Friday, July 26, 2013

Publishing and ego

It’s been another of those weeks that makes me wonder about the value and fate of those of us who work in the publishing world. After years of working in this industry, I’ve discovered I don’t like the new world very much at all for many reasons. Lack of talent is only part of it–the lack of decency, integrity, and any respect for others is a HUGE factor in what’s essentially making this entire creative art a pile of shit and a veritable cesspool.

Over the past couple of years in particular I’ve watched trends. There are more publishers cropping up than weeds in a garden because opportunists see a way to make some easy money for little investment. There are literally millions of people who want to publish a book, and believe they have the talent to be the next superstar of the literary world. If you can’t find a publisher who agrees with you–the giant machine called Amazon offers you an alternative, SELF-PUBLISH! Once the bane and joke of the “real” world of publishing, this too has become the vanity way to make a quick buck and call yourself a published author.

I think what annoys me the most is not that people everywhere are publishing their own books, but that the quality of those books is in MOST cases so poor. For those who employ editors, decent cover artists, and genuinely care about their work–I applaud your determination and your efforts. But how many of the new breed simply write it, slap a stock image on it, and place it into Amazon’s marketing machine? TOO MANY!

A lot of serious and seasoned authors are revealing common complaints when they confer. One of them being the arrogance that dominates the world of Indie publishing. Facebook is filled with groups of these authors who proudly proclaim that they will never subject themselves to editors who want nothing more than to undermine the integrity of their prose and art. Really? I have to admit, statements like that make me gape in stupefied wonder. There are a lot of words that will spring to mind when other authors read declarations like that–I don’t think “professional” will be among them. Lesson #1 for ANY author to learn–there are no perfect books. Before or after publication.

I’ve talked to several industry insiders, and they all say the same thing, the trend is shifting and there is a slow but inexorable movement back toward quality of writing. This is very good news for writers who care about the work they’re producing more than they do twisting writhing bodies into impossible situations. Erotic romance is a booming business and that’s unlikely to change, but what does need to change is the quality of those works. and others that are being fed into the mainstream of publishing. It speaks badly when reviewers actually complain about good grammar and proper word usage, and it’s happening because of the glut of utter shit that is all over the market at the moment.

Writers have two choices facing them as they wait for the industry to slow its frenetic rush to publish the next Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena. It’ll happen, but is very likely years away. So, in the meantime, everyone who’s rediscovered, or discovered reading because of the media frenzy around one set of books–these readers will need to find solid books to keep them reading now. Just my personal opinion, but I’d like to think the coming years will produce a far superior product than what’s dominating the market now, in both large houses and small. So, writers can continue to write down to their readers, and titillate them with stories that ten years ago would have been strictly classed as pornography, OR they can start to focus on writing stories that have readers thinking and feeling on all levels. There’s a lot to be said for romance that is sensual and actually romantic.

We, as artists/writers can either learn to do our jobs better all the time by working and growing, or we can fall back on the arrogance and posturing that is rapidly becoming the trademark of mid-level authors. Don’t kid yourself, it’s very true. The new common is a two-fold problem: never before published authors who think they can start at the top of the business because they’re too good to work their way up. Mid-level, moderately successful authors who somehow think it’s not career suicide to attack and malign other writers and slander their publishers when things don’t go their way. In a different business, these people would be in the gutter by end of day for some of the shit that is routinely pulled in the publishing world at this time. All in all, I know what I am, a nobody who works hard, and tries not to compromise my personal principles. That may mean I’m never a success, but at least I’ve produced what I hope are entertaining stories, and I didn’t step all over other people to make it happen.

Success is defined in different ways for different people, but arrogance and ego are ugly in any profession when they’re all you really have to offer.


  1. Two memories came to mind as I read this. First, from high school: I was already writing (I actually wrote my first story in second grade), but I really wanted to learn more about writing in general, so I paid close attention to my literature teachers when they discussed how specific authors worked. The statement that has stayed with me ever since dealt with Ernest Hemingway: everything he wrote had to be carefully edited because his grammar was terrible. I figured if Hemingway could deal with always being edited, I should.

    Then, in the '80's, when I was heavily involved in writing both fanfic and original SF&F for print fanzines, and also served as a proof-reader for two of them, I remember hearing repeatedly of fanwriters who would send notes with their submissions saying 'This doesn't need editing; I was very careful', or 'My friends have already gone through this, and it doesn't need any editing.' We all laughed about it, and shrugged it off because these were definitely 'amateur' writers.

    Sadly, it appears that this self-important attitude has spread far beyond fanwriting. I keep discovering really obvious, pathetic, errors in books that I've paid real money for, and all I can do is shake my head, and whisper a prayer that somehow true professionalism will return. That people will realize that admitting a need to be edited is a strength, not a weakness, and that self-publication would be much improved if editors and proof-readers could be involved.

    1. Well said, as usual, Roberta. I think the current trends are helping to create far too much crap in the publishing world. I was asked to vote for best contemporary romance today, and honestly when I ran down the list of entries, I saw the same book, over and over again, different title, different authors, different covers - but ALL knock offs of Fifty Shades of Grey, trying to catch the current fad... Many of these new books are also recycled fan fictions, so that fine line of plagiarism is being pushed, too.

  2. Oh boy, do I have a lot to say about this one. In a nutshell: BRAVO!! I could not agree more. I critique/beta-read/review, and I'm also a published author. I'm one of the lucky ones, so far - my current publisher seems to really care about how books turn out. But I have seen ghastly errors and downright sheer junk in "published" books. These I do not complete--I send them back to their owners and suggest other venues. (No, I don't suggest the book boneyard.)

    I have the curse my dad has--spelling and grammar perfectionism. I could spot misspellings from my teachers when I was in the third grade, and was reading and comprehending at an 11th grade level when I was ten years old. But I still find honking bad mistakes in my own work, so I welcome editing and suggestions. And that includes this missive, although it's just a post, not an essay.

    However, here's another unbelievable trend: people who advertise their "editing" services who cannot spell/create a well-structured sentence EVEN IN THEIR ADVERTISEMENTS! To them I say: clean up your own house and then go clean others'.

    I don't read or review romance--so not my thing. You might as well ask the cat to knit you an overcoat. So I can't comment on that. But I have seen my share of crapola on the site I admin on Facebook, Euphrates Bookstore. I had to ban someone for obscenity--then I got run up the flagpole for suggesting another book cover was walking a thin line between what I would accept and what would be banned. There are rules of decency, but they seem to have eroded a lot. I have my standards, and I won't part with them.

    Well, this became an essay after all...But I think I'm done now...

    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I'm guilty of making my share of dazzling errors when I write, as well, which is why I am eternally grateful for good editors and proofreaders. Anyone who offers constructive critique is a Godsend to writers who actually give a damn about their craft, and are always looking for ways to learn and improve.

      I agree completely with all you've said, and thank you for stating it so eloquently. Will have to check out your Facebook page now!!

  3. Well said, everyone. It is maddening when people think they should start at the top instead of working their way up, that just because they have a computer and spell check they can be a writer and an editor.

    Even the best writers need an editor to look over the manuscript prior to publishing. And any writer that thinks they don't need an editor is either an amateur or a fool. Sorry if I offend anyone.

    Let's hope that the crap out there will eventually sink to the bottom. The writers only in it for the money will tire of all the hard work that goes into publishing a book. The serious writers will continue to write because it's what they love to do and they care about putting out quality work.


  4. I love this! My ego does not ever stretch much past my editor, who can take it back a notch real quick, lol, but, hey, I am also a kick-ass student!


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