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(Slate)   Any idiot can write a book, says online magazine writer   (slate.com) divider line 89
    More: Ironic, George Packer, Amazon, Thomas Piketty, Jeff Bezos  
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4148 clicks; posted to Main » on 10 Feb 2014 at 6:23 PM (44 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-10 06:28:51 PM  
FTFA: " But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?"

The gatekeepers(publishers) have been the driving force behind commercializing ideas and wringing any life or creativity or originality out of a work, pretending that traditional publishers are some kind of noble defenders of true literature and art is insultingly dishonest.

It's too bad that Amazon doesn't give people a way to tell if the content of a book is any good, some sort of rating or public review process maybe?
 
2014-02-10 06:31:05 PM  
Amazon's self-publishing will do to books what the easy availability of news and political blogs will do to journalism.

/ wait a minute...
 
2014-02-10 06:33:29 PM  
To be fair, he's right. The question is, will anyone buy your piece of shiat book?
 
2014-02-10 06:34:25 PM  
Failing to see your point, subby. The article is talking about how we should not accept the decline of quality in our books, not sure why that's a problem.
 
2014-02-10 06:34:39 PM  
i57.tinypic.com
 
2014-02-10 06:36:09 PM  
i58.tinypic.com
 
2014-02-10 06:36:45 PM  
Some idiots can hit the New York Times Bestsellers list.
 
2014-02-10 06:39:17 PM  
i62.tinypic.com
 
2014-02-10 06:40:28 PM  
i61.tinypic.com
 
2014-02-10 06:40:57 PM  

mephox: To be fair, he's right.


It's true. Really, until you've seen the slushpile of what is submitted to publishers, you can't believe it. 140 page long books that are a single run-on sentence. Books that are written in all caps. Hundreds of pages of racist screeds and books that people will swear up and down were written through them by Jesus or God or King Arthur.
 
2014-02-10 06:42:37 PM  

Voiceofreason01: FTFA: " But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?"

The gatekeepers(publishers) have been the driving force behind commercializing ideas and wringing any life or creativity or originality out of a work, pretending that traditional publishers are some kind of noble defenders of true literature and art is insultingly dishonest.

It's too bad that Amazon doesn't give people a way to tell if the content of a book is any good, some sort of rating or public review process maybe?


done in one
 
2014-02-10 06:42:48 PM  
But these days it takes a real pervert to sell one.
 
2014-02-10 06:43:15 PM  

Voiceofreason01: FTFA: " But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?"

The gatekeepers(publishers) have been the driving force behind commercializing ideas and wringing any life or creativity or originality out of a work, pretending that traditional publishers are some kind of noble defenders of true literature and art is insultingly dishonest.

It's too bad that Amazon doesn't give people a way to tell if the content of a book is any good, some sort of rating or public review process maybe?


Indeed.

/horray books.
 
2014-02-10 06:46:51 PM  
That's not news.
 
2014-02-10 06:50:29 PM  

Sudo_Make_Me_A_Sandwich: mephox: To be fair, he's right.

It's true. Really, until you've seen the slushpile of what is submitted to publishers, you can't believe it. 140 page long books that are a single run-on sentence. Books that are written in all caps. Hundreds of pages of racist screeds and books that people will swear up and down were written through them by Jesus or God or King Arthur.


As someone who once had the glamorous "job" of  shifting through story submissions for fanfiction to EquestriaDaily for around a year, I can tell you that this is so true. People, if you can call them that, don't do even the most basic of proofing before hitting send. Having *any* kid of gatekeeper, even self-important grammar nazis and opinionated jackasses who passed HS English, really helps take a pool of "literature" from "absolute shiat" to "maybe I can get the smell out of I scrub hard enough."

When there is a very low barrier to entry, you get the full force of Sturgeon's law compounded. Take a look at fanfiction.net or, god forbid, FimFiction and you can easily see that 99.9% of what people think is good enough to share with others is absolutely not worth the bits it took to upload. And it's not unique to fanfiction. You just almost never see original stuff that never makes the cut at the publisher.

As someone who's managed to sell  hardback prints (and make enough to have to fill out a schedule C this year) of his poor excuse for a story, I'm getting a kick out this.
 
2014-02-10 06:51:52 PM  
a book
 
2014-02-10 06:52:12 PM  
It's more like "anyone can write a book and get it PUBLISHED", but an author that can write a book WELL is an entirely different segment. Vanity presses make the first part easy, but you still have to you know, write well if you expect anyone to actually read the thing.
 
2014-02-10 06:56:21 PM  
this is true

/has written several
 
2014-02-10 06:59:49 PM  

kitsuneymg: Sudo_Make_Me_A_Sandwich: mephox: To be fair, he's right.

It's true. Really, until you've seen the slushpile of what is submitted to publishers, you can't believe it. 140 page long books that are a single run-on sentence. Books that are written in all caps. Hundreds of pages of racist screeds and books that people will swear up and down were written through them by Jesus or God or King Arthur.

As someone who once had the glamorous "job" of  shifting through story submissions for fanfiction to EquestriaDaily for around a year, I can tell you that this is so true. People, if you can call them that, don't do even the most basic of proofing before hitting send. Having *any* kid of gatekeeper, even self-important grammar nazis and opinionated jackasses who passed HS English, really helps take a pool of "literature" from "absolute shiat" to "maybe I can get the smell out of I scrub hard enough."

When there is a very low barrier to entry, you get the full force of Sturgeon's law compounded. Take a look at fanfiction.net or, god forbid, FimFiction and you can easily see that 99.9% of what people think is good enough to share with others is absolutely not worth the bits it took to upload. And it's not unique to fanfiction. You just almost never see original stuff that never makes the cut at the publisher.

As someone who's managed to sell  hardback prints (and make enough to have to fill out a schedule C this year) of his poor excuse for a story, I'm getting a kick out this.

 
2014-02-10 07:03:39 PM  
To play Devil's Advocate...
Posting fiction and poetry on places like DeviantArt is guaranteed to take a great deal of the wind out of any wannabe writer's sails.

Especially when you find out that in the culture of instant-gratification, no one gives two runny sheeyits about writing, when there's visual art to look at, and music to listen to. Trying to be a writer can set you up for the saddest and loneliest experiences of your life. :P
 
2014-02-10 07:05:07 PM  

Voiceofreason01: FTFA: " But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths. When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?"

The gatekeepers(publishers) have been the driving force behind commercializing ideas and wringing any life or creativity or originality out of a work, pretending that traditional publishers are some kind of noble defenders of true literature and art is insultingly dishonest.

It's too bad that Amazon doesn't give people a way to tell if the content of a book is any good, some sort of rating or public review process maybe?


Yep, this.
 
2014-02-10 07:13:48 PM  

Kriggerel: To play Devil's Advocate...
Posting fiction and poetry on places like DeviantArt is guaranteed to take a great deal of the wind out of any wannabe writer's sails.

Especially when you find out that in the culture of instant-gratification, no one gives two runny sheeyits about writing, when there's visual art to look at, and music to listen to. Trying to be a writer can set you up for the saddest and loneliest experiences of your life. :P


If you're already sad and lonely, it's just like coming home.
 
2014-02-10 07:15:30 PM  
wish it, want it, do it?
 
2014-02-10 07:16:43 PM  
I've read a lot of the classics and enjoyed them, and tried some modern high-brow literature and most of it is self-indulgent writer wankery, which apparently Matthew Yglesias enjoys. More power to him.

I like reading for entertainment now, and there's some remarkably good stuff being epub'd now that would never have put out in paper before.

Of course, I read too damn fast, cocaine would be a cheaper habit.
 
2014-02-10 07:38:35 PM  
This conversation, though important, takes place in the shallows and misses the deeper currents that, in the digital age, are pushing American culture under the control of ever fewer and more powerful corporations.

I don't understand this at all.

There are now far more publishers than there were in the age of bookshops, because anyone can publish. The sister of a friend of mine writes novels about the English countryside (that don't seem to be any worse than Joanna Trollope's books) and the publisher's name is her. She spent a small amount of money to buy some artwork to use on covers and that's it.
 
2014-02-10 07:40:32 PM  

Boojum2k: I've read a lot of the classics and enjoyed them, and tried some modern high-brow literature and most of it is self-indulgent writer wankery, which apparently Matthew Yglesias enjoys. More power to him.



Not all of it. I just finished Cold Mountain- not precisely new any more, but a pretty modern book that holds up to the same standards as the classics, and will probably be considered one a few decades down the line.

The thing with classics, in any genre or medium, is that the garbage gets filtered out. Only the most stellar works really get remembered. There was plenty of self-indulgent wankery in the past too, but people stopped reading those books.

To me, that's a great argument for sticking to classics and waiting a few years on the modern stuff. You might miss a good discovery, but your odds of getting a stinker are far lower. Of course, every now and then you get something like Ulysses, which is considered a classic despite being a steaming pile of self indulgent crap.
 
2014-02-10 07:42:06 PM  

Boojum2k: I've read a lot of the classics and enjoyed them, and tried some modern high-brow literature and most of it is self-indulgent writer wankery,


My experience as well.  Apparently, once you sell a single book, no one dares edit you again.
 
2014-02-10 07:43:27 PM  

cptjeff: I just finished Cold Mountain- not precisely new any more, but a pretty modern book that holds up to the same standards as the classics, and will probably be considered one a few decades down the line.


Adding to list. I'll point out that my standard for good modern literature would be Joyce Carol Oates.

cptjeff: The thing with classics, in any genre or medium, is that the garbage gets filtered out. Only the most stellar works really get remembered. There was plenty of self-indulgent wankery in the past too, but people stopped reading those books.


*cough* The Scarlet Letter *cough*
 
2014-02-10 07:44:34 PM  

Samsquantch: Boojum2k: I've read a lot of the classics and enjoyed them, and tried some modern high-brow literature and most of it is self-indulgent writer wankery,

My experience as well.  Apparently, once you sell a single book, no one dares edit you again.


I read The Satanic Verses years ago and considered putting a hit out on Salman Rushdie myself.
 
2014-02-10 07:51:11 PM  

Boojum2k: cptjeff: The thing with classics, in any genre or medium, is that the garbage gets filtered out. Only the most stellar works really get remembered. There was plenty of self-indulgent wankery in the past too, but people stopped reading those books.

*cough* The Scarlet Letter *cough*



Despite being awful to read, it was a pretty influential social critique. It's a fair point, but for every Scarlet Letter there's a Hunchback of Notre Dame.
 
2014-02-10 07:56:18 PM  
I wrote a book about a boy who grew up in heaven, but was unhappy and decided to eacape. No publisher or agent gave a shiat. So now i just write and drink for myself
 
2014-02-10 07:56:34 PM  

cptjeff: Boojum2k: cptjeff: The thing with classics, in any genre or medium, is that the garbage gets filtered out. Only the most stellar works really get remembered. There was plenty of self-indulgent wankery in the past too, but people stopped reading those books.

*cough* The Scarlet Letter *cough*


Despite being awful to read, it was a pretty influential social critique. It's a fair point, but for every Scarlet Letter there's a Hunchback of Notre Dame.


Which is a 50/50 ratio of wankery to quality in known classics. I still grab one once in a while.
As for modern epub work, I've found that reading the reviews and looking for key statements about the book usually gives me a good heads-up on the quality. I read at about 2500 words per minute, so while there's not a lot of time wasted on a poor read, it can get expensive. Classics do help fill in since those can be found for free.
 
2014-02-10 07:56:58 PM  
And as a used book dealer I've sampled just how bad it gets. The Self Financed tend to be the worst, but real publishers make piles of turkeys every year. Sure, what the public will pick up and make a real hit, with years of sales, is hard to guess. But editing goes a long way. I need a refresher on quailty gramar before I try to write anything more hoity than a Fark post.
 
2014-02-10 08:02:19 PM  

Boojum2k: I read at about 2500 words per minute


Damn. I probably read 250 words a minute.  Maybe.  You realize it's not a race, right?
 
2014-02-10 08:02:47 PM  

Delta1212: kitsuneymg: Sudo_Make_Me_A_Sandwich: mephox: To be fair, he's right.

It's true. Really, until you've seen the slushpile of what is submitted to publishers, you can't believe it. 140 page long books that are a single run-on sentence. Books that are written in all caps. Hundreds of pages of racist screeds and books that people will swear up and down were written through them by Jesus or God or King Arthur.

As someone who once had the glamorous "job" of  shifting through story submissions for fanfiction to EquestriaDaily for around a year, I can tell you that this is so true. People, if you can call them that, don't do even the most basic of proofing before hitting send. Having *any* kid of gatekeeper, even self-important grammar nazis and opinionated jackasses who passed HS English, really helps take a pool of "literature" from "absolute shiat" to "maybe I can get the smell out of I scrub hard enough."

When there is a very low barrier to entry, you get the full force of Sturgeon's law compounded. Take a look at fanfiction.net or, god forbid, FimFiction and you can easily see that 99.9% of what people think is good enough to share with others is absolutely not worth the bits it took to upload. And it's not unique to fanfiction. You just almost never see original stuff that never makes the cut at the publisher.

As someone who's managed to sell  hardback prints (and make enough to have to fill out a schedule C this year) of his poor excuse for a story, I'm getting a kick out this.


LOL my kind of nitpicker
 
2014-02-10 08:04:56 PM  

AliceBToklasLives: Boojum2k: I read at about 2500 words per minute

Damn. I probably read 250 words a minute.  Maybe.  You realize it's not a race, right?


LOL I know, as I said it gets expensive. I can polish off an average novel in a couple of hours. And while I'm reading, you could set a bomb off next to me and I wouldn't notice.
 
2014-02-10 08:06:40 PM  

Boojum2k: cptjeff: Boojum2k: cptjeff: The thing with classics, in any genre or medium, is that the garbage gets filtered out. Only the most stellar works really get remembered. There was plenty of self-indulgent wankery in the past too, but people stopped reading those books.

*cough* The Scarlet Letter *cough*


Despite being awful to read, it was a pretty influential social critique. It's a fair point, but for every Scarlet Letter there's a Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Which is a 50/50 ratio of wankery to quality in known classics. I still grab one once in a while.
As for modern epub work, I've found that reading the reviews and looking for key statements about the book usually gives me a good heads-up on the quality. I read at about 2500 words per minute, so while there's not a lot of time wasted on a poor read, it can get expensive. Classics do help fill in since those can be found for free.


As a fast reader myself (though not that fast), used bookstores and large tomes (easy to find when you like politics and history) are your friends. Tad hard to stick in a briefcase though, I do get the attraction of e-readers for many.
 
2014-02-10 08:07:27 PM  

AliceBToklasLives: Boojum2k: I read at about 2500 words per minute

Damn. I probably read 250 words a minute.  Maybe.  You realize it's not a race, right?


That's way slow, dude. Stop subvocalizing.
 
2014-02-10 08:07:36 PM  
I don't read as fast as some people do, so I don't run into the problem of running out of new books.  When I finally do, though, I can go back to some of the classics I missed.  I'll be nice and old before I have absolutely nothing to read, and by then, I can probably reread one of my favorites.


That said, I'm not particularly fond of either crowd reviews of books, which favor lowest common denominator schlock, or professional reviews, which tend to push too far in the other direction.

A book's Amazon score is pretty much useless unless you're comparing several books by the same author, since trash with a following will get lots of perfect reviews pushing the score up, and people tend to grade on a curve.  A five-star children's book shouldn't be thought of in the same way as a five-star young adult book (which I don't like, since kids in the target audience could be reading classics, but instead they're being trained to think of books about zombies and vampires and wizards as literature), and a five-star sci-fi novel can't be compared directly to a five-star piece of literature.  Neal Stephenson is brilliant in a lot of ways, but his writing isn't even close to as good as Pynchon's or Nabokov's.

Professional reviewers, on the other hand, seem to be predictable.  They always want to be the first to give a bad review to an established author, just to look cool, and that, in my mind, destroys their credibility.  If you know you're looking at a work of real literature, then you can probably trust the Amazon consensus (adjusted for genre) over what the professionals say, modulo scandals about people paying for positive reviews.

It's all a big mess, yet we still get some really good literature.  It's just difficult to find new authors, since there is no sure way to tell who is good and who isn't until time has done some of the sorting for us.  Sometimes we're lucky and a good author keeps writing for a long time, like Pynchon, so the author's history can give us confidence that his or her new book is going to be good..
 
2014-02-10 08:08:19 PM  

cptjeff: AliceBToklasLives: Boojum2k: I read at about 2500 words per minute

Damn. I probably read 250 words a minute.  Maybe.  You realize it's not a race, right?

That's way slow, dude. Stop subvocalizing.


And I just read your handle. Dudette. My apologies.
 
2014-02-10 08:12:20 PM  

cptjeff: As a fast reader myself (though not that fast), used bookstores and large tomes (easy to find when you like politics and history) are your friends. Tad hard to stick in a briefcase though, I do get the attraction of e-readers for many.


I hated the idea at first, then got a Nook as a Christmas present a few years ago. Liked it okay, but the slow page load got on my nerves, then got a Kindle Fire figuring if the lit screen didn't work for me for books at least it would be a portable browser. No, love it even more, and it flips pages so much better.

I still work my way through many paperbacks and hardbacks. I retain most of a book for a while, up to about a year later for a decent one I can tell you where a phrase was in the book (left or right page, third of the way through, second paragraph down for example) so unless I really love the book I have to wait a while to reread it.
 
2014-02-10 08:12:22 PM  

NetOwl: Professional reviewers, on the other hand, seem to be predictable. They always want to be the first to give a bad review to an established author, just to look cool,


On the other side of that, they also like to praise anything experimental and different, regardless of how crappy, because it makes them look like the people trashing those works just don't get it, while they alone are transcendent or whatever else. It's the modern art effect.
 
2014-02-10 08:12:57 PM  

cptjeff: AliceBToklasLives: Boojum2k: I read at about 2500 words per minute

Damn. I probably read 250 words a minute.  Maybe.  You realize it's not a race, right?

That's way slow, dude. Stop subvocalizing.


250 wpm is average reading speed.
 
2014-02-10 08:13:41 PM  
As a self-published author in both comics and prose, I'm getting a big kick out of...

/I mean 'pass the bourbon, daddy needs his medicine.'
//living the life
///audience of one
 
2014-02-10 08:13:57 PM  

NetOwl: Neal Stephenson is brilliant in a lot of ways, but his writing isn't even close to as good as Pynchon's or Nabokov's.


Okay, granted, but can you define why in objective terms?
 
2014-02-10 08:17:28 PM  

kitsuneymg: Sudo_Make_Me_A_Sandwich: mephox: To be fair, he's right.

It's true. Really, until you've seen the slushpile of what is submitted to publishers, you can't believe it. 140 page long books that are a single run-on sentence. Books that are written in all caps. Hundreds of pages of racist screeds and books that people will swear up and down were written through them by Jesus or God or King Arthur.

As someone who once had the glamorous "job" of  shifting through story submissions for fanfiction to EquestriaDaily for around a year, I can tell you that this is so true. People, if you can call them that, don't do even the most basic of proofing before hitting send. Having *any* kid of gatekeeper, even self-important grammar nazis and opinionated jackasses who passed HS English, really helps take a pool of "literature" from "absolute shiat" to "maybe I can get the smell out of I scrub hard enough."

When there is a very low barrier to entry, you get the full force of Sturgeon's law compounded. Take a look at fanfiction.net or, god forbid, FimFiction and you can easily see that 99.9% of what people think is good enough to share with others is absolutely not worth the bits it took to upload. And it's not unique to fanfiction. You just almost never see original stuff that never makes the cut at the publisher.

As someone who's managed to sell  hardback prints (and make enough to have to fill out a schedule C this year) of his poor excuse for a story, I'm getting a kick out this.


I've had good luck with authors who were published once and then, dropped by their publisher. I can find their other work because they self-publish them through Amazon.  It's usually not up to snuff for traditional publishers, but it's not as bad as fan-fiction.  Since the price is usually 99 cents to $3 it's not a bad deal.
 
2014-02-10 08:18:39 PM  

cptjeff: And I just read your handle. Dudette. My apologies.


No apologies, dude is fine - the handle is a claim rather than a number.

I really don't know how fast I read, but I do take my time.

That's way slow, dude. Stop subvocalizing.

Reminds me of St. Augustine being amazed at St. Ambrose's silent reading.  Augustine was like "damn that dude is reading and he's not even moving his lips.  Is he like a wizard or what?" [that's a loose translation]
 
2014-02-10 08:19:08 PM  

Boojum2k: I still work my way through many paperbacks and hardbacks. I retain most of a book for a while, up to about a year later for a decent one I can tell you where a phrase was in the book (left or right page, third of the way through, second paragraph down for example) so unless I really love the book I have to wait a while to reread it.


Yeah, the tangible aspect of a book is wonderful. When I go back to a book to refresh myself on a piece of information, I usually know where physically to find that bit of information. It reinforces my learning it, in a way. With an e-book (though I've really never used a dedicated reader for an extended period, just mobile devices- I read Moby Dick and the Last of the Mohicans on a PDA back in high school, and have read a few shorter things on my smartphone more recently), I just feel disoriented. I can't page a few pages back to glance at something somebody said that relates to what's going on in the plot now. I can't intuitively keep track of my progress in the story. It's all just kind of there until you're done. You don't know when you're getting close. Sure, you can look up the page numbers, but it's not the same.
 
2014-02-10 08:21:20 PM  

cptjeff: I can't page a few pages back to glance at something somebody said that relates to what's going on in the plot now. I can't intuitively keep track of my progress in the story. It's all just kind of there until you're done. You don't know when you're getting close. Sure, you can look up the page numbers, but it's not the same.


I can, not as easily as with paper, but not too much more difficult. Of course, by focusing on doing that, I probably don't know half of the rest of the capabilities of my Kindle. Much like my phone.
 
2014-02-10 08:30:58 PM  

Boojum2k: cptjeff: As a fast reader myself (though not that fast), used bookstores and large tomes (easy to find when you like politics and history) are your friends. Tad hard to stick in a briefcase though, I do get the attraction of e-readers for many.

I hated the idea at first, then got a Nook as a Christmas present a few years ago. Liked it okay, but the slow page load got on my nerves, then got a Kindle Fire figuring if the lit screen didn't work for me for books at least it would be a portable browser. No, love it even more, and it flips pages so much better.

I still work my way through many paperbacks and hardbacks. I retain most of a book for a while, up to about a year later for a decent one I can tell you where a phrase was in the book (left or right page, third of the way through, second paragraph down for example) so unless I really love the book I have to wait a while to reread it.


I was absolutely wedded to my Kindle, Kindle II and then my Kindle Paperwhite. They all broke after the warranty was out (the Kindle and Kindle II were my fault) but I bought so many ebooks when I called Amazon to ask about repair service they just sent me a replacement for free.  When the wifi went out on the Paperwhite, I called them as usual to ask about getting it repaired because I fully expected to get a replacement for free, and this time around they offered me $100 off a Kindle Fire HDX or a replacement Paperwhite.

I took the HDX discount and it's been great.  The battery life sucks compared to the Paperwhite, but the page turning performance is so much better and the screen is so much clearer it's worth making the compromise.  I can also watch HBO to Go on it, which distresses me a little because it competes for reading time, but I really like it so far.  I had an old iPad 2 and it was great, but it was always a touch too big to be comfortable to read in bed if I had to hold it up.  That said, if you want games, the iOS selection is a lot better, but I'm not using tablets for that.
 
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