There's a lot to discuss in HTML GIANT's revealing, wide-ranging interview with The Huffington Post Books' resident hatchet-man, Anis Shivani. Most of it is blustery, some of it insightful, and all of it seems in service of keeping the lights on at the Shivani show.
There's not much I agree with, except for one small neologism that says something about the literary day in which we live. Rather than live with a binary in which critics are on one side and authors the other, Shivani suggests that today both fall into the category of "literary entrepreneur."
He doesn't build the point out (in fact it is a bit of a throwaway), but this particular phrase tells us something about the current position of the writer within publishing and a lot about why Shivani operates the way he does.
Thinking of people who make their living with words not as "authors" but as "literary entrepreneurs" makes today's requirements for earning a living by the pen plain. It once was that a writer was a basically an employee of a publisher, providing work on a spec basis in hopes of having the house pick it up, sell it, and return a percentage of the proceeds to the creator.
Recognizing that today's writer needs to be an entrepreneur (and all that implies) is a great service and coalesces some of the more pressing issues facing a would-be professional: social networking, personal branding, self-driven publicity, risk, independence, and a host of other digital-age commercial concerns.
The literary entrepreneur model strips away some of the romance of being called a "writer" and replaces it with pragmatism; writing a great book was never a guarantee of being successful, but today, at least, writers have considerably more agency in maximizing their post-publication returns.
There are downsides to this model, some of which Shivani himself demonstrates: ruthless self-promotion, very little critical generosity, attention-grubbing public discourse, and intellectual narcissism among them.
Still, the fact remains: if the message is useful, there's very little to be gained from arm-wrestling the messenger.