It doesn’t seem that long ago since Amazon was just a river in South America surrounded by receding rain forests, and kindling was something that was used to light a fire.
Oh how they must be laughing at us now, missing all that irony, as the hottest selling product this Xmas will be called the Kindle Fire! Using a small fire to stop us burning a rain-forest? It’s as poetic as it is brilliant. You have to hand it to them, no wonder Amazon is destined to become the world’s largest company.
But what of the meteoric growth of the Kindle market? Analysts are predicting upwards of 2 million Kindle devices being in our Christmas stockings this year (although Amazon themselves refuse to divulge actual sales figures). Don’t buy a book, buy a device for which they can choose their own books. Again, a great strategy that can only evolve into self-fulfilling world-domination by Amazon. Despite traditionalists helplessly clutching their treasured cardboard covers, not since Nazi Germany has the world seen the written word confined to the fireplace with such gusto, as we all eagerly embrace this change.
So what does it all mean? Well, for one thing, it signals the end of the all powerful scathing literary agent, of whom all authors covet and despise in equal measures. With ebooks, the author, any author, now has a vehicle to take them to market without needing to hire the agent-taxi as a conduit.
It almost certainly indicates a rapid fall, or at the very least a major contraction, of the publishing giant, without whom no author would have previously made it out of their own pipe-dream. Should we weep for these two long standing members of the literary community as they are thrown to the very pavements they used to strut in their spotted bow-ties, now to contemplate the Big Issue about which they once sniggered? Well maybe. A little.
Will we survive without them, us mere writers? Possibly, but possibly not.
However, as I see it, another seemingly unnoticed problem is emerging, and it is thus. The rapidly digitalised pronouns and verbs towards which we are frenziedly careering, lack just one vital ingredient. CONTROL.
Before I elaborate on one of my trademarked opinionated theories, let’s just take a brief look back to the chain that originally linked the book industry together.
We have the author, obviously; that literate, well educated person who writes glamorous words that we all want to read. Then there is the filter, a literary agent, who makes highly crucial decisions about what will and will not be allowed through the gate into the world of eager readers; we have already discussed her. But (I know, never start a sentence with BUT, it’s on page 10 of the manual), there are a few more links in the chain that have been slightly overlooked. Next comes the editor, usually but not always, appointed by the publisher, who goes through the work with a tooth-comb, finding not only spelling mistakes and typos, but making sure the words all gel together into something approaching coherent content. We then have the well-documented fat-cat publisher, the business brains who, along with experienced marketing executives, use their contacts to get the book out onto the correct shelves accompanied by some kind of publicity fanfare. That is, assuming they think it is good enough.
So, back to my theory. The impatiently anticipated digital revolution can profitably function without the agent and publisher, we are all more or less agreed on that. Instead of the salesmen, we have the Amazon platform, although there are still a clever and sometimes expensive degree of publicity required if one wants to make any serious sales. However, (I couldn’t start two sentences with BUT!) the fundamental flaw in the spectacular digital literary revolution is….it's rubbish.
Now before you hit the delete button on this post, hang on. I am not saying the industry is rubbish. I am talking about all the rubbish that is being produced, on an hourly basis, by people with no more writing skills than a dyslexic brick-layer.
As an author, I frequently question my own work, you have to. If it was brilliant, wouldn’t every agent in the world have fought over it instead of arrogantly ignoring my submissions? Probably! Early reviews of my writing frequently told me it needed editing, and it did. Thankfully now, it has been, and it is a million times better as a result. (I know one thing for sure, a good editor would certainly have trimmed this post!)
The problem the industry now faces is that the thousands upon thousands of rejected writers are now filling the main (possibly soon to be the only) high street cyber-shop with their trash, completely unregulated. Amazon is becoming the Pound-Shop (Dollar-Store) of the literary world and we all know what they mainly sell in those stores?
Again, as an author, I follow the social network, gathering followers, reviewers, information and knowledge. I am always on the lookout for other author’s work, reading blogs, downloading ebook samples, and I have to say that some of the garbage that is out there is unbelievably bad. So many writers are (#am)writing, chasing daily word count, franticly racing towards the end of their manuscript, irrespective of its appeal to intelligent purchasers. As soon as the last two words are written, up it goes into the marketplace and, this is the worrying bit, people actually buy it, for 99 cents. Never since the days of the rag-and-bone man has so much rubbish been sold for profit.
So, with that bombshell out in the open, where do we go from here? The answer has to be backwards surely? Just when does Bruce Wayne step in and clean up the streets, saving us all from the illiteracy of paranormally romantic proportions? Will the self-regulatory methodology, that has made e-bay such a phenomenally reliable place to shop, apply to Amazon? No it won’t, because we are all too frightened to put up a bad review, for fear of the backlash of a wounded author. If we like it we tell them; if we don’t, well we put it in the recycle bin and forget it, rather than wasting our time composing some sentences that requires effort, and possibly exposing our own uneducated writing skills in the process. Amazon doesn’t care, they just keep on selling the goods.
When I had my first novel rejected, to start with I sulked for a few days, piqued at the thought of someone daring to pass judgment on me. Thankfully, what I did next was to relook at the work, take advice, rewrite, get more opinions, before submitting it again and subsequently self-publishing it. It stood me in good stead.
Please, authors and readers everywhere I implore you, with the industry on the brink of the biggest revolution known to word-kind, each and every one of us owe it our fellow reader to encourage the bad reviews, from people we don’t know, so that we may keep the streets clean. If bad reviews stop us selling bad books then, quite simply, they are not bad reviews at all, are they?
Now, is that ‘Good thinking, Batman?’