Literary agent Richard Curtis is a fellow with one eye on the future. His articles about publishing never fail to be provocative and interesting. A post written on the web site Backspace covers a sweep of contemporary history in publishing known as the here and now. The focus of the article is how email and blogging are altering the way publishers receive, evaluate and transmit work submitted for consideration. His article concludes with an assessment of blogging that might startle the literary community; he foresees the doom of literary agents. In his vision writers and editors will meet on the invisible terrain of the blogosphere.
Curtis also ranges over the ‘platform’ issue a fin de siecle development assuring the publication of famous people when the urge to write a book strikes their fancy. I’m not naming names but apparently the platform works this way: you’re a New York editor. two manuscripts are sitting on your desk, one by Al Camus, one by the renowned slugger J. Canseco. It’s pretty clear by page three of a side by side comparison that Al’s a talented writer while JC rambles a little. A quick check of the web reveals that Camus doesn’t have a web site, a glamorous photo, or even a TV appearance in his portfolio. Rumor is he’s bald. JC, on the other hand, was struck on the head by a baseball while patroling right field (the sun was out). He’s got fifty web sites, a legion of bookish fans and a tremendous amount of hair. Jose has platform. Jose gets book deal.
Curtis doesn’t try to link the importance of platform to the decline in readership book publishers bemoan; maybe that link doesn’t exist. The rise of one and the fall of the other may only be coincidence; what’s a poorly written book compared to a glam photo of the author? No one is expected to read the thing.