Seth Harwood


What To Do When the Mainstream Yawns (and Spends): Pt 2

Often when talking to Seth Harwood (see last column) I’ve been struck (again) by the fact that American writers are forced to adjust to a publishing industry that has removed authors from the top of the hierarchy and told them to be grateful to be stuck at the bottom.

I’m not talking about the small number of blockbuster authors who pay all the bills.

In fact, the few stars who remain on top seem to encourage publishing excesses like the shamefully overdone Random House book launch for Dan Brown in New York a while ago.

Dan Brown Party

At that party, waiters bedecked in George Washington wigs served lobster BLTs and other expensive noshes to a few hundred guests while “theatrical lighting [was] rigged up under the massive ovoid dome of the former bank that now houses Gotham Hall,” observed New York magazine (see photo at right).

Surrounding this “most lavish publishing cocktail party in a long time” were signs about saving money, such as this wordy mouthful (quoted by the New York Observer): “There is no gain so sure as that which results from economizing what you have.” (I see. Waiter, could I have another scallop?)

And this one: “Having little, you cannot risk loss; having much, you should the more carefully protect it.”

Protect it? Heavens, you could increase a thousand Random House advances by cutting out the gazpacho shooters alone.

Back to Seth Harwood

No, I’m talking about the talented unknowns and hardworking mid-range authors who need to be nurtured and given time to find their audience but are still getting low advances and dismissive treatment.

(One has to ask, what are publishers thinking? It’s not healthy for the book industry when a writer who lucks out like Dan Brown is “the only guy who’s in the running,” as the Los Angeles Times observed. “The movie industry couldn’t survive on Meryl Streep alone; the publishing industry might benefit from nurturing more of its own demi-stars to fill out the program.”)

So I thought there was hope when I first heard about up-and-coming authors like Seth Harwood, a writer with so many rejection slips from the New York mainstream that he built an audience from zero readers to about 80,000 by podcasting his unpublished book, “Jack Wakes Up,” with his own equipment in a closet at home — and giving it away free on iTunes. (more…)