Monday, June 6, 2011

Snark Down Under

The Sydney Morning Herald has a blog post that irked me. The author of the post "A Tale of Two Books" is John Birmingham, an Australian writer who has published a variety of books, including techno-thrillers and science fiction.  He appears to be the Herald's resident geek, but he writes this post as the expert on book publishing. He begins by lauding his editors, who spend months getting his books into a fit state to be published; he then states that this process is why books cannot be expected to cost only 99¢. His explanation for why there are so many self-published ebooks that cost 99¢?

"The reason? They were unpublishable. Their books were so bad that even the best editors could make nothing of them."
This strikes me as more than a tad judgmental. He is assuming a) that all self-published ebooks priced at 99¢ are self-published only after having been rejected by every editor in the book biz, and b) that they are all rejected for the same reason. 

This is simply not so. I am not saying that there are not thousands of self-published ebooks that are terrible, I'm saying this guy can't know what he's talking about because he assumes uniformity where none exists. Self-published books may have a higher rate of bad writing than traditionally published books, but they are not all at the same level, anymore than traditionally published books are. 

Nor do editors always reject books only because they think they are badly written. Book editors buy what they think will sell.  Award winning writer Ursula K LeGuin has kindly published the rejection letter she got when her agent submitted The Left Hand of Darkness. Clearly, that editor did not think the book would sell (it won the Hugo and the Nebula and it's still in print after 40 years!). 

Birmingham also pays no attention to the postings of Joe Konrath and other writers about how they have experimented with the prices of their books and found they often make more money with lower priced books than with higher priced books.

So, color me snarky. This guy ticked me off!

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