Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blame the Machines

I’m dabbling in the idea of getting  a real Kindle. I haven’t stuck much of a foot in yet, right now I’m just working with the Kindle app on my phone. I’ve played a little bit with the free classics on Amazon, but I’ve read most of what I want off of that list. (There are several classics I would like to have already read, but am not willing to actually put in the effort to read, Moby Dick.) Anyway, my beloved library has started loaning out e-books, so I’ve eased into the experiment with an Amanda Quick trashy book. (I was sure to tell the library that I was checking it out for my mother.) I had high hopes that I wouldn’t just wander away in boredom and forget about the book altogether. It’s okay, but I’m not sure yet that I’ll love it $200 worth. (Or $79 or $139 – There are so many choices and what if I pick wrong? The first-world would come screeching to a halt!) It’s harder to pick up and start reading at a stoplight, but according to my local policemen, that might be a good thing. Anti-continuing-education spoilsports.  I am a lot more worried about dropping my expensive phone in the tub than I ever was a book, so there is that drawback.

I’ve always been a fierce supporter of paper. I like the feel of them in my hands, the fresh woodsy smell of new books and the slightly musty smell of used ones. But then I get a giant book like Everybody Loves Our Town and my hands get so tired. Stephen King has a new book coming out and that thing is 849 pages long. My hands are hurting in anticipation. I want to support authors and publishers, but I don’t have any idea of the economics of e-books. Are they more profitable for authors & publishers than print? It seems crazy how constricted the ability to loan an e-book is right now, but I’m sure they’re still feeling their way in the darkness. I’m going to be a little ugly now, but there is one thing I hate about e-books. It shouldn’t be this easy to self-publish. You had to pay a chunk to self-publish a print book and then you didn’t have a way to market it, so it stayed in boxes in your garage where it belonged.

Julia Child once said something along the lines of “If you’re the first person to ever think of putting those ingredients together in that way, there’s probably a reason why it’s not already been done.” Asparagus applesauce may well become the next big thing, but there probably is an outstanding reason why your debut novel about a vampire hamster who shape-shifts into a pollution-fighting pigeon was turned down by the one publisher you sent it to. Your book isn’t good. Apparently first books rarely are and “debut” novels are often the 3rd or 4th books written. I feel bad that authors who work for years and get proposals approved, rewrite, edit, and rewrite again are lumped in with the idiots who complete National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and decide that they have created a complete and perfect book.

A bunch of the authors at the Texas Book Festival named their editors as the most important partner in the success of a book, and it makes sense. An editor can see the details inside your big story, but has enough of a remove to ruthlessly cut the parts that don’t work. Self-published means self-edited and that’s not a good thing. That’s never a good thing. I think self-published should have a disclaimer prominently displayed, but they could pick which one applied: 1) The American Publishing Industry has become a staid monopoly, interested only in blockbuster series and unable to see the untapped genius of works like Raging Hamster & Dirty Bird; 2) I choose to disassociate myself from big business, refusing to alter my vision or dilute the twin messages of animal rights & pollution; 3) I just wanted to tell chicks I was a published author.


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