Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wait, Wait, Wait...

Independent author Rob Guthrie touched off a huge heated debate a little while ago on his blog, suggesting that Amazon charge a fee for publishing online, then fired the passions of primarily Indie authors again with two subsequent posts, Does Everyone Have a Novel in Them? and Does Talent Exist?

I’ve been reading his posts and those of others, either in agreement or with opposing viewpoints. There were many good points in both Rob's original posts and the comments and fallout. I’m sincere in my desire to be respectful of everyone’s thoughts on the subject of whether or not untalented (or perhaps unskilled at present) writers should be allowed to publish their books, and charge the public money to read them, because I know they are heartfelt.

However, in all the hashing and rehashing of the subject, one very simple fact seems to have been lost. There have always been crappy books published, way before online publishing was even a germinating thought, and lots of money made on them. I can go to a used book sale and pull them off the shelves by the hundreds. Yet, someone originally bought the wretched things and they appear to have been read.

The same is true of movies (case in point John Carter), paintings, plays, and then lots of everyday products we all consume regularly. For instance, nearly all the fast food factories (restaurants, technically) we are surrounded by offer less than acceptable fare to a gourmand. Still, even the regulatory agencies, like the FDA, are only charged with making sure what we consume won’t harm us, not that it’s good for us.

I'm not a free market freak but this country generally speaking supports it and why should that not extend to online books? If someone wants to buy a book that others consider poorly written, who are we to impede their desire? We don’t try to put a stop to erotica, or porn, and those areas are certainly "quality writing" challenged.

Simply put, I don’t think there should be either a judging system put in place nor a tariff (publishing fee) imposed to stop the “bad writing” from hitting the marketplace, because it would be, in effect, censorship.

One more quick thought; I believe the reason this has been such an ardently followed subject is that it hits a little too close to home. Most of us, Indie authors, have struggled for years to get published, and in that cause have had to believe in ourselves against all odds. Now, to be told we may not be good enough again, well…

(Published on Red Mojo Mama Musings as well)


  1. "Free market freak" is such a loaded appellation and one that I gladly accept. Unfortunately, I've never seen one in practice. Either government socializes markets or private businessmen ruin them with price-fixing, monopolies, etc. Where is the balance?

    Now, as to publishing... Free market forces seem to be at work. Even though Amazon has captured enough of the market to monopolize it, there are plenty of alternatives that allow buyers and sellers to interact free of any constraints that Amazon might attempt to impose.

    Thus, good products will ultimately rise to the top and trash will linger at the bottom. Though, even at the bottom, they may sell a few copies here and there.

    If there is any complaint, it is that it is harder these days to market books because of the crush of new books being brought to market. The volume is so great that it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Heavens forbid, authors are having to get creative to sell their books in this new environment. Well, in truth they always have.

  2. Thanks Jack - for your thoughtful comments. Yes, it was a loaded term, and I used it on purpose so that those who aren't proponents would read on. I would agree that there isn't a true free market in the world that I know of - hence my hesitation to embrace the term. I have to say that I've always thought, however, that in a real free market situation the rise to the top scenario would hold true. Let's hope, anyway.

  3. Red Rojo:

    I am a big proponent of the free market, but I think it is a stretch to say that the cream will rise to the top. It may just as easily get smothered by work of a lesser quality. As Jack points out, the really unnerving thing about this deal is that no one has found the best way to market the works of indie writers.
    But I truly believe the future is bright and no gatekeeper is necessary.

  4. Thanks Stephen - appreciate your opinion and the hopeful outlook. I believe another year or two will let us a lot.

  5. I'm a career author with a long track record in tradionanal publishing but I've found through teaching creative writing, like Brenda Ueland ('If you want to write')that virtually everyone has talent http://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/?s=talent
    It's the other stuff that gets you into being published, whichever route you take, and I personally think that the inde side is a vital balance in a market that's increasingly focused on the next big thing, and therefore disinclined to take on any new work that isn't the same as the current big thing.

  6. Red, I won't comment anymore on the other stuff---that poor horse has seen his share of thunderous beat-downs! You know me, you know how open-minded I am (it's the cornerstone of everything I believe in). I blog, I opine, I theorize, I suggest...therefore I am. Right? Well, anyway, I do not dictate, nor do I ever claim authoritativeness. EVER. Only one comment you made above hurt me, and I only use the word "hurt" because you seem to have made this more or less an open letter to my blog posts.

    You say at the end: "Most of us, Indie authors, have struggled for years to get published, and in that cause have had to believe in ourselves against all odds. Now, to be told we may not be good enough again, well…"

    Oh, my. To even suggest that I believe, imply, suggest, or even remotely feel that any Indies are "not good enough" simply because they are Indie? Most particularly YOU? That, I feel, is an unfair characterization of me to your readers. Show me anyone who is a bigger supporter of Indies than me. My tweets are FILLED with the promotion of Indies (you included). I never once so much as suggested that you (or any) Indie wasn't good enough. Far, far, from it. All I ever proposed is that the free entrance means anyone gets in. That's it.

    You know I love you and you know I adore your writing.

    1. Rob - I didn't mean that comment towards you in particular, because you're right you are a big supporter of others, I simply meant that to have found a home (and I'm sure there are others who feel Amazon is a publishing home of sorts) and then have to face possible judgement AGAIN. That's what I was talking about. I hope that's clear.

      And you are not alone in your ideas, at all. While you have probably noticed the disagreements more than the agreements, many people seem to feel there should be some sort of quality review.

      As far as the love, we do have a mutual admiration society going on. That made it a little hard to take a stand, frankly. Didn't mean to pick on you (really), but unless I missed something - very possible - the discussion seems to have started with your first blog post (I couldn't find a link to it) and continued on with the other two pieces.

      As I said, when we're all as intricately connected as we really are on Twitter and RABMAD, etc, it is tough to state what you think. I usually don't enter into controversial topics, but I really thought it was important to do so this time.

      I hope this makes my intent clear, Rob - to both you and all who read this.

  7. I'm sitting back for a moment and watching rather than entering the dialogue, just because I find all this so interesting. If there is one thing we all need to do, in the center of this grand debate that is going on amongst us, it is to see what a thoroughly caring and respectful way we've all been handing an issue which for many of us is most consequential and impactful. We are doing such a damned fine job of creating an environment of useful discourse and true community building, that it is unlike anything I've ever encountered in our so highly competitive and exclusive industry of the past. Do you know how unusual that is? If this is a sign of the future for us all, we are not only blessed, but were going to have the time of our lives! Hats off to all of us.

    1. I agree, Christina, we have a tight-knit and compassionate community. I hope I haven't thrown a cog into the a well-moving wheel.

  8. I came very close to deleting this post on both my blogs. Very close. I tend to write passionately, but it isn't my intent to offend people personally, ever. I've explained above and hope that readers will understand my position.

    However, I stand by my opinion on the issue and therefore, am choosing to let the post stand.