“I blame technology”

I was having a discussion with some writers and telling them some of the crazy things that authors have done with their queries that made my jaw drop to my lap. It was based on an older blog post – “Hello, is there a brain in the house?” After collecting some titters and gasps of dismay, my buddy Tom blamed this abundance of less-than-clued-in on technology, citing the computer as the harbinger of evil while harkening back to the days when he bought his first typewriter.

Lordy, how I do NOT miss those days of making multiple copies with carbon paper, and how most of the carbon ended up on my white blouse that Mom had just bought and now her intestines were going to explode trying get the stain out. And hey, am I the only one who remembers the intoxicating smell of white-out? Who knew it would become a drug of champions in later years? All I remember is making mistakes didn’t bug me nearly as much. But I digress…

I think buddy Tom makes a valid point with technology. When the digital printing hit the market, this made it possible to print just a few books. Like any new technology, their makers don’t want to keep it quiet, so they needed to figure out how to promote it. I remember seeing the early ads – “Now everyone can be a published author!”

People opened up businesses where they could capitalize on this new technology to sell publication services. Thus the birth of vanity publishing like AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and scads others. Their promotion was compelling: “Everyone deserves to be published!”

And ye, would-be authors, they did cometh. In droves

They surfaced from the woodwork, from under rocks, from nearby bowling alleys, and anyone with a pulse. And believeth, they did. Publishing had now joined the K-Mart era, and books began flying out of digital presses at an alarming rate.

Genre buyers and reviewers were caught with their Vickie Secrets down. “What is this avalanche of crap writing we’re seeing? Who the hell is iUniverse/AuthorHouse/etc.?” Like the beagle late for a margarita, buyers and reviewers shot back with lightening speed and shut the door on them.

And ye, the authors did howleth. “Why, publishing industry, have you forsaken us?”

As it became all too apparent, all too quickly, the quality of writing suffered with this new technology. And what technology giveth, the marketplace taketh away.

8 Responses to “I blame technology”

  1. catwoods says:

    Very insightful post.

  2. Lissa Lander says:

    I say it’s like the justice system. It’s better to let 10 crappy books get published (and let the market sort it out) than to let one quality book get overlooked. Vanity presses serve a purpose. And besides… after seeing first-hand what it’s like to *interact* with a book on the iPad, I’m not worried about sweet talking publishers anymore. You should be worried.

  3. Lissa, I’m not at all worried. Could be I’m brain-addled, but there still remains the problem of getting e-books in front of readers. If they don’t know a story exists, then how will readers know to buy it?

    The plethora of all kinds of books flooding the market will simply explode in a different medium, as every writer with a firing synapse will rush to e-pub their books. Sure, the production expense will be minimal, but it’s still going to boil down to marketing and the quality of writing.

    Just like vanity and most self-pubbed books, I believe vanity and self-pubbed e-books will be have a harder time finding an audience.

  4. TB says:

    Tom here…when I wrote about the tech, I was primarily thinking of how it made it so easy to generate manuscripts that the agents and publishers were seeing a lot more stuff coming over the transom than before, and all of it subject to Sturgeon’s Law (“90 percent of everything is crud.”)

    Lynn came up with a spin on this I hadn’t even thought of, and a good one. It’s a lot easier to generate books, too, and it’s all still subject to Sturgeon’s Law.

    I’m optimistic – I think things will improve as people develop perspective,and writing and layout skills. Remember when the first Macintosh computers came out, and brought real font and graphic control to documents? We suffered through a period of documents that all looked like circus posters. Same with early websites that were covered with blinking stars and grotesque color combinations.

    Maybe the self-publishing industry will mature as well.

  5. Lissa Lander says:

    Many of my author friends (with contracts!) work constantly to promote their books themselves. With social networking, blogs and other such user generated content, it’s much easier to get exposure.

  6. Steve says:

    People still reference Sturgeon’s Law! I must say this warms an old man’s heart.

    -Steve

  7. People still reference Sturgeon’s Law! I must say this warms an old man’s heart.

    That’s because Tom’s older than dirt, Steve.

    Lissa, I agree that social networking is great, but it’s only one part of the promotion equation. The internet is a vast arena, and it’s very difficult to create a footprint unless the author is doing something pretty big to capture an audience’s attention.

    Your friends with contracts have the full support of their publisher, who’s working in the background to get those books to market. The vanity pubbed books have no such support, and this is why so few are sold. I’m not besmirching vanity, per se, but authors need to know that they have zero support and literally every bit of promotion is on their shoulders. Much more difficult to achieve.

  8. TB says:

    Hah! I used to change dirt’s diapers!

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