Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Books, Publishing and Hamburgers

Image result for trashy books

Warning: this is a long-suppressed rant. Speshul sensitive snowflakes are welcome to leave now, to avoid any harsh feelings. 

In the trad publishing vs. indie publishing debate, I keep hearing the following argument: "But trad pub produces plenty of crap too!"

Does it? 

Let's say, for the sake of the argument, that you want to open a restaurant.

You might decide to open a classy gourmet place where elegant waiters in tuxedos saunter around the candlelit hall,  carrying silver trays, and live piano music can be enjoyed every weekend. 

Or you may say, "You know what? Not many people are willing to spend a monthly rent's worth on one dinner. I'd better open a hamburger bar."

And that's OK.  

Hamburgers are legit. There’s a market for hamburgers. By choosing this option, you can feed people and make an honest buck a lot easier than by charging a gazillion dollars for half a dozen fresh oysters on crushed ice (or whatever.  I'm Orthodox Jewish. What do I know about oysters?).

You know what you can't do, though? 

You can't poison your clients. 

You can't say, "this meat fell on the floor and got trodden on, but I'll use it anyway."

You can't use the same black rancid oil for French fries, over and over, for a month. 

You can't stick unwashed vegetables in salads and hope that salmonella will miss the target.  

You can't serve food on half-washed dishes and unwiped tables.

You must, in short, adhere to certain Ministry of Health hygiene standards, or your business will be closed pretty fast, with a nasty biting fine thrown in.  

Trad publishing is that Ministry of Health.  

I am yet to encounter a single traditionally published book with missing commas, or a chapter title at the bottom of a page, or periods in the middle of a sentence.  

I have never seen a trad published book in which Mindy suddenly turns into Cindy on page 278, or which makes the reader want to puke and run away by phrases such as, "her eager and responsive body eagerly responded to his amorous advances". 

Indie books, though?  I've seen all this and more, just this week. There is nobody to put their foot down and say, "this is illegal. We are closing this restaurant".

You don't have to be the next Dostoyevsky. You can aim to be the next SciFi McHorror, or Nicholas Sparking Sparks, or whatever. 

You can serve hamburgers. 

But you can't serve shawarma made of a donkey with tuberculosis. 

Because if people come out of your fast food joint barfing and writhing with stomach pain, you'll soon go broke. 

So... I've said this. I'm quite prepared for an influx of voodoo dolls and Anthrax envelopes coming my way, but at least I got this off my chest.


  1. I do agree, for the most part. I think there are different groups of readers - and there is a very large number of them that really do not care about grammar or beautiful writing. I'm not even sure that many of them can read, say, To Kill a Mockingbird or Lolita and notice the difference in the quality of prose between those books and Dan Brown.

    I'm a reader that simply can't read badly written books. The quality of the prose is as important as the characters and plot. But I think you and I are now very different than the average reader, who actually I don't think is equipped to recognize good and bad writing. And that's why we see really poorly written books - most indie, but a few trad, as well - selling huge numbers and getting great reviews.

    1. Alec, I do tend to give readers a little more credit. There's literary fiction and there's commercial fiction, and that's alright; I might enjoy, say, the works of Tolstoy, and then enjoy a Dan Brown book in a different way - just as I might eat a gourmet meal one day, and just stop for a sandwich on another day.

      I swung by a bookstore today and many of the books were trashy, but there were still the basics of correct grammar, spelling and formatting. One can't expect brilliance in every book, but at least I don't want to come across something that pokes me in the eye with its blatant incorrectness (such as "two" or "too" written in place of "to").