Self-publishing, Literature and Pop Culture

I opened the Books section in yesterday’s New York Times Urban Eye to read the headline, “Why Literature Doesn’t Matter.” Really? How sad. It matters to me. It matters to my family, friends, and colleagues. It matters to the self-publishing authors I work with every day. Literature doesn’t matter… I wish someone would have told me.

According to Urban Eye, a recent Sunday Book Review article penned buy novelist Kurt Anderson was to fill me in. Anderson writes, “During the 1960s and ’70s…people who hadn’t read a word of a first-rate contemporary novel — no Cheever, no Bellow, no Salinger, Heller, Styron, Doctorow, Updike or Roth — nevertheless knew the novelists’ names… And then everything changed.”

But book sales in the US have remained strong, and are even growing over previous years in Europe. Despite the current recession effects, statistics show that readers are still buying books. Not matter? Anderson goes on to claim, “But irony of ironies, after literature was evicted from mass culture, pop culture itself began to fragment and lose its heretofore defining quality as the ubiqui­tous stuff that everybody consumed.”

Ah, I’m seeing to whom, or rather to what, Literature doesn’t matter to – pop culture. Wait, then this is a good thing for authors and readers. The fragmentation that Anderson talks about is the segmenting of consumers into smaller, more clearly defined profiles. What that means to self-publishing authors of fiction, non-fiction, etc., is not that your work doesn’t matter, that Literature doesn’t matter, but that it doesn’t matter to everyone. Perfect, now you can coordinate and focus your subject matter and marketing efforts to readers who will benefit from, and buy your books.

Talk to your self-publisher early on about your custom marketing plan.

Karl Schroeder

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5 thoughts on “Self-publishing, Literature and Pop Culture

  1. I saw that article and was thinking the same thing. Maybe literature doesn’t matter any more to Time magazine or to pop culture. But then I saw a study from the NEA that revealed that only 8% of Americans read poetry. Yikes. But I like your positive article and your blog. Thanks for your optimism. I’ve added you to my blogroll.


  2. Hi Karl,

    There is a definite shift in how younger people ‘see’ writing and view literature. How we connect with each other from a distance has so drastically changed. Once, the immediacy of a phone call was a novelty, now, we can use the same mobile form of the device to connect with anyone who will listen. It has become a two way path, not just for the sound of the human voice, but text words, data, photographs, movies, and hey…even the latest self-published book downloaded to your iPhone.

    I think many people, particularly younger people who don’t remember a time without txt or the internet see the printed word in books as a far smaller part of their lives. I’m 41, and the vast part of my learning came from books, be it at school or through recreation.But that is changing now, and that’s why it is so important we all help to move literature and all its worth onto the plain of viral attention where some much of exciting and vibrant literary talent look.

    Sure, the growing pains are evident – Google Book Settlement, the struggle commercial publishing is going through at the moment to accept a changing industry and readership – but rest assure, it will all come good, and in twenty years we will all have a chuckle at the awkwardness and resistance to accept what inherently the same message – just in a different format.

    Keep up the good work Karl,

    Best Regards,


    1. Mick – outstanding insight. Thank you for sharing. Imagine what kind of growing pains the world saw, and for how long, following Gutenberg and his introduction of the printing press? Growing literacy led to a new model based lined with increased production to meet a larger audience. I’m sure there were a few scribes a bit bitter at the lack of work, but the chuckle had following the settling of that dust must have felt good.

      – Karl

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