Watch out! Here comes another Ranty McRant.

I keep reading complaints around the blogosphere about indie authors spewing word vomit instead of writing good books.  I fear I must object.

Even the icons heard the same criticism.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti believed art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals.  He published his own work with his own City Lights Press.  Have you read his poems?  If not I’d recommend following their trail around a page.  It’s kind of like wandering through San Francisco.

Michael Leddy, commenting on the poems of Wild Dreams of a New Beginning, “Ferlinghetti seems the poetic equivalent of the jazz soloist who, for want of invention, quotes fragments of well-known songs, hoping that the audience will be content to congratulate itself on recognizing the sources.”

Ferlinghetti was also arrested and tried for printing and selling obscene and indecent literature– Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg.

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg.

Critics widely disapproved of Jack Kerouac’s work, On the Road.

Jack Kerouac.

Jack Kerouac.

William Burroughs’ work was considered obscene and banned from most libraries.  Go on, eat your Naked Lunch.

William Burroughs.

William Burroughs.

The reception of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was largely negative.  One reviewer described the book as “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity.”

Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley.

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte – from Graham’s Lady Magazine:  “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.” 

Emily Bronte.

Emily Bronte.

There’s this thing on Amazon… It’s called the Send Sample Now button.  And there’s this other feature.  It’s called Search Inside This Book.

You can sample any book before you buy it for your Kindle and you can read a few pages of almost any print book before you make a decision to purchase.

Use those things.  I consider them a perk for the wary reader.

Go on, use them.

It would be tough to estimate the number of books I’ve purchased in my lifetime, traditionally published books from big name publishing houses written by both established authors and debut authors that were lousy, a complete and utter waste of my time.  I read a lot, I’ve been known to read as many as three books at a time, and I’ve been reading since I was 18 months old… You do the math.  I’m guessing a few truckloads of non-indie books have ended up in my DNF/DONATE pile over the years.

I don’t write crap.  I don’t spew word vomit.  Neither do many many indie writers I know.

Look, we all know some indie authors have problems with editing, story content, formatting.  Some indie authors have no talent.  Some have a great story to tell but don’t understand craft.  Some understand craft but have no story.   This is how it’s always been for would-be authors.

But you can’t paint us all with one brush.

That’s why, if you’re concerned about word vomit, it’s wise to sample a work before you buy, regardless of the source of the work.

Personally I think it’s cool… I like the thought of all those excellent indie books waiting to be discovered by adventurous readers.  We must be doing something right – publishers are using the glut of indies as the new slush pile.


Tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Watch out! Here comes another Ranty McRant.

  1. Excellent “rant,” Julia. Very effective.
    When I first read of the negative reactions to Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, I remember deciding that the society was just dumping on her for telling a better story that her husband did. I couldn’t think of any other explanation.
    Some things earn their way via the test of time, and you gave terrific examples.

  2. Thanks, Marylin! I’m not sure Mary Shelley’s contemporaries knew she was a woman. But yes, she was a much better story teller. :)

  3. I both agree and disagree. There are excellent indie writers out there, and I don’t tar them all with the one brush, but I am afraid I don’t agree that the excellent ones outnumber the word vomit. Even as a matter of statistics, that’s improbable. There’s always only a few ‘excellents’ at the pointy tip of anything. The bottom of the pyramid for traditional publishing is huge – that’s the slush pile, and many indies, should they submit to publishers, would be in it. That’s the nature, after all, of a pyramid – many at the bottom, a few at the top. Or, if you wish to be slightly more discerning, the bell curve – a few at the top, many in the middle, and a few truly dreadful examples at the bottom end.

    Of course publishers are using indie publishing as the slush pile – it’s easier to wait and see what cream rises to the top than sort through a bunch of submissions. It’s like a self-serve checkout – why pay someone (the slush pile reader) to do something that someone else will do for free or at their expense?

    I’m not saying indies shouldn’t exist, but what frustrates me is how hard it is to find that good indie book. Yes, I can and have used the functions you’ve referred to, but honestly, most of the time it was a waste of my time. Sad to say, most of the time now I don’t bother. It’s too hard, and there’s insufficient return on investment. I generally only read indie books that come highly recommended to me by someone I know. And that’s a shame for the other good books I haven’t yet discovered.

    My real objection to word vomit is that it makes the good book the proverbial needle in a haystack.

  4. Penelope says:

    I LOVE the review for Withering Heights, I mean Wuthering Heights, I mean…you know what I mean. :)

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious. Download the sample. If you don’t like it, or don’t think the quality is up to par, don’t freakin’ buy it or read it. For cripes sakes. I don’t care what anyone says. This publishing revolution is the coolest thing in our history. Not only because it allows “everyman” to be the master of his own destiny, but also because for the first time ever, “everyman” is changing the course of history in the publishing world. It’s FANTASTIC!

  5. Actually, Ciara, looking for a good book regardless of the source of the book, is often like looking for a needle in a haystack. I don’t scroll through pages and pages of books. I stick to genres I’m interested in reading. I get recs from friends. I do study Amazon’s suggestions and read samples.
    It’s like this- I have a friend who loves historical romance novels. She gave me her list of her top ten historicals, all by well-known romance authors and pubs. I couldn’t finish a single book. I don’t mind historicals, not my usual genre, but I’ve found a jewel here and there. All these were NYT bestsellers. I thought the books were horrible. Formulaic, lacking intelligence, soul, heart – full of trite characters and stale plot devices.
    On the other hand, another friend often recommends indie works to me and I’ve been really pleased.
    So once again it comes down to word of mouth.

  6. I think it’s very exciting, Penny. And yes, we can ignore the drivel. But aren’t we all searching for that jewel in the rough? It’s a great time to create!

  7. Jaye says:

    I don’t get the people who think there is TOO MUCH. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent my entire life going through the library and bookstores, picking and choosing and picking out something I want to read. I NEVER have a problem finding something to read. I can tell in three paragraphs if the quality of writing is up to my standards. I can tell in a chapter if the book is going to be something I find worthwhile. I don’t need bestseller lists or front-of-the-store-displays or (god help us all) curators. I’m also blessed with bookish friends who suggest all sorts of interesting books. My only problem is that there are many, many books I would like to read and must budget my time.

    I suspect the folks who complain about “word vomit” and the “tsunami of crap” aren’t worried about readers at all. They’re actually worried that people won’t find their books. What they don’t understand (or don’t wish to accept) is that IT DOES NOT MATTER what else is out there. If someone wants to read YOUR book, they will read it. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s not about either/or, or (seriously) “if only that stupid 50 Shades book wasn’t trashing up the literary landscape then people could find MY book.” Uh no. People read it because they want to read that particular book. If it didn’t exist, there is no guarantee they’d have the slightest interest in something I or someone else writes.

    As for indie writers publishing too soon, well duh, many do. But so what? Writers have a tendency to get better the more they write. If they don’t, again, so what? It’s not like I am required to read them. It’s not as if they are taking anything away from anyone else. Nobody is holding a gun to my head, saying, “You have to read these fifty poorly written, ill-conceived stories before you’re allowed to read the one you want.” The only time I pay any attention at all to who publishes a book is if it’s an ebook and I know that certain Big Publishers are going to offend me with their formatting and/or proofreading.

  8. Jaye… I have absolutely nothing to add. Perfect. ;)

  9. Thanks, Sandra! And thanks for your lovely comments!