“I want a real author.”
“Pardon?” I glanced up at the message he sent me. “What the hell are you talking about, Jamie?”
“I’m searching Amazon for some books, right?” Even through instant messaging, I could almost see James tap his monitor and look at me as if I should clearly know what he meant. “There are all kinds of books written by bloggers. People we know.”
I knew James sighed. “So now every time I see a book I think might be interesting to buy, I hesitate. My first thoughts are, ‘Am I getting screwed? Is this book going to be a joke? Who is this guy? Is he a real author? Or is it some nobody blogger slapping words between two covers and calling it a book?”
I looked at the screen in disbelief. Alright, maybe not disbelief. I was amused, considering I already had my answer mapped out. Letting James rant is so much more fun.
“I feel like Amazon is some big self-publishing warehouse now,” the irritated words started slamming up onto my screen. “Where are the criteria? Where’s the cutoff between a real writer and just a hack? How do I know that I’m not wasting my money?”
James vented for a few more minutes until he finally realized I was quiet and most likely watching my screen with my best Mr. Spock expression complete with arched eyebrow and deadpan expression.
“Fascinating, Captain. Quite the paradox going on there,” I typed out smoothly. “You do realize that we consider ourselves real writers?”
“Well, yes. Of course. If Amazon refused to publish me, I’d be completely indignant.” Makes sense. He writes books for clients and they publish them.
It Is a Puzzlement
I had to take the rest of the afternoon to think on the matter. James and I have always said, “If you write, you’re a writer. If you have a blog, consider yourself published. If you create an ebook, you’re an author.”
To a certain extent, this is so. Still, James’ skepticism nags at me and I can see where his thoughts are coming from.
There’s a lot of crap content out there. Anyone can invest in a program or two, buy a few stock photos or clip art and throw something together. Print-on-demand and self-publishing companies crank out a constant stream of material like puppy mills on steroids.
These companies don’t care what’s published, as long as they get their money and the new author gets a book.
Therein lies the problem: It’s too easy to be published. Anyone can do it, and everyone is doing it.
Do You Like Cheese?
James and I invest a great deal of effort into the ebooks we create. It’s a matter of pride. The ebooks never turn into those miracle stories you hear about, though. They sell all right, but there are no rags-to-riches stories here.
Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to just make the damned things in Word, convert to PDF, and be done with it. Everyone else does. Cheap ebooks, rah rah. Why bother typesetting properly, laying in graphics and adding other bling to make our ebooks a pleasure from cover to cover?
Nobody else seems to do that. They go the easy route. They slap something together and end up with these success stories and an incredible amount of sales. (Or they lie about their sales, which is possible.)
Do people want to buy crap? Is that all they care for? Is the public really drawn to all the cheese and hype? It sure feels that way, sometimes.
So What’s Real?
It’s all real. Everyone has something to say and in our world, it’s very easy to say it, too.
Whether you’re sifting through Amazon or sifting through blogs on the Internet, you always have to separate the scams and bullshit before you find the gems hidden at the bottom of the compost pile.
You have to keep in mind that people don’t always know what they’re talking about. They just like to think they do. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the next book you buy will be of any value.
What are your thoughts about desktop publishing? Do you feel that self-publishing makes you a “real” writer? Do you have a way to separate the crap from the cream? Does writing a book and selling it make you a better writer – or just another hack?