No Respect For The Craft Of Writing And Publishing

When you mistreat the CRAFT of fiction writing AND publishing, they will kick you in the teeth. A friend of mine lost a few of his recently.

My friend wrote a novel, published it on Amazon and sold 6,000 copies for zero money. Sold? No, he gave them away with one request: please leave him a review. Practically no one did, not even a bloody thank you or a hey. He was hurt, perplexed and miffed at their ungrateful, silent treatment.

He reserved no kindness for himself, self-criticizing all the things he had done wrong, like give his book away, do a half-ass job on the cover and ignore proper formatting. I shook my head on the other end of the phone but said nothing. Then he told me, “I never bothered editing it.”

I hung up because I would have yelled, “And did you start operating on people before you got proper training as a doctor, too?!” He, a brilliant doctor, has no respect for the profession of writing and publishing. And he isn’t alone.

The silence from virtually 6,000 people who downloaded his book was a tender mercy, because though truly well intentioned, his book sucked. Any book with that many problems will sucker punch readers away. Those readers were nice and left him silence in exchange for the simple assault and battery on their reading senses.

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Image by Sam Chills vis Flickr

What is it? Why does fiction writing get so little respect from geniuses and dumbasses alike?

I can count up to a billion, but it doesn’t make me a mathematician. I don’t attempt to solve the cosmological mysteries of the universe or spout out the formula for M Theory.

I’ve been told fiction writing isn’t a hard science. It’s fluffy stuff. It doesn’t take the same discipline, the same training, the kind of time investment or even significant brain power as other disciplines. After all, anybody can do fluffy stuff.

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Image by Mason Bryant via Flickr

Let’s see what comes out of the shit filter.

The fluffy stuff is harder because it has no corners, no hard lines, nothing to say 1=1. And believe it or not, fluffy stuff comes with PhD programs offered at the most venerable universities in the world. Fluffy stuff, like literature, goes back to time immemorial in human history, which makes science, law and business baby chicks compared to language, communication and storytelling.

It’s human nature to talk and tell stories. But there’s a difference between talking and telling stories well, a difference so expansive, it’s separated by a chasm as wide as the miles between America and Australia. I respect other people’s professions and don’t assume I can do their work. So why do people assume they can write well enough to publish at the mere touch of keyboard buttons?

A different friend of mine answered, because it’s easy.

Why is it easy, I asked.

Because everybody does it every day.

So…you think you write well enough? Been doing it all your life? You just want to get your book out to the world as fast as possible regardless of the process of training, learning, honing and perfecting?

Well, my friend, you are screwed, because even Amazon doesn’t want writers’ crap anymore. And you thought this post was the rantings of a lone lunatic.

As of February 2016, Amazon enacted a wider crackdown. Any book that presents a bad reader experience is getting taken off the market. If your book has typos, formatting issues, stupid punctuation or no punctuation, you won’t be able to sell it on Amazon until those mistakes are corrected to Amazon’s satisfaction. Traditionally published, self-published, it doesn’t matter. Every book has to strictly adhere to Amazon’s Guidelines.

Why a crackdown now? Because of too many reader reviews such as: “I just don’t want to sit down and read a book full of errors.”

This is only one reader reaction. It comes from a very useful post on formatting by Hazel Lau.

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Image by James Arboghast via Flickr

Amazon’s new guidelines are good for the readers and for writers, too, but only to a point. As in the case of Microsoft’s Word program, computers can’t think like humans, and sometimes, writers can write in complex sentences that artificial programs can compute only as errors. And then there are the reports from writers who were notified by Amazon with warnings over typos, which turned out to be foreign words or names Amazon’s algorithms couldn’t recognize. Deemed as errors, the authors were contacted to make corrections. Fun times are coming.

I do wonder how far the ramifications will go. Will a writer have to simplify his/her language by changing his/her voice and style to suit Amazon’s sense of correct English in order to sell through Amazon? Why does it matter? When Amazon controls 74% of ebook sales in the U.S., it matters.

Alarmist? Conspiracy theorist? Nope. But when any outside force, whether it be a company, computer program or an individual dope on a power trip, requires an artist to bend to any creative will other than the artist’s own, yeah, I got a problem with that.

I won’t worry about it right now. What I will do is NOT leave quality control to Amazon or anyone else. No one is perfect, but at least put in the effort. If you respect the craft of writing and publishing, you’ll understand the spirit of this post. You’ve dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s and produced a polished product without Big Brother demanding it.

Maybe my doctor friend will get the message. He really doesn’t have a choice anymore because the marketplace is demanding quality over quantity.