I’d just like to start by saying I am not aiming fingers at any particular demographic. I have noticed this with self-publishing, POD publishing, and people who want to get into brick & mortar publishing as well. I’ve noticed it with writers and readers. It’s an epidemic, and it needs to stop. What am I talking about? This attitude:
Who cares about quality? It’s just an ebook. It’s what, 99c? Just be proud I had the guts to put my work out there. I’m published, and that’s what counts.
Say it with me, baby-Vader: NOOOOOOOOOO!
The problem is, we — readers, writers — don’t respect the art enough anymore. Yes, I know, I’m an elitist jerk who sits around in turtlenecks and drinks imported coffee while bemoaning whatever it is these people do (spoiler: I do none of these things). But honestly, we really, really don’t. In my previous posts on ‘sales over story’, I pointed out that discussions in the book industry are revolving a lot on who made it big, and not so much about whose stories are changing the world. As a spinoff of this, I’m noticing a rather worrisome trend that it doesn’t matter if it’s good, or if you’ve worked to make it the best it can be, or if you just let your cat walk all over the keyboard and exported to PDF — that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s out there.
This is absolutely insane.
What I don’t understand, as someone who writes and edits and struggles with knowing when a book is good enough to send it out there, is how anyone can have so little respect for themselves and their work that they think this is okay. How anyone who calls themselves a writer, anyone who claims to love books (I am talking to YOU, million-copies-on-Amazon guy who I still refuse to name and give more press) can be happy with churning out what they know is a sub-standard product. Do people not have pride? Do people really think they can’t do any better? Do people not want to make their book a worthy addition to the already overflowing pool of literature, or do they just want to urinate over the side and say that counts? I don’t get it.
What does get my goat is that if I attempt to have this conversation with those people, their trump card is, “Yeah, but I’m published, and you’re not, so who cares what you think?”
This is wrong — so unbelievably, excruciatingly wrong. The idea that releasing a bad book online, and perhaps making a few dollars from it, somehow trumps taking time to create a good story, and being proud when it’s released, is hurtful.
Rushing out your unedited manuscript and saying quality doesn’t matter is like thinking the fastest possible orgasm is the best way to have sex.
Yes, I know that bad books will eventually fade into obscurity while good books will rise to the top. Unfortunately, I think this attitude gives those people too much slack. I’ve recently seen a spate of posts on various writing forums where people are directly uploading their unedited manuscripts into Smashwords or Amazon or wherever else, and demanding praise. Other writers are then applauding them for their ‘courage’, and praising their ‘effort’. If someone does try to bring a little realism to this party — that this isn’t publishing, this is making a photocopy and then tossing the pages over the side of an overpass into the street below and hoping someone else can make sense of the mess — then the original poster and the other hand-shakers pounce on that person, calling them a big ol’ meanie poop-face who just doesn’t want other people to taste success.
Because it’s not just about these writers; it’s about a general culture of approbation that’s developing. Readers are being conditioned to expect nothing from ebooks. No wonder readers don’t want to pay more than $3.99 for a book — they’re not going to read it again, or treasure it, and if it has typos and grammar errors, or myriad plot holes, or unbelievable characters, or a hackneyed plot, eh, whatever, it was just a dollar. Who cares?
What ends up happening is that writers will use this as an excuse for their bad writing — by saying, “I wrote this in 24 hours”, or “I didn’t edit this at all”, it’s as good as saying, “You’re buying this car as-is. If the transmission quits when you’re halfway down the street, don’t blame me!” It’s hiding behind obvious — fixable! — flaws so that anyone who points out said flaws must be some sort of jerkfaced pedant. This is not a good attitude for writers to have. It means they will accept no criticism, constructive or otherwise, because they “know” the work isn’t good. It means that other readers will leap in and say “It’s 99c, what did you expect? If you want quality, go find some elitistly-published elitist book, you elitist!”
When people leap over all the middle stuff — editing, revising, making a book better — in order to get the “I’m published!” badge, it shows disrespect to themselves and their work, but also to the readers — that readers deserve no better. When readers shrug and buy the book because, eh, whatever, they’re agreeing.
It’s offensive to me, it’s offensive to readers, it’s offensive to every self-published author who worked their butt off to write a great book and get it out there, only for everyone else to compare them to these people, and it’s offensive to people who went through the soul-sucking process of querying and getting an agent. I don’t care if people publish with an agent and an editor and a publishing house, or if they print off the book at home, bind it by hand, and walk it over to every bookstore in town. I honestly don’t. What I care about is whether the book is good. Anyone who doesn’t is spitting in the face of everyone else who actually works to create something worth reading.
I know I sound like a raging traditionalist, and maybe I am, but I know way too many people who are genuinely talented, and who are working to get their books published — whether through brick & mortar or through other means — for me to be proud of someone who vomits up breakfast, dumps it on a plate, and calls themselves a chef.
EDIT: All right, this is funny –