I promised a cogent post today but I’m not sure that’s possible. Not because my brain isn’t working. I’ve finally had the requisite coffee needed to jump start it. Not even because I’m throwing this together without thought. No, I’m afraid it will give the appearance of being anything but cogent because I’m going to talk about things actually happening in the publishing world that have left me scratching my head and wondering if I’ve fallen down a weird rabbit hole to the Crack’d version of Wonderland.
Let’s start with the first example. I call this the “how to influence people — into never buying another book put out by your bosses ever again.” I thought I had seen just about everything during Sad Puppies 3. But I was wrong. Yesterday on Facebook I saw a post by one of the editors at DAW that frankly had me wondering what in the world she was thinking. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt because she has been in an extremely stressed personal space the last few weeks. Still, there comes a point in time when you have to step back, read what you just typed into the text box and then seriously consider the wisdom of hitting “enter”.
In this case, the editor in question said, “I think Americans are stupider than a bag of hair.” Yes, it was in regard to a hot button political issue. However, it was made in a public post. That means anyone on Facebook could see it if they wanted. While I have no problem with people saying what they think, when you have a name that is instantly associated with a company, you have to realize that what you say will reflect back on that company, whether you are speaking in your official capacity or not. That is especially true when, as in this case, your name is Wollheim.
If you want to make controversial statements, especially about a subject that is such a hot topic and as divisive as universal health care, do it in a post that isn’t public. In this case, she managed to insult all Americans, folks who are the people DAW wants to sell books to. Not exactly the most tactful or well-thought out thing she could have done.
Next up is a post about Apple and how narrow-minded, shall we say, it is when it comes to e-books. Teleread gives us the tale of someone who discovered the downside of using iBooks. In this case, an Apple customer discovered that a simple mistake — accidentally registering one of his Apple devices to the wrong Apple ID — prevented him from downloading e-books he had already bought and paid for on that particular device. It seems Apple has a provision in its Terms of Service that your registration is for 90 day periods. (I’m paraphrasing.) Because the customer had registered his device to one Apple ID, he would have to wait for the expiration of the 90 days before he could register it to another ID and download his already paid for books.
For the customer involved, that was the final straw. Not only was he going to have to wait, at that point 37 days, before he could re-register he device and access his books, he faced another hurdle as well. As Teleread noted, “iBooks can only be read on Apple devices, while most other e-book stores have apps for every platform and some have their own e-ink hardware readers besides.” So, while you can read e-books you buy from Amazon on just about any device out there due to Amazon’s philosophy of making apps easily available to its customers, Apple wants to lock you into not only their books (with a higher level of DRM) but also into their devices.
As I noted in a Facebook group I belong to, this is the sort of information I want to know both as a reader but as a writer as well. As a reader, I want to know that I can access my e-books whenever and wherever I want. I don’t want to have to worry that I’m registering a device — A DEVICE — to the wrong account or ID and then not being able to correct the mistake for three months. I want to be able to correct it as soon as I discover the mistake. I want to be able to read on my Windows laptop or my iPad or my Android phone. In other words, I want my books — and, as a writer my work — available cross-platform. I want it easy for my readers to read my books and to recommend them to their friends.
Finally, there is the latest “fad”, for lack of a better word I’m seeing in publishing. (I’ll admit, I have other words for it. Laziness. Sleeziness. Bait and Switch. There are more and you will see why.)
I’ve never been shy about saying I am not a fan of the Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey series. I can’t even say I was surprised when I discovered that the latest book in the 50 Shades series was simply called Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian (Fifty Shades of Grey Series). From what I can tell, it is basically the same story told in the original series but from the point of view of Christian Grey. It was supposed to be groundbreaking because it would give the reader an insight into the title character. Instead, it was nothing more than a rehash of an already told story. Worse, from what I can tell reading the preview, it isn’t written any better than the original was.
If you look at the reviews — and if you do what I do and toss out the 5 star and 1 star reviews, going first to the 3 star reviews — you see things like “50 Shades of Yawn” and “Hoodwinked” and “Big Disappointment”. The general consensus of these reviews and others like them was that the readers expected something new, not just a rehash of something they had already bought and read. They wanted new insight and got none. Yet this was a book that not only made it through the traditional gatekeepers but received publisher push. Why? Because the series did well following major push, so they wanted to ride the coattails and — and this is what bothers me the most — the author was more than willing to go along with them.
Then we have what I guess is the natural follow-up to Grey. Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition. This has been hailed as a gender-swapped version of Twilight, with Bella now being a guy named Beau and Edward now Edythe. The reviews for this have been more scathing than those for Gray. It currently has 207 reviews on Amazon for a total average of 2.7 stars. Not good, especially not when you consider the impact Twilight had on the YA market.
The 3-star reviews are mediocre. Some look at it as an awkward attempt on Meyer’s part. Others seem to feel nothing but greed motivated Meyer and her publishers. One reviewer even commented that the first hundred pages felt like she was reading a poor attempt at plagiarism. And these are the 3-star reviews.
Something else to note when looking at this particular book’s reviews is the fact there are substantially more 1-star reviews than 5-star reviews. 45% of those leaving reviews felt it only deserved a single star as opposed to 30% rating it a 5-star. One review in particular points out the problem many have with the book — and points out a problem with traditional publishing. According to the link above, Meyer said she wrote this “re-imagining” to show that Bella really wasn’t weak, as has been said in criticism of Twilight. According to Meyer, Bella appeared that way because of her humaness. It wasn’t sexism or anything of the like (weak woman needing a strong man to save her). But, according to one Amazon reviewer, “Within the first few pages, the sexism flares and drips from the pages.” Reading the examples the reviewer gives, I have to say they are right.
As I said, I feel like I’ve fallen through an odd version of the rabbit hole. But the result is clear. Traditional publishing is following the path taken by Hollywood. Instead of pushing its “successful” authors to bring out new material, they want the successful work rehashed. Give it a new “treatment”. Like Hollywood, more often than not, instead of getting The Godfather, Part 2, they get 2011’s version of Arthur or 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
We are in a creative industry. So let’s be creative. That means more than changing the names of your characters and doing a find and replace throughout your manuscript.