Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Vs. Bad

I read Maureen’s post yesterday and thought about how true it was. Publishing, like music in some aspects, is being watered down because of the number of avenues people can now publish their work.

Actually “watered down” has a negative connotation so I should clarify. Some might say publishing has been enriched by having more people with more voices contribute where before it was limited. Trends are broken, new avenues explored. Maybe Urban/Paranormal/Steampunk Romance only exists because of these other avenues and that’s a good thing.

However, others would argue it’s making it even harder for the real talent to shine through. I’m on the fence. I see both the positive and the negative.

The negative was reinforced when I read a book for a contest. I’m probably going to get a lot of reaction here because it happened to be an eBook - but it was not fit for publication. Now let me be VERY clear. I know great writers who publish through non-traditional channels. And I know crappy writers who publish through traditional channels. I’m just saying - in this instance – the book was not and should not have been published in ANY format. At least not in a format that was intended to sell to other individuals to read. You want to bind it and give it out to your family and friends – knock yourself out. But to sell it…. that just doesn’t hurt me the reader, it hurts the industry as a whole.

Now some might argue that’s my taste. And yes it is. But darn it I’ve been a reader for a lot longer than I’ve been a writer and I can tell you what I read was not fit for publication. This book is part of a problem that we really need to look at. I’m not blaming the author. This was a junior attempt at writing a story and maybe after some time, practice, study and hardwork he/she will eventually become a bestselling author. He/she thought it was good enough to be nominated for something. Just like contestants who try out for Idol often do so because they think they will be a star. It’s up to the judges to say… Not so much.

So who are our judges? The publishers? I’m all for opening up new venues, allowing for different tastes and trends. And for publishers to find new ways to make money. Fantastic. But I think if we’re going to go this route we do have to have some expectation that what will be produced will be of a certain quality. That someone (the publishers, the editors, reader review sites…) will judge the work and hold it to a standard. Because if as a reader I have to purchase so many of the books like the one I read to get to a good one, I’ll eventually stop buying. My trust in what a “published” book is will diminish.

So eBook, traditional book, whatever… please let someone be that harsh judge. We need our Simon.

I finally read Hunger Games. This is an amazing book. This is something I think universally we can read and say… Wow. And to think that the book I judged and Hunger Games exist in the same “publishing” arena… well frankly it hurts me.


Karen W said...

Girl, like you I had an ebook to judge and like yours (I wonder if it might have been the same book), it should never have been published, never mind submitted to the Ritas.

I should have said yesterday that I'm a big Simon fan and don't know that I'll watch AI once he's gone.

Yes, we need our Simon's in the publishing arena. Books like the ones you and I had to judge are the kind of book that gives e-books a bad name. Before I get flamed - yes, I've read print books that were bad also, but I have to say I had two ebooks in my judging packet and one was so-so okay, the other horrible. I also had five print books and they varied too, though none were as bad as that one ebook.

So yes, I agree that there has to be standards. Yes, publishing your work is difficult to break into, but it should be. Like I said yesterday, we all pay our dues. Polish our craft, write, submit, write, submit, and learn to write better.

Back to your post - Read one too many truly awful books by a publisher, and people will associate said publisher with crap and won't buy their books any more. So it hurts both the author and the publisher.

So glad you read The Hunger Games. I'm waiting for book three now.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I think as more review sites with some clout behind them start reviewing e-first (is that the correct title now?) books - like Dear Author - we'll see some cream rise from the rest and then traditional publishers will snap those authors up, won't they?

Eileen said...

Here's another thought . . . as e-books become more accepted, more and more authors will submit to them. The more submissions they get, the pickier they can be and soon they will also only be skimming off that cream that has risen to the top.

Or is that too Pollyanna-ish a view?

Molly O'Keefe said...

EIleen I want to be pollyanna-ish about this. I don't want to believe that e-publishing is going to be the end of advances, or traditional publishing models. I don't want to believe that readers are going to not only get used to, but demand a sub-par quality product. I want to believe that e-publishing is going to make us better. Stronger and faster. And rich - mostly rich.

But to get there, that cream needs to be found and nurtured.

Sinead M said...

We do need our Simon's for sure. Because romance is fighting a negative connotation, not helped by bad books being released with romance under the heading.

I agree with Karen W. Publishing your work should be difficult, otherwise even we can't defend the genre to it's detractors.

Melissa said...

At ANR, we're huge supporters of the indie/self-pubbing scene.

We'll be the first to admit that the door is open for plenty of big-headed hacks who care more about seeing their names printed on a book cover than producing quality reading.

However, this is a fair price to pay for the high-quality talent that gets over-looked by agents who can only see numbers and not words.

To tell you the truth, letting all the bad in makes finding the good even more rewarding and personally, I find the process of sifting and sharing a lot of fun.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Melissa - I just checked out your site - the 10 chick flick cliches clip is hilarious. I am officially calling all three of those guys as my boyfriend - so back off, Steph!!

Maureen McGowan said...

Like you, Steph, I can see the good and bad side of this issue...

And I've read some worthy stuff that was published with a digital-first or digital-only publisher... But I've also seen titles that did very poorly in the contest I coordinated for a few years, and did poorly because, um, they were poor, that showed up in "I SOLD" announcements a few months later. So I know there's some not-ready-for-prime-time stuff out there, too...

Oh, and I really like the term digital-first or digital-only vs "e-books" or "e-publishers" now. I didn't make it up... read it (I think Carina Press is calling itself a digital first publisher) and thought it made sense, because most books published are also released in e-book format now... Don't know if the term will catch on, but it should.

Not about the format, about the publisher...

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