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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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4120 clicks; posted to Main » on 10 Feb 2014 at 6:23 PM (36 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-10 08:32:37 PM  

Boojum2k: 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.


Maybe I'll give e-readers another try one day, but for now, I'll remain in the paper books camp. Preferably hardcover, and cloth or leather-bound.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to take a chunk out of "Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson", by William Rehnquist. 1992, cardboard binding with cloth spine. Reads like his judicial opinions, which is to say that it's pretty clearly and concisely written.
 
2014-02-10 08:37:57 PM  
This is not new news. It's always been true.

Any idiot can write a book, and any solvent idiot can get one published.

But nobody can make other idiots READ their book, and that's where the money is.
 
2014-02-10 08:38:07 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.


I cannot stand "A Tale of Two Cities."  I realize that's heresy, but I had such a visceral, negative reaction to that book in high school I've read it every five years since trying to appreciate it more and I just can't.  It is something about Dicken's style of writing that just rubs me the wrong way. It's not the plot, it's not the length, it's not even the characters. I'm due to read it again soon, maybe I'll take notes to figure out why I hate it so much.  It's not like I hate the classics, I just hate that one.
 
2014-02-10 08:39:27 PM  

cptjeff: Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to take a chunk out of "Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson", by William Rehnquist. 1992, cardboard binding with cloth spine. Reads like his judicial opinions, which is to say that it's pretty clearly and concisely written.


Or weighty and hard to set aside.
 
2014-02-10 08:48:58 PM  

Gyrfalcon: This is not new news. It's always been true.

Any idiot can write a book, and any solvent idiot can get one published.

But nobody can make other idiots READ their book, and that's where the money is.


http://www.amazon.com/How-Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook

He left out the part where he bought positive reviews early on, but he did include the part where he posted on his blog "Michael J. Fox" and "Parkinson's" after Mr. Fox was in the news in the hope of showing up in Google results.

He also has fairly sound advice for schlocky authors:  don't publish your first book until you have three in a series done, set your web presence up before you publish, and tease, tease, tease about the next book.  To my knowledge, he doesn't have a single book that hasn't spun into a series.  To rope in female readers who were put off by a male writer, he created a female pseudonym and started publishing under that.

He writes crap, which he freely acknowledges.  He's also laughing all the way to the bank.
 
2014-02-10 08:53:41 PM  

Boojum2k: Okay, granted, but can you define why in objective terms?


Not to try to try to make this too mechanical, and there's still subjectivity in this, I could count the frequency of paragraphs that make me think, "Wow, that was a beautiful bit of writing, there!"  Pynchon is special in that he evokes that more than any other writer I have ever come across while still doing all that intertextual stuff that makes his writing deep.  Those better versed in poetics could say more about imagery and the rhythm of the paragraphs and other things that make his writing almost musical.  Pynchon also manages to do this without coming across as some English major who doesn't know anything about any other subjects.

Stephenson's books are fantastic, but I'm not certain I could tell the difference if he dictated the content of a book to someone else and then had the other person write the actual sentences, provided the other person isn't a hack.  Stephenson's prose is competent, but I don't read his books just for the writing.  It's important that his writing is good enough not to turn me away, though.

I like these two examples because they avoid the problems I associate with their peers.  Pynchon's writing is  fun.  His books aren't boring slogfests full of indulgent navel-gazing, even when they're difficult.  Writing quality aside, I can stomach his books a lot better than most wannabe serious literature.  Stephenson's books avoid falling into the trap of being cheap.  He may not have a particularly distinctive voice, but at least I can read his books without constantly thinking, "That paragraph needs to be fixed!  So ugly."
 
2014-02-10 09:00:18 PM  

Mjeck: 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


I'd read that. All the books I can find are about serial killers and vampire boys. There are just so many of them. They just publish what they think will sell ... so interesting / different ideas are too scary. I don't know. That's just what it seems like sometimes.
 
2014-02-10 09:03:56 PM  

NetOwl: I like these two examples because they avoid the problems I associate with their peers. Pynchon's writing is fun. His books aren't boring slogfests full of indulgent navel-gazing, even when they're difficult. Writing quality aside, I can stomach his books a lot better than most wannabe serious literature. Stephenson's books avoid falling into the trap of being cheap. He may not have a particularly distinctive voice, but at least I can read his books without constantly thinking, "That paragraph needs to be fixed! So ugly."


Fair enough. As you said, it's going to be a little subjective. I like an author who can make his work feel like it is actually lived in, whether it's the life of a lonely and bitter businessman or an alien planet being colonized for the first time.
 
2014-02-10 09:13:26 PM  
As somebody writing a book now, I...got nothing.

/Science fiction.
//up to 26,000 words now.
 
2014-02-10 09:14:46 PM  

ThatGuyFromTheInternet: /Science fiction.//up to 26,000 words now.


I could give you a review on it in less than 15 minutes.
 
2014-02-10 09:29:35 PM  
Weeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllll, you know who else wrote a book, right?

media.nj.com

Oh, and Hitler too. But we're talking about someone even more evil who wrote a book. The most evilest person since Skeletor!!!
 
2014-02-10 09:36:30 PM  
The thing is, traditional publishers stopped being worthy gatekeepers. They don't give a rat's ass about the quality of the writing, only that it will sell. As long as its readable, any manuscript will be bought as long as it is similar enough to the last best seller. And on the other hand, they regularly turn away new, unique, creative works precisely because it is NOT at all like the last best seller.
So what's an author with fresh ideas and the ability to tell them well to do? Two options: self-publish on Amazon or seek out a small press publisher. Either way, there's no advance, no guarantee of making any money at all, and the perception that it's not a "real" book.

/Small press author.
//Still getting real checks for a 5 year old not real book.
 
2014-02-10 09:47:46 PM  
It's just like with video games.  Removing a lot of the barriers to entry completely ruined PC gaming!
lh6.ggpht.com
/sarc
 
2014-02-10 10:19:43 PM  
If I listened to everybody's opinion on what to like and what not to like I would have Chariots of Fire and The English Patient in my DVD collection. Fark Siskel & Ebert for luring me into those hell canyons and wasting money and time on such shiat. I'd rather watch Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill just for the laughs.
 
2014-02-10 10:25:56 PM  

Boojum2k: ThatGuyFromTheInternet: /Science fiction.//up to 26,000 words now.

I could give you a review on it in less than 15 minutes.


I could give you a review in about 2 1/2 hours.
 
2014-02-10 10:49:39 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.


I'm writing a book about how I suck at writing books.
 
2014-02-10 11:13:02 PM  

CourtroomWolf: It's just like with video games.  Removing a lot of the barriers to entry completely ruined PC gaming!


The major difference is that the time and skill required to code a game provide a very effective barrier to entry already.
 
2014-02-10 11:18:20 PM  
That's the whole idea behind reviews. Or has the author never checked out a new restaurant on yelp because of its score?

I wrote five books and put them on Amazon. They may not be Shakespeare, but I certainly don't think they're trash.  The whole problem with gatekeepers is that they believe themselves infallible. Unfortunately for them, Amazon is teaching them that they are falling behind. \

But, why bother adopting a new business model? It's so much easier to decry Amazon and say it's the death of literature as we know it. Congrats article writer for writing the same thing every pretentious know-it-all has written every year since the Gutenberg press
 
2014-02-10 11:26:25 PM  
So is this the proper place to shill my own fantasy novel?

Link

d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net
 
2014-02-10 11:32:38 PM  

TheZorker: So is this the proper place to shill my own fantasy novel?

Link

[d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net image 312x475]


Added to list to pick up when funds are again available. So yes, this was the proper place.
 
2014-02-10 11:52:37 PM  
Last year, Amazon published spouse's book.
Every owner that ever purchased a book on their Kindle in the same genre got an ad on the front of their Kindles with "Buy Now" link.
Many bought spouse's book.
We joke that we could have taken out an ad on the front page of the New York Times and it wouldn't have done as much good for sales as the ad on Kindles owned by people inclined to buy that book.
Truly targeted marketing. Amazon can be very generous.
 
2014-02-11 12:24:58 AM  

Lsherm: Gyrfalcon: This is not new news. It's always been true.

Any idiot can write a book, and any solvent idiot can get one published.

But nobody can make other idiots READ their book, and that's where the money is.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook

He left out the part where he bought positive reviews early on, but he did include the part where he posted on his blog "Michael J. Fox" and "Parkinson's" after Mr. Fox was in the news in the hope of showing up in Google results.

He also has fairly sound advice for schlocky authors:  don't publish your first book until you have three in a series done, set your web presence up before you publish, and tease, tease, tease about the next book.  To my knowledge, he doesn't have a single book that hasn't spun into a series.  To rope in female readers who were put off by a male writer, he created a female pseudonym and started publishing under that.

He writes crap, which he freely acknowledges.  He's also laughing all the way to the bank.


The next question all authors need to ask: Do they want to be rich or remembered?

Because anyone can do what this douche is doing: write crap and make money. And if that's the only reason you're writing, then fine. Most authors like to at least imagine their stuff will be around after they are dead, which is the other reason one writes. This guy will be forgotten in another year. And that's okay--if all he wants is a quick buck.

Pick your poison, I guess. If money is all you love, then that's what you'll receive.
 
2014-02-11 12:36:28 AM  

Gyrfalcon: Because anyone can do what this douche is doing: write crap and make money. And if that's the only reason you're writing, then fine. Most authors like to at least imagine their stuff will be around after they are dead, which is the other reason one writes. This guy will be forgotten in another year. And that's okay--if all he wants is a quick buck.


He's made it pretty clear he's in it to make money.  And he's made money.  I think he was hoping to help authors who wanted to do both.

I'm not sure that's possible anymore.  Literature in 50 years is going to be "The Lovely Bones" and some Stephen King novels.
 
2014-02-11 12:37:32 AM  

Gyrfalcon: If money is all you love, then that's what you'll receive.


Broke authors tend to die young and hungry, or become something else. I get your meaning, but making money with writing isn't a bad thing at all.
 
2014-02-11 01:58:40 AM  

Gyrfalcon: The next question all authors need to ask: Do they want to be rich or remembered?


With Amazon, there's another calculation to make WRT to your point.
Real Life Example. Read what I posted above. We've profited from Amazon.
Author Friend of spouse was multi published, but stuck in mid-list (these are all pulp writers I'm speaking of here, nobody has delusions of anything past that)
and her next book had interest from multiple publishers (hooray for her! bidding wars are fun and profitable)
Alas, the bidding war in this case was only a moderate one.
One of the publishers was Amazon.  Spouse and I told Author Friend to ignore Big Five publishing houses' offers, go with Amazon.
Problem: Amazon's publishing means no other sales besides Amazon. No Barnes&Noble, etc.
And that means, no matter how big your sales are at Amazon, you will NOT get on New York Times Bestseller List. Ditto for USAToday's List
Author Friend understood this, chose to reject Amazon and go with Big Five publishing house with a higher advance, promise of some promo, and hope for NYT Bestseller status.
With Amazon and an ad on the front of Kindles everywhere, the lower proposed Amazon advance would have likely paid out in less than five days, and equating the publishing house's higher advance just a few days after that.
It's the potential glory of the New York Times Bestseller List that is still the lure for some, and definitely our Author Friend.
In our case, we know the raw sales numbers, and have guessed how high up on the NYT List spouse's book would have gone.
It doesn't matter, because we chose the money.
 
2014-02-11 02:33:01 AM  
A chicken and a frog go into a library. The chicken goes 'buk, buk, buk'. The frog goes 'redit, redit, redit'
 
2014-02-11 02:46:00 AM  

SVenus: Gyrfalcon: The next question all authors need to ask: Do they want to be rich or remembered?

With Amazon, there's another calculation to make WRT to your point.
Real Life Example. Read what I posted above. We've profited from Amazon.
Author Friend of spouse was multi published, but stuck in mid-list (these are all pulp writers I'm speaking of here, nobody has delusions of anything past that)
and her next book had interest from multiple publishers (hooray for her! bidding wars are fun and profitable)
Alas, the bidding war in this case was only a moderate one.
One of the publishers was Amazon.  Spouse and I told Author Friend to ignore Big Five publishing houses' offers, go with Amazon.
Problem: Amazon's publishing means no other sales besides Amazon. No Barnes&Noble, etc.
And that means, no matter how big your sales are at Amazon, you will NOT get on New York Times Bestseller List. Ditto for USAToday's List
Author Friend understood this, chose to reject Amazon and go with Big Five publishing house with a higher advance, promise of some promo, and hope for NYT Bestseller status.
With Amazon and an ad on the front of Kindles everywhere, the lower proposed Amazon advance would have likely paid out in less than five days, and equating the publishing house's higher advance just a few days after that.
It's the potential glory of the New York Times Bestseller List that is still the lure for some, and definitely our Author Friend.
In our case, we know the raw sales numbers, and have guessed how high up on the NYT List spouse's book would have gone.
It doesn't matter, because we chose the money.


Unless I misunderstand something somewhere, Amazon isn't a publisher, just a distributor. You put your book on there, on B&N, on Sony, on fictionwise.com, etc. etc. etc.
 
2014-02-11 02:58:24 AM  

The hopeless imp: Unless I misunderstand something somewhere, Amazon isn't a publisher, just a distributor.


Amazon does have both print and ebook publishing services.
 
2014-02-11 03:33:53 AM  

Boojum2k: The hopeless imp: Unless I misunderstand something somewhere, Amazon isn't a publisher, just a distributor.

Amazon does have both print and ebook publishing services.


Er, what I'm seeing is they have an exclusive deal (which is for suckers) to get a higher royalty, but you can get that just by pricing.
The thing about the NYT list is that it can increase sales even further, not to mention the potential slush pile avoidance when the editor sees your name on your second manuscript. So when the Big Five is a viable option, I'm inclined to take it. You just can't assume that Amazon sales are going to match traditional sales.
Times sure have changed though. I remember when a best selling ebook wasn't even in the same league as what the Big Six (it was still six then) called a best seller.
 
2014-02-11 03:44:57 AM  
Has anyone else who occasionally picks up a trashy novel noticed that Dean Koontz has once and for all gone full-on derp? Read two of of 'em last year and

SPOILER ALERT...

One was an anti-evolution screed fixed around God creating a new magical species out of thin air to prove creationism to the world and the government trying to violently cover it up, and the other was about an apparent alien invasion that turned out to be God temporarily opening the portals to hell to cleanse the world by killing pretty much everyone, complete with cartoon scientists on a liberal cable channel explaining that it was all caused by global warming.
 
2014-02-11 06:09:56 AM  
2.bp.blogspot.com
 
2014-02-11 07:09:44 AM  
Being able to mash a keyboard doesn't make you a writer.
If you are "writing a book" right now, and you have ever thought about "word count", you're not a writer.  You've missed the point, and you have no talent or skill.  Sorry, move on.

Making it easy for any idiot to do it means that any idiot is going to do it.
 
2014-02-11 07:20:14 AM  
If it weren't for Amazon opening the Pandora's box of self-publishing, we'd never have found out how many people are into Bigfoot porn.
 
2014-02-11 08:34:47 AM  

AliceBToklasLives: Boojum2k: ThatGuyFromTheInternet: /Science fiction.//up to 26,000 words now.

I could give you a review on it in less than 15 minutes.

I could give you a review in about 2 1/2 hours.


This reminds me of Woody Allen: "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."
 
2014-02-11 09:10:55 AM  

The hopeless imp: Unless I misunderstand something somewhere, Amazon isn't a publisher, just a distributor. You put your book on there, on B&N, on Sony, on fictionwise.com, etc. etc. etc.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Publishing
For example, 47 North is the SciFi imprint, Montlake is the Romance imprint, and Thomas & Mercer publish mysteries.
100% Amazon owned and operated.
Day One is a literary journal that Amazon purchased last year. ("Day One" as a name for an imprint is important to Bezos, BTW)

Authors are jumping over themselves in an effort to get published by Amazon.
 
2014-02-11 01:06:52 PM  
My former boss has written a few books, both self published. They are both his philospohy on life. One looks like it is a self help book how to be a man or something the other is for the ladies. It's a book how how a woman can find, attract and keep a R.E.A.L man (I dont know what R.E.A.L stands for). It is some mysoginistic tripe from what I have seen. He gives examples of REAL men, but a majority are fictional characters.
 
2014-02-11 01:15:04 PM  
The headline had absolutely nothing to do with the article linked to, or to the New Yorker article the article linked to, but they were both interesting, so thanks, subby, I guess.

SVenus: The hopeless imp: Unless I misunderstand something somewhere, Amazon isn't a publisher, just a distributor. You put your book on there, on B&N, on Sony, on fictionwise.com, etc. etc. etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Publishing
For example, 47 North is the SciFi imprint, Montlake is the Romance imprint, and Thomas & Mercer publish mysteries.
100% Amazon owned and operated.
Day One is a literary journal that Amazon purchased last year. ("Day One" as a name for an imprint is important to Bezos, BTW)

Authors are jumping over themselves in an effort to get published by Amazon.


Yes, this.  Apple was able to get all the major publishers to sign price-fixing agreements even though it meant less profit for them, because they were so desperate to build up an online competitor to Amazon that wouldn't impose low prices.  They fear "disintermediation" -- authors deciding that they don't really need a publisher anymore.

/The government intervened.
 
2014-02-11 02:35:39 PM  

ds615: Being able to mash a keyboard doesn't make you a writer.
If you are "writing a book" right now, and you have ever thought about "word count", you're not a writer.  You've missed the point, and you have no talent or skill.  Sorry, move on.

Making it easy for any idiot to do it means that any idiot is going to do it.


I have no idea where you came up with that. The only person "writing a book" I know that doesn't think about word count hasn't written a single word. All the writers I know - real writers with real books and short stories in real magazines - think about word count. Writing classes, clinics, workshops, etc. all talk about word count. It is impossible to NOT think about word count unless you either aren't writing or aren't intending on ever finishing.
When someone tells me they are writing a book, but can't express in any concrete terms or even estimate how far along they are, I know they probably aren't writing a book at all. In fact, I've never met a writer that didn't have some idea of their progress. It might be expressed in number of pages or in terms of hours spent on it, but they know where they are.
As for missing the point, I'm not sure you know what the point is.
But you're right in that not every idiot is going to do it just because it's easy to get published. Many idiots say they are writing a book, but they supposedly don't know how many words they wrote only just yesterday.
 
2014-02-11 08:27:03 PM  
Man, the trick isn't hitting the maximum word count, but staying the hell under it.

"I don't have enough time to write short" is a thing I've said many times.

/word count is a double-edged sword
//at least
 
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