You generally can’t insult somebody without expecting a reaction. An alleged author (that I will not name because she doesn’t deserve the publicity) started the new year off with a bang by publishing a hastily written and poorly researched essay on HuffPo claiming that self-published works are an insult to the written word. Her subsequent comment on her own essay, in response to the negative backlash, reveals a level of ignorance that is hard to fathom. But she did apologize for having insulted indie authors the world over and promised a follow-up essay to set the record straight. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts I’d like to share. I originally posted my reaction on my Facebook page, but subsequently removed the post because I didn’t see any reason to drive more traffic her way. But I do want to say a few things about the topic.

I am admittedly new to the self-publishing arena, but I have spent the requisite time reading KBoards and I am now qualified to comment with authority (tongue planted firmly in cheek). First let’s state that where the publishing industry is concerned, the surge in popularity of self-publishing since about 2008 is tantamount to the Reformation, and the traditional publishers and editors are its clergy. So it is not surprising to hear one of them beat the pulpit and warn the laity that they will never find their way to heaven (where all the “good” books are sold) if they read the words of the false prophets. And I won’t even deny her assertion that removing the traditional gatekeepers, and lowering the bar for entry into the marketplace, has led necessarily to a decline in quality of the overall product.

But the dirty little secret that indie authors already know is this: readers don’t care. They don’t care that a book has no plot. They don’t sweat the lack of character development. They don’t even mind, apparently, that it’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors. They don’t care. Like Macklemore, they will go on popping tags in the Kindle Store, because, “shit, it was 99 cents!” But the independent authors that I’ve talked to, who actually care about the craft, already know that most self-published books are dreck. There have been plenty of threads on KBoards lamenting this fact, and even if most of them don’t come right out and say it, you can feel them eye-rolling when they talk about their fellow “authors.”

So here’s the root of the problem – and I’m not alone in this criticism, I was pleased to see Steve Wetherell express similar sentiments earlier this week – don’t shake your fist at Amazon for ruining the publishing industry, let’s instead lay the blame where it belongs. The legion of undiscerning consumers who either can’t or won’t distinguish between the good books and the bad, and continue to crowdfund whatever nonsense these so-called “authors” upload every few months. I’ll let my readers decide if there are any parallels between this situation and recent events.

The Written Word Strikes Back
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