Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Under the Volcano

So obviously a slew of thought-provoking posts from a number of author/publisher types have been burning up a certain corner of the interweb recently. So much chatter! So many points to be made! So many counterpoints to consider!

First and foremost, I'm talking about Chuck Wendig's (predictably coarse but also totally sensible) call for a renewed commitment to quality in self-published writing. After a few initial knee-jerk reactions, I think most people who have taken the time to read through it all (along with the comments, which offer a lot of interesting perspectives themselves) have found it to be less a traitorous indictment than an overdue argument for minimal standards in terms of grammar and syntax.

Shortly thereafter, I caught Beverly Bambury's insightful perspective as a marketing expert who is finding herself splashed by the slop trough as well.

For me, the argument worth considering here is that an unyielding torrent of mediocre self-pubbed books will eventually give ALL self-pubbed books such a bad name that routes of access will start closing.

People won't buy anything that smacks of amateurism if that amateurism becomes too offensive to their sensibilities. Having bought - and loved - a lot of ridiculously amateurish music in my lifetime, I don't know that I buy this argument entirely. But it's still worth considering, I guess.

And then, just today, I found this article from JA Konrath and Hugh Howey (two of the biggest outliers in publishing, it would seem) who take great pains to lay out sales data showing that a lot of what Chuck is up in arms about is thus far not supported by facts.

That's a lot of reading to get through, so I'll hold off from linking further spinoff posts that have added their own range of opinions to the discussion.

Except for this last one, which isn't even directly about book publishing but has hit me in the gut the hardest all the same.

Why? Because it taps into this feeling I've been having lately that all this bickering about publishing models and rising waves of crap writing are moot if the ultimate goal is simply to shift as many units of predictable content to as many readers as quickly as possible. I mean, it's a legit concern, but is that how we're going to frame things? Because I have trouble relating to that. Is this a "commercial fiction" concern that immediately precludes any talk about trying something different?

(Speaking of which, here's something I came across recently that talks about "... the reader’s ire [in this particular case, at coming across a word he hadn't seen before] as a symptom of the creeping consumerist attitude in our response to literature. That attitude includes the desire to be pleased, catered to and flattered by the products we consume and the companies who supply them, and an increasing intolerance of cultural experiences that make any demands on us.")

I've just started sending out queries, so it's too early in the game for me to speak with any authority. But if the traditional book publishing approach is anything like the traditional music publishing approach (and I suspect it is), then why on earth am I hoping and praying and wishing that some agent out there sees something in my work that can be turned into a rehash of Spose's experience?

Not only that, but why on earth are self-publishing authors so worried about how their work stacks up to trad publishing's sub-par offerings? Isn't the whole point of small press and independent production that less mainstream ideas can be pursued in less conventional styles/formats? Aren't there whole markets that are dying for just this kind of variation?

I know not everyone is aspiring to pen the next Fifty Shades-ish megahit, and I personally am not trying to come up with the equivalent of a Trout Mask Replica. But that kind of range in... what? Goals? needs to be factored into the discussion a little more prominently, because the idea that "readers don't want their time wasted" starts to lose it's meaning if the underlying idea is that readers are just looking to burn through familiar product as efficiently as possible.

Am I harping on this too much? Is it all that zine/punk label stuff I grew up on that's making me so wary of what intermediaries will do to what I've written?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home