Publishing was widely hailed as an aggressive promoter. In fact, he first approached Earhart because he knew her presence on a cross Atlantic flight would increase the attention the event received and create a bonanza of publicity, which would in turn support and promote the book she had yet to write!
Sound familiar? Of course it does, it is hugely similar to publishers today looking for a platform for their authors. They were putting the cart before the horse, even back then. Not only that, but he promoted the heck out of Earhart. He had her hawking cigarettes and waffle irons, a line of clothing and luggage. When she gently complained, he reminded her it was the only way to finance her flying. Planes and fuel were expensive.
Wow. That sounds JUST like what we writers of today wrestle with all the time. Only it turns out, it isn’t a new phenomenon at all. It’s been around for quite a while and in quite a wide variety of fields.
And THAT in turn, gave me a lot of comfort. This new cry of Grab A Platform, Any Platform is not a new, sweeping revamping of Publishing As We Know It; it is an age-old technique that some people use successfully. However, even though it has been going on since Earhart’s day (and probably long before that) it has not completely subsumed the other business model of publishing—finding a great book and creating a platform around that.
Anyway, I was truly struck by how Amelia’s balancing act mirrored what writers struggle with today. Just thought I’d share.