Interesting. I write for a living and it’s certainly never been an easy thing to get paid (decently) for. But I don’t think the issue at the moment is in capturing the public’s attention to become a best seller. Even back in the “bad/good” old days when the choice in most people’s homes was “watch a single channel on TV”, “talk to each other” or “read a book;” it was hard to get people’s attention and become a best seller.
Pendulums swing back and forth. Book sales dropped when VCRs came along. People could now watch movies at home and some of their leisure budget went that way. But over time the pendulum swung back and people remembered how nice it was to curl up with a book and they did just that again.
At the moment, the pendulum is out there among video games, apps, social networking, etc. but it will swing back. It will start to swing back when writing as an industry begins to focus on quality over quantity again.
The delusional industry of self-publishing has added thousands of extra flavors to the writing candy store, the trouble is that most of those flavors are equivalent to congealed vomit.
Publishing houses, rather than being greedy behemoths, added value to the end product — they proofread, they edited, and they streamlined the buckets of self-indulgent twaddle that writers inflicted on the world.
Now, writers are the latest profession to feel entitled to a living without doing the hard yards. “Independent” no longer means “small but professional” but rather “enthusiastic amateur with no desire to get better.”
There is an endless stream of noise from writers with nothing to say, writers regurgitating (and often pitifully) other writers’ material, etc. Why would the public want to wade through that?
I write. I love to read but it’s painful to find reading material now. I log on to Amazon and I see 8,000 Kindle only books written by people who can barely operate a keyboard.
There may be “hidden gems” in among them (and there most definitely are — some of my favorite modern authors have forced themselves into publishing contracts based on self-published work) but I don’t have the time to wade through the rivers and pools of crap to find them.
I find myself sticking to old favorites because my leisure time is scarce and I want to spend it reading rather than looking for something to read.
As a profession we need to wise up. This doesn’t necessarily mean “embracing multiple forms of media” (though it could), it means an end to tolerating drivel. It means refusing to entertain yet another listicle, yet another novel or non-fiction book full of spelling and grammar errors, and to stop patting people on the back for “trying” and instead only recognizing them when they “succeed” in their chosen endeavors.
There’s a reason video game companies are making billions of dollars. GTA V, for example, is well-written, it’s polished, it’s enjoyable. Release a crappy video game? It will sink without trace. Until the writing industry starts to seize on similar standards to the video game industry; best sellers are going to be few and far between.
Endless piles of garbage have devalued the price of the average book to 99 cents and yet, those books aren’t worth 99 cents. The time it takes to read them is worth more than the cover cost and while this was also true when books were $9.99; when a book cost $9.99 there was a good chance there was something worthwhile inside it because an industry made sure of that.
Cheap does not always mean better. In fact, it rarely means better. Writers have forgotten that. When they remember, the readers will come back.
Rant over now. Good luck with your Kickstarter — I don’t believe that you are one of those who revel in mediocrity; I’d just like to see more people on the inside challenging that mediocrity.