I am of course that I'm talking in a metaphorical sense, again using the analogy to show the interrelatedness of all aspects of a reading/writing/publishing ecosystem. (I really like my fishtank idea!)
I found Michael Heyward's article in The Age an extremely interesting glimpse into the Aussie publishing fishtank, an overview of what's happening, and what needs to happen there.
There's much good news, and the industry has much to celebrate, not least some excellent authors and a reading public that really does read enthusiastically:
Government research shows that almost 80 per cent of Australians read for pleasure most days of the week.But what's missing?
Simple: more editors, more Australian books.The same need for editors - those largely unsung heroes - exists here too. Not just to tidy up the grammar and give recalcitrant authors a poke, but to spot and nourish new talent. And to gatekeep to prevent the less than excellent from reaching the market.
How can we develop the great editorial cultures our cultures of reading and writing deserve?
Editors matter because writers matter.
The creativity of writers will always be at risk if they have to work in the absence of editors who know talent and can market it.
We don't publish enough books in Australia because we haven't trained enough editors and publishers to find the writers, nurture them and sell their work.
We haven't valued what editors do because we haven't had the chance to watch them in action.
Editors and publishers are much more than suppliers of printed paper: they are catalysts, cajolers, bearers of standards, trend-spotters and makers.
How can you write the history of literary modernism without telling the story of T. S. Eliot at Faber? Or of American fiction without Maxwell Perkins or Alfred A. Knopf or Roger Straus?
We are beginning to understand that these are living traditions on which to draw.
Heyward points out that the Australian government needs to be proactive in promoting its publishing industry at all levels ... and importantly, that this will be a money-earner in the long run, not merely a cultural artifact that requires propping up with infusions of cash!
And as a little coda to Datuk Ng's speech the other day:
You can't sell international rights in books that don't exist or aren't good enough.It will be interesting to see how out fish tank develops over the next few years.
Here's more on Heyward.