Writing is dying a very slow, painful death at the hands of self-publishing.
Actually, that’s not entirely true.
Self-publishing alone isn’t killing Great Writing, though it has set the bar increasingly low. Facebook Bestsellers are what’s killing Great Writing.
Let me explain:
A Facebook Bestseller is a book that ends up on the Amazon Top 20 list, or something, due entirely to the Clicks of thousands of FB “Friends”. Usually they’re derivative, repetitive, absolutely painful, damn near unbearable, poorly written pieces of crap. If you can make it through the Free Sample without screaming out loud or falling into fits of laughter, I applaud your strong constitution. I can’t. I’ve tried.
And you can spot a Facebook Bestseller pretty easily. Take a look at a handful of those couple hundred five star reviews. Do they read something like “OMG, this was SOOOO good!”, “Loved this SOOOO much”, or “YES! Another winner”? If so, then it was probably written by someone who A) hasn’t read the book, but B) wants to show their support for their FB “Friend”.
Now, go ahead and take a look at those few, very brave One Star reviews. You know, the ones written by “Friends” who are probably “Friends” no more? That’s where you’ll find the real story.
Yet, still, there it sits at the top of the Amazon Bestseller List.
Because of the best of intentions of “Friends”, we now find ourselves faced with the stomach-churning reality of truly Great Writing by Writers with long, celebrated careers they’ve earned through hard work and talent, writers who actually know what they’re doing, sandwiched between Wannabes whose painful, amateurish prose wouldn’t make it out of an 8th Grade Creative Writing course.
This is the danger with Facebook and all those click-happy “Friends”. Those who write Facebook Bestsellers, wrapped in the breathless, unquestioning support of FB, believe they’re really good. They ignore the One Star reviews because, you know, they’re not nice, and continue on, having no clue how bad they really are and how deeply damaging their celebrated mediocrity is.
Readers who may be Writers someday are growing up believing Bad is somehow Good. These Readers, surrounded by nothing but bad, will soon have no memory of what Truly Great Writing is, having to search before the Time of these Facebook Bestsellers for Good Writing.
You see, a Writer is more than someone who puts words on a page. A Writer listens to the words, hearing and honoring their rhythm. A Writer knows that if there’s one word too many, or one word not enough, the structure will fall. And that structure is everything. That’s what cushions the Reader in this fictional world. A Writer can recognize the balance in a sentence and know when it’s off, feeling, in his or her bones, that it’s not right and what to do to fix it.
A Writer would never be satisfied with what ends up in these Facebook Bestsellers. He’d immediately see how amateurish and clumsy it is. He’d FEEL it was wrong as he’s writing it. He would not rest until it was edited and put right. It would haunt him. In fact, it wouldn’t even make it past his fingers TO the keyboard.
I believe a Writer, a True Writer, could never bring themselves to leave their worst masquerading as their best on the page and click Publish.
Yet these Wannabes do it all the time, without apology, without regret, and often to great applause.
I’ve often railed against Traditional Publishing and how, because of their penchant for guarding the Gates a bit too vigorously, a revolution like self-publishing was needed. But at least, for the most part, we were spared moronic drivel ending up on the bookshelf, let alone the Bestseller List.
But now even that’s changing with Traditional Publishing abandoning all pretense of being an arbiter of taste and strong writing, and following the money to sign Facebook Bestsellers to contracts. And, once again, the delusion that they’re “good writers” is perpetuated, their oafish efforts being celebrated and rewarded.
But a Publisher following the money is not supporting the writer. A Publisher biting their tongue, smiling, and eagerly hoping to cash in on the last breath of the author’s FB Bestseller status — these “Friends” tend to tire within a year or two and move on to newer, equally abysmal voices, so it’s best to move quick if you’re a Publisher –doesn’t give a shit about the writer. They’re read the words, they’ve winced and groaned and shook their heads. They know this writer doesn’t have the chops to reach beyond their Facebook circle. And they know, once the writer’s new books hit a wider audience, that’s when the chickens come to roost. That’s when the One Stars outweigh the Five Stars and those “Friends” start second guessing that all important Click.
A Publisher signing a FB Bestseller is hoping to eke out a book or two before the jig is up, the lie is unmasked, the numbers drop, and people move on.
So, what can we do about this? STOP FOLLOWING THE HERD! If you’re one of those “Friends” who buys a book as a show of support to the Author, even when you know it’s not good work, STOP! If you’re not sure about the quality, read the Sample. If it feels off, read the lowest rated reviews to see if the issues you’re finding are issues they mention. And, if they are, DON’T BUY THE BOOK!
It’s as simple as that.
Buying abysmal writing as a way of being “nice” doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help the writer. It doesn’t help the reader. And it doesn’t help the industry produce and celebrate better, stronger work.
My hope is once we rid the publishing world of these Facebook Bestsellers, it’ll be easier to go back to once again celebrating the truly great writing of real Writers, not Wannabes who would be nothing without their Facebook Friends.