I couldn’t resist adding my own contribution to the recent articles decrying the devolution of worldwide writing (caused in large part, apparently, by self-published authors). I’ve self-pubbed, and I’ve worked with a small indie publisher, and I have to echo what TeleRead senior writer Joanna Cabot said: Publishers do not ensure quality.
Trust me on this one. My non-fiction book was published by a small press who shall remain nameless. I can’t tell you how many sets of eyes went over that book. Plus, it was—I thought—competently edited by my publisher. Imagine my chagrin when several months (and lots of sales) later, one of my eagle-eyed friends hesitantly informed that she’d finally gotten around to reading my book, and she’d ” … found a few errors. Would I like her to point them out to me?”
“Sure,” I confidently replied. I’d been in the process of re-formatting it for B&N, and I figured it was a good time to make a couple of minor—I thought—changes. If only I’d known…
She bled over the book (in red ink). I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life. I can’t fix the print version, but I immediately corrected the e-version.
However, it goes beyond typographic quality, spelling and grammar. Those things are at least (mostly) objective measures of quality. Good writing, however, is completely in the eyes of the beholder, which is why I usually chuckle when the topic of “OMG! Self-published books are so badly written!” comes up.
I adore “Bleak House”. It’s my favorite Dickens book, and I’ve read it many times. It’s considered a classic, so apparently a lot of people agree with me. However, if you made the case to me that it’s overly long, repetitive and looks like it was written to maximize income through word count, I’d have to agree with you. It’s got lots of the issues shared by self-published books, but hey, it’s a classic, so it’s OK!
What constitutes good writing? Well, it really depends on what you like and where you are and what you’re in the mood for. As much as I like “Bleak House,” I probably couldn’t read it right now—not enough brain space. So I’m reading a really good (and long) fanfic. It’s where my head is, and I’m eating it up. In my opinion, both are good stories and reasonably well-written. However, someone who thinks Faulkner is the epitome of great writing would think I was nuts. (I probably am; I actually did enjoy “Twilight”.)
And this is why we can’t all get along. Traditionally published writers feel threatened, so they have to lash out. Self-pubbed authors feel unappreciated, so they act out. Readers are passionate about what they like (and don’t like), and the wonders of the Internet have given them a forum to speak out.
Take everyone (including me) with a shaker full of salt. Find what you enjoy reading. Buy it. Enjoy it. And ignore everyone who disagrees with you. You’ll be happier for it.
I’ll close with a clip of Jack Nicholson putting it so beautifully and eloquently: