I won't name it or the author because my point here is not the specifics, but I just read a book and it was awful. The whole thing was a cliche wrapped in a cliche, riddled with plot holes, erroneous descriptions, ludicrous scenarios & it was even kinda racist, horribly sexist and pretty ignorant in parts. It was a textbook what-not-to-do for the Show don't Tell rule and read like something a fourteen year old girl might have written - fine for fantasy, but not something that should ever see the light of day, let alone be packaged and sold to the public.
I came across it on BookBub and it was erotic romance, so I wasn't expecting literary fiction. But I was not expecting it to be *so* bad. I read it to the end out of morbid curiosity - maybe it will get better... But no.
But it has like a million five-star reviews. A lot of people LOVED it. And I just don't get it... If it was a great story, just badly executed, I might understand, but it wasn't even that.
I like to think that even with the removal of the gatekeepers to the publishing world, the audience will still be the filter, bringing the quality to the top. But is that happening?
Is it just the genre? I know in other genres this probably wouldn't happen as much - if I wrote a fantasy novel with same terribly paced melodrama and factual errors, it'd be one-starred all the way to hell. (And would never get accepted for a BookBub promotion.) So is it just certain genres where people are clamouring for quantity over quality. Of it I had a super-hot 'bad boy' in all of my stories, could I sell all the unrefined, unedited books I want?
I don't mean to trash the erotic romance genre - I read the book so i'm not against it. But why should erotic romance be a synonym for terrible writing? Why doesn't quality matter?
Am I jealous? Do I think, bitterly, I could do so much better? Maybe. But it's more than that. From my perspective as a lover of this craft, and as an English teacher who cares about people improving and learning, I can't help but wonder if this instant gratification of self-publishing is going to be a really bad thing. Not just for the industry but for individual writers.
I am a better writer than someone who just wrote their very first thing because I've practiced for years. And I will get better because I loo for my shortcomings and I'm always working on them. I mean, maybe I will look back in ten years and the stuff I've written now and cringe. So where's the line, who decides the standard these days?
But if you get the urge to write a book, never having written a thing before, then publish it and people clamour for more... are you ever going to improve? The book I read *could* have been better. With more practice by the author, with feedback from other sources than friends, and with an editor's guidance, it could have been an okay book. But will the author ever get any of that if what they are doing now is working so well?
Or doesn't it even matter? If it's selling and the author and readers are happy, does it not even matter if it's well written by more objective standards?
It's hard to separate out my own ego from more objective thoughts. Am I just bitter because someone who just one day out of the blue decided to write a novel already has so much more success than me, someone who has dreamed of being an author her whole life? Perhaps. If I choose to work more slowly on my novels, and write in genres that demand more rigorous standards, it's not like I can hold it against someone else if they're making money doing it quick and dirty. I could choose to do it that way, too, I guess.
I hope I haven't offended anyone - I'm really just thinking out loud. And bottom line is, I do applaud anyone who puts in the work to not only start, but finish whole manuscripts and then risks putting them out there. And I love to support anyone who wants to be a writer.
But I often wonder what the landscape of self-publishing is going to look like in the future. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that anyone can publish anything? Are there no rules, as long as you're happy and your readers are happy?
What do you think?