Chuck Wendig writes an awful lot about awful writing at his blog, terribleminds. He doesn’t pull any punches, either. If rude language offends you, move along, go find a cat with a cheeseburger, but if you can handle it, Chuck is a wealth of advice and sharp humour.
In today’s blog post, Chuck’s red-headed stepchild is the genre of self-published books. The obvious problem with having no gatekeeper on publication and no requirement to dump cash into a metric craptonne of printed matter is that the Castle, Bones, and McGee wannabes churn out badly written goat snarfle that they don’t bother to edit. (Hey, if TV characters can do it …. right?) Because it is published, they genuinely expect people to read it. (Don’t bother arguing the logic with me; I agree with you.)
Chuck runs with this idea, explaining how these folks have burned the goodwill of those who have lent heroic efforts to support self publishing, how Amazon has become mired in a mammoth sludge pile that distinguishes itself by price point (thereby buoying up higher prices of conventionally vetted books), and what we and the industry can do to slow the flow of what he calls the “shit volcano” … or at least direct it somewhere away from the books that are more likely to be worth reading.
(My take: lulu.com and PDF make you a published author in the same way that a plastic pail and a sandbox make you a pie maker. Sticking a price on a mud patty doesn’t make it less of a mud patty. Your mother’s love doesn’t make it less of a mud patty. Sticking grass clippings on it in an artistic way–or adding any other kind of clip art–doesn’t make it not-mud. Friends who nod and smile at your efforts are not going to serve it to anyone for dessert. And you’re going to be bewildered and angry because we were all so nice to you, yet we didn’t make you rich and famous. It’s all our fault for not appreciating you or living up to your expectations.
At the same time, having a pail and a sandbox doesn’t mean you can’t drop the bad idea, go to the kitchen, bake a delicious pie, and hope to sell it for a reasonable price. In fact, you might even be able to use the pail in the process. But if you put your delicious pie for sale on the same table as 20 mud patties, don’t be surprised if no one spends a moment to sort out the difference.)