More reasons to hate Amazon: Ursula Le Guin is right about their model of books as commodities “written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast”
The online bookseller does more than just shut down indie bookstores, says the venerable fantasy author
Disclaimer: I really like a lot of Le Guin’s work and respect her very much as a writer. Having done some research now on the publishing world as a writer I can see some of the things she is talking about. Since I am doing this with a profit motive (I like to write, but I don’t _need_ to write) I am trying to write something popular that sells well. Though what I write is focused on the story I want to tell, I do consider popularity elements as I make decisions on various plot points. I have gone back and rewritten sections because I feel they will market/sell better and, presuming my reviewers give me the thumb’s up and get it professionally edited, I suspect I will be making additional changes towards better marketability. Then, if I go with a traditional publisher, no doubt they will recommend more changes still. However, I am trying to tell a specific story and there is only so much I will bend before I no longer enjoy what I am doing (you have to do it for the joy in the beginning, that might be all you ever get!) and will drop the thing. I wonder if some of my favorite authors would ever get a chance in today’s publishing world. If Dune, one of the most popular Sci Fi books of all time, were Herbert’s debut novel, I doubt it would get considered today. It is too far from the mainstream and isn’t easily categorized. My attempt is firmly in the romantic thriller genera and, except for the focus being from the “bad guy’s” point of view (the title says it all: “Diary of a Contract Killer”) I believe is fairly conventional. Publishers want you to be different, yet the same, exactly like Hollywood. Everyone complains about how Hollywood never does anything new or different, Le Guin sees the exact same thing now in the publishing world and lays the blame at Amazon’s feet. I don’t see it as exclusively an Amazon issue, but they are certainly accelerating the trend (though they are also providing a platform for self publishing, which lowers the bar to the point that anyone who can finish a novel can get it published, though very few indeed will ever get paid for the time they invested). Though I am not convinced that changing Amazon’s behavior would change the trend (personally, I see this trend beginning decades ago and Amazon just riding the wave), I do think it needs to be said, heard and debated, so this is my small effort to broaden the article’s exposure.