I recently saw a tweet from Writer's Digest saying, "There's no better place for an aspiring author than New York City."
It was promotion for an annual conference and not intended to be interpreted as, "This is law according to us ivory tower gnomes," but there was something about the tweet that really bugged me.
It used to be you had to be in a certain geographical location to have any chance of success in certain artistic fields. Wanted to be a filmmaker? Go to Los Angeles. Wanted to be a country musician? Get your ass to Nashville. And if you wanted to be a writer, you had to make at least one journey to New York. That's where the publishers were, the agents, the editors. Hell, even that xenophobe HP Lovecraft worked up enough courage to make the move.
The major publishers - names the likes of Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster - will still be around for a long time. They will still be working primarily in New York City just as Warner Brothers, Disney, and Paramount primarily work in LA. But there's no denying the power and presence of the small press. At the AWP conference last month, I saw no publisher considered a household name.
Then there's the impact of technology and the ability to self-publish, which has a new recognition today than ten or even five years ago. Companies like Lulu have partnerships with online distributors Amazon and Barnes and Noble that allow self-published works to be printed on demand and reach a wide audience.
So no, a pilgrimage to New York is not required for a literary career.