I cannot go along with the idea that it's okay for any author to offer a substandard work for sale (or even for free) 'because we all have the right to express ourselves'.
Imagine if you went shopping for, say, a washing machine and the market place is cluttered with stuff that doesn’t actually work because it’s been made by monkeys in their trees who have been encouraged to exercise their so-called ‘right’ to have a go. Completely ludicrous. And yet poor standards are deemed by some as acceptable in the book world. I expect an author to be reasonably good at writing, just as I expect my plumber to know how to fix my leak.
Authors are not meant to be indulging in ‘expressing themselves’ in print, in a sloppy fashion, for money; they’re meant to be offering a good read for others to invest in. Each of us is free to write whatever and circulate it among our friends. Writer's Circles are the appropriate platforms for would-be writers to express and maybe improve themselves, regardless of talent. Needless to say, Publishing with a capital P is not meant to utilised as a glorified Writer’s Circle by people who cannot yet write well.
A book is more or less an unknown quantity for the buyer, but it should at least be competently produced. Commercial publishing is a serious business where professional standards are paramount; stripping away the need for quality makes a mockery of it. It’s not as if there is a shortage of writers!
Maybe this great chance to self-publish means we all have to tolerate a greater percentage of ‘unpublishable’ work, but please, let us not encourage or condone it.
Okay, but who will set the standard and what is reasonably good? I thought that I was good until I saw that my sales were much lower than expected. The public sets the standard, and I accept their verdict. I did not publish my most recent stories but I keep those on site for now.
This post is not addressed to anyone, or the OP, just my general thoughts on the matter.
Everyone can write. Not everyone is a WRITER. All writers are NOT authors, even if they publish. Why?
Because a REAL author would be horrified to be represented to the book-buying public as someone who could not spell, punctuate, write in a flowing manner, tell a great story, or be an expert in the "how-to" field in which they are writing.
If you want to "express yourself", then go do it on a personal blog. Those of you who say you are not in it for the money...why are you publishing trash on a site where you expect to be paid? If this is just an altruistic passion, to express your inner thoughts, then they do not need to be published for sale.
There are plenty of free blogs out there, so go get "expressed"!
I fully believe if a writer wants to sell his or her work, success is completely dependent upon the quality of the work.
However, I'm not sure what makes writing different from every other artistic endeavor. Why is writing the only art that shouldn't allow the "I want to express myself" crowd?
Go to Etsy and look at the drawings. Some are extremely well trained and some are doodles that could be replicated by your average cat with a pencil tied to its tail. Or check the photography. Or the illustrations.
Check the indie musicians on any site that allows them. Some are classically trained and some... well... aren't.
Check the uploads on any gaming system that allows indie content. Some people upload genuinely fun games... others upload completely unplayable crap.
Are you saying a sketch artist shouldn't be able to try to sell his sketches if he just wants to express himself?
I don't mean to be argumentative here... I just happen to think the market does a pretty good job of weeding out the crap.
I don't encourage a bad writer to post bad works, but I also don't think it's my place to tell them they can't.
For the record, I'm not part of the "I want to express myself" crowd. I actually have two blogs where I do that.
I just don't much care if others do. Maybe I'm being short sighted, but I've not seen that destroy any other art industry, so I don't think it'll destroy this one.
As one of the other posters said, who set's the standard? You? Big publishers? Your English lit professor?
You don't like it don't read it. Amazon offers a look inside. Its very easy to tell from that amount of content if someones writing is worth reading, or plainly bad.
I've read some really famous authors works I thought were nothing special and some even laughable. And I've read plenty of authors that will probably never be big hits on Amazon that I thought were absolutely brilliant.
Setting up stringent gatekeepers to filter what the public can enjoy won't help the art of writing and or help the, "good," writers become more popular. All it will do is keep unknown talent down.
P.S. IMO people who whine about quality of Amazon self published material are being elitist twats. I've only read a couple of things on Amazon I thought were absolutely awful. Books are like music, theres the stuff you really like and is monolithic and then theres the rest that ranges from downright bad to enjoyable but not groundbreaking. It's art and the public should decide who gets rewarded for their work.
The market will determine what is good or bad. Washing machines and other appliances are governed by regulations and forced warranties as well as publicity if the product is substandard.
So an author writes a book that looks like a fifth grader wrote it. The national reading level is seventh grade. So I make the judgement that their work should never have been published because it doesn't measure up to my standards, that might be at a college level.
You're talking about a slippery slope here and quite frankly, I wouldn't want to set the standards for what is acceptable and what isn't. The readers will make that call and since they can read 10% of the book before purchase and return it if it isn't what they want, there are plenty of protections for the readers.
There are some authors that just feel compelled to publish a story that is burning inside them. i would be the last to stand in their way. If it's poorly written, it will disappear. If the message resonates, it will sell.
By the way, Well said Ricfey. We posted at the same time.
I would suggest that most successful authors; good or bad, are highly dependent on marketing and the "buzz" generated. Beta was left in the dust by VHS even though it was a superior product by all accounts. Being an author is no different. As an example, the first book of Fifty Shades of Grey is the number one seller on Kindle. Look at the reviews, 2600+ five star reviews, BUT, there is also over 1800 ONE star reviews. In a proportional sense many Indie authors would be horrified to see so many one stars...yet the book has made the author millions.
I have read thousands of books, many traditionally published works were sub-par or filled with spelling errors etc. I am fairly easy going so I was more impressed with the fact I found the odd gem of an error than the error itself. It didn't cause me to lose sleep at night to know an established author had an editing boo-boo, nor did it take away from the story. These things happen, just as there are often numerous errors in a movie whether in broken storyline, false facts, time issues etc. It is what it is.
I'd be the first to agree that writers should be reasonably skilled at their craft before they try to sell their work. Having a [i]right[/i] to put their work out there in an indie environment (which no one disputes) doesn't mean they [i]should[/i].
On the other hand, "reasonably skilled" is pretty subjective, especially keeping in mind that we all should be networking with other indie professionals (editors, proofreaders, designers) to fill in our skill gaps. Plenty of people think they're reasonably skilled when they're not, and I bet there are folks out there who are filled with self-doubt and hesitate to publish their work, even though it's actually quite good. When you only have your own judgment to go by, it's hard. That's why letting readers decide makes sense ... who else is going to do it?
So, as of now, readers are being asked to decide for themselves which writers count as skilled enough to be popular. That gives writers a great opportunity. I wonder if it will last, though, or if some sort of imprimatur will develop that will once again act as a gatekeeper. Readers already have a lot of books to sort through as they try to decide what's good. Imagine what it'll be like when there are 10x as many.
Indie is complicated. There aren't really any simple, black-and-white answers to the challenges it poses, IMO.
Most of us understand your point of view and agree -- the trash is clogging up the trash compactor.
How many times have you bought a product that promises to take stains out of clothes, only to find it doesn't work? Yet, that product isn't taken off the market until word spreads and consumers stop buying.
It's the fair market system. In time, readers will weed out the trash and the good books will rise to the top. No need to fret, it's just the way of the world.
A reasonable argument presented by both you and ricfrey. Who decide what art is? Who decides what's good and what's bad? The readers. But it must be there for them to read, in order for them to decide.
This isn't about gatekeepers and I'm absolutely not suggesting any.
To encourage good standards is a favour to all and bars no one. Bad writing does nothing for anyone. It smothers the talent, trips up the reader and needs sorting. If you have a story worth telling, I encourage you to tell it well.
Standards of good grammar and punctuation are out there for any would-be writer to access. It's not rocket science and it's there to help the story run smoothly for the reader.