October is Depression Awareness Month. I’m not qualified to comment on the terrors that extreme mental illnesses might bring, but all those who suffer these things have my deepest sympathy, and respect for trying so hard to overcome their inner demons. Way down the scale, every human experiences sadness and depression to some degree. If you’ve never been sad or depressed at all then I don’t want you anywhere near my space. I imagine that totally unfeeling people could be a little dangerous. Everyone’s had the blues at sometime. Maybe just for a day, but sometimes for much longer. And certainly weeks of depression should raise alarm bells as it could be caused by much more serious anxiety issues.
Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a lot of depression about on the web. Maybe it’s the time of year. Sometimes the change of seasons brings on sadness and anxiety – this is an actual condition. Could be some sort of collective internet unconscious depression. It is possible for groups of people to get collectively sad. I think Jung actually did a study on it. The internet is a place where you really do get close to people and very involved with groups, especially as a writer. In a way sometimes, I think that people give more of themselves there than they do in their physical lives. Blogs and groups are often places to share your innermost thoughts and feelings, safe in the knowledge that your second cousin twice removed, or your brother, or whoever is in your actual space, isn’t going to be howling with laughter and telling everyone they can what a tool you are.
We form very real connections on the web. I’ve made friends with many people who I not only respect but truly have deep affection for as people. And it pains me when I see them hurting. It’s no secret that writers are a crazy but incredibly sensitive bunch. You have to be. How can you share life’s tribulations and pains in your scribbles if you don’t – to some extent at least – feel them? After the review barnies, which really made me wonder about my own current course of action with my scribbling, we’ve had a couple of bigwigs talking smack about independently published authors. One guy said that by not going the traditional route we aren’t actually published authors at all. He said we’re merely writers who share stories online, or something equally disdainful. I won’t go into all the self-published success stories in our defence – but those didn’t change the fact that I did indeed feel like a tiny piece of turd, and got a little blue when I read that. Jonathon Franzen said that, “While Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, he sure looks like one of the four horsemen.”
He went on to say,
“Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels? As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer, Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring. And the more of the population that lives like those workers, the greater the downward pressure on book prices and the greater the squeeze on conventional booksellers, because when you’re not making much money you want your entertainment for free, and when your life is hard you want instant gratification (“Overnight free shipping!”).”
Charming, isn’t it? Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a couple of really well-respected indie writers bow out entirely too. I don’t know if it’s because it’s just that time of year when we’re all just a little tired of all the work over the last nine months, with Christmas approaching, and then the time to look back and see what, if anything, we’ve accomplished, or if it’s because the indie industry seems to be taking a lot of loud and public knocks lately. But it is saddening to see people who really are great authors – traditional or not – take themselves and their future bookworlds out of my life.
It is true that there is an ocean of really terribly bad books self-published on Amazon. We can’t deny that. I got to wondering if mine were too after reading those things, and thinking that maybe I was living some sort of delusional, self-involved pipe dream and wasting a whole lot of my life trying to be something that I’m not and never could be – a pucker author. Then I thought, the hell with that Dagwood! The whole point of Amazon is that anyone anywhere in the world can publish their work, regardless of whether it’s a steaming pile or not. That’s the whole point of Amazon. If that has a nasty result on your traditionally published bank balance, again, so what? If only one in every ten thousand books self published on Amazon turns out to be a gem, it’s worth it. Better than ending up on some slush pile because somebody in the traditional world had a lunch date and no time to glance at more than your title. It’s what Amazon IS. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy a single thing. And if you do buy it and you don’t like it you get to say so, even if you’re not Kirkus. So what if people give away free books? If they’re good then they’ve served their purpose, and if they’re not, they’re not stopping anyone from buying a traditionally published book.
Why on Earth would hundreds of apparently illegible free books give any reader worth his or her salt any joy? Do you want those kind of guys to read your book anyway? Amazon is the most fantastic thing as far as I can see. They’re still new, and I seriously envision a future not too far away where it won’t be possible to self-publish any old thing you like. It will get top heavy and have to think of ways to prune. But they aren’t the antichrist at all. They’re giving thousands of possible geniuses the platform to showcase their work for free. Not everyone can afford an editor, but just because they can’t doesn’t mean they’re not someone I want to read. Go Amazon!
They actually do have a couple of rules that seem to be being bypassed by way of both perfect editing and content. But so what? That’s the nature of the beast. I have found typos and grammatical errors in all of my published scribbles, and I’m fixing them. At the end of the day my books will be as perfect as I – the totally self-published “person” – can get them. I like my scribbles, and there are enough honest reviewers out there, who will hopefully share what they think of my stories – good or bad – to eventually sort the wheat from the chaff as far as future readers are concerned. Maybe one day I will find out that I’m such a rotten scribbler I should be dragged out and shot at dawn, but until I do I’ll just carry on having a blast with my books – or “online shares”.
So you can tell me that I’m a yakker and a tweeter and a bragger, and that I’m not an author. Call me a writer. Hell, you can call me anything you like, but I’m not ready to hop off the bus yet. I reread Jonathan Franzen’s article after a few days of real black gloom and self doubt, wondering if I should do what I’ve always said I wouldn’t and hand my scribbles over to publishers just to be “legit” – I have had a couple of offers believe it or not – and then I saw the rest of his diatribe for what it really was. The pompous pontificating of an arrogant tool. So I’ll stick to being the indie that I love to be. We’ll be just fine at the end of the day. Independent writers will sink or swim, make millions or not a dollar, but we aren’t going anywhere but where we choose to go, no matter how loud ya all yell fellas. Now I’m off to do a bit of yakking. Don’t let the bigmouths break you down scribblers. Just do what you do and enjoy it.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Writing & Indie Thoughts and tagged Amazon, are indie writers authors, depression awareness month, jo robinson, jonathan franzen, self publishers, tradional publishers.