Fear of a Writing Planet: On John Green, Self-Publishing, and Amazon

A thoughtful post by novelist John Green is making the rounds today regarding self-publishing and Amazon:

I wanted to criticize Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, because I felt that in his introduction of the new kindles, Bezos repeatedly peddled the lie that a book is created by one person, and that therefore a book’s author should be the sole entity to profit from the sale of the book. (Aside, of course, from Amazon itself.)

Bezos and Amazon are consistent in their promotion of this lie, because it encourages the idea that the publishing landscape today is bloated and inefficient and that there is a better, cheaper way to do it—a way where all books can cost $1.99 with most of that $1.99 going to the author. Readers and writers both win then, right?

Well, no. Because the truth is, most good books are NOT created solely by one person: Editors and publishers play a tremendously important role not just in the distribution of books, but in the creation of them…Without copyeditors and proofreaders, my books would be riddled with factual and grammatical errors that would pull you out of the story and give you a less immersive reading experience. Publishers add value, and lots of it, and without them the overall quality and diversity of books will suffer.

Unfortunately, as fair-minded as Green obviously tries to be, at least toward self-publishing in general if not toward Amazon, he falls into the same trap a lot of defenders of traditional publishing fall into. He assumes that the current publishing infrastructure isn’t replicable within a self-publishing paradigm. This is flatly untrue. Continue reading

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Are Self-Published Books Crap?

I really do wish this self-publishing ebook market would implode. It’s loaded to the gills with idiots, fools, and just by-Jove lousy writing. The purveyors of this monstrosity are, quite frankly, a bunch of jerks. I hope they all get ass-cancer and die horrible, painful deaths.

Thus spake writer James Robert Smith on his blog a while back. There are quite a few folks out there who share his view, and Smith often posts this sort of thoughtful musing about self published books and the presumably malignant souls who write them. Because what could be more malignant than putting out a book that inspires some good man to wish you get ass cancer and die an agonizing death?

To be fair, there is a great deal of utter crap being self-published, and unless you act as a rational consumer you can drown in it. But if you exercise roughly the same amount of care it takes in a bookstore to find something worth reading among the stacks of largely mediocre books, you can largely avoid buying shitty books.

Look at the cover; if it looks crappy, the author didn’t bother with doing better, and odds are the same holds for the writing. Read the reviews; yes, there are some slimy writers out there gaming the review system, but overall it’s still useful. Finally, before committing to buy, make sure you download the free reading sample offered by online vendors; if the writer can’t write, you’re gonna know that very quickly. Then, please, whatever your opinion of the book, review it on the site, even if you only write a few lines. A good review will help a writer who entertained you; a bad review will help warn others away.

It’s a time of great change in publishing, and self-publishing is the wild west. But it’s actually great for writers, and for readers, as I’ve written about on this blog (check the “Publishing” category in the sidebar), most notably here.

Here’s a thought experiment for you: Continue reading

For A Muse… (Song of the Week, 9/5/2012)

O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song…Make the tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse…    –Homer, The Odyssey

Happy is he whom the Muses love…   –Hesiod, Theogony

The ancient lass pictured above is Calliope, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory), and the Muse of epic poetry and writers. She was mother to the great lyre player and singer Orpheus, and creative inspiration to Homer.

Now, thanks to the loving craft of my sweet friend Nydia Macedo in Brazil, Calliope has come to live with me in the Byrdcave, to inspire me in my daily writing. Nydia, whose work you can see (and purchase!) on Facebook under the name “Carioca Witch,” specializes in handcrafting poppets and ornaments based in spiritual and mythological symbology. She researches her topics, finding appropriate colors and design elements to incorporate and herbs to use for scents, then brings her own artistry to the task of playfully evoking these ancient resonances through beautiful stitching. Each piece is a labor of love, and photos don’t capture just how cool they really are. I encourage you to visit the Facebook page linked to above and surf through her albums to see the variety of things she creates, from gods and goddesses to Christmas and Halloween ornaments to superheroes…

Yesterday, I received the poppet of Calliope that Nydia made for me:

She’s beautiful and will have a permanent place of honor in my home.

As tribute to sweet Calliope, and sweet Nydia, I offer this Song of the Week from Django Reinhardt, “La Mer (Beyond The Sea)”…