There’s an interesting discussion at Frank Daniels’ review of No Mad by Sam Moffie. The review is scathingly critical and some of Moffie’s fans have come to his defense. I added the – perhaps unwise – comment that you could only like Sam Moffie’s book if you didn’t really care about “good” writing. Frank was called an “elitist” for not liking what “average” people will like.
A commenter said:
I read the book and loved it! A book the average person can enjoy. This review is just one of many examples of why those from the self titled publishing elite are out of touch with what the real people want to read.
As ridiculous as the notion of “self-publishing elite” may be, he’s actually sort of onto something. Because I am, at heart, a snob. Why you’d ever want to hold “average” as a badge of honor is entirely beyond me. The trouble is that most people think this way – most book buyers are reading books that I find virtually unreadable. I just don’t care about writing that doesn’t try to create something that hasn’t already existed in the past. My heroes are Philip K. Dick, Kerouac, Harry Crews, Dostoevsky. You know, innovators. What so interests me about self-publishing is that it allows for further innovation. In 2009 writers like P.K. Dick and Harry Crews may never have gotten a book deal. So my interest is finding those writers who break the mold – not those writers who are successful at fitting the mold.
I’ll report when Boyd Morrison gets a book deal at Simon and Schuster for his Da Vinci Code-esque book, The Ark, because it’s an important development. I haven’t read The Ark so I can’t comment on what it’s like, but generally, a book that is not breaking new ground does not interest me all that much. The trouble is the vast majority of the reading public does not think this way. The most popular books are bland, sentimental, and/or unchallenging. What’s troubling is that it’s hard enough for a writer to find an audience with readers who just want a remake of something else, let alone self-publishing a book, where it’s even harder to find an audience.
Times like this I feel I shouldn’t be the editor of this site. It’s a nice lofty goal to try to legitimize self-publishing so that more innovative writing can cut through the clutter, but most self-published writers and readers are interested in mainstream-style writing, so perhaps that should be the audience for this site. Can an editor who thinks Koontz is a bad writer really identify the next Koontz?
Well, yes. In a way reviewing for this site has made me a lot less critical. I’m reading stuff I’d never read otherwise, and though I’d never read Koontz in my spare time, I still can identify when someone has achieved what they set out to do – I can understand and appreciate a page turner. I mean, I loved The Da Vinci Code. Yes, really. I’m just not in favor of 1000 Da Vinci Code knock-offs. The Da Vinci Code is actually kind of innovative in its way.
But I do think it’s kind of dangerous if all books become pulp page turners and all movies become “Transformers 2.” I know what I’m doing here – insulting anyone who only reads supermarket-style fiction as reading “lesser” work. What can I tell you, I find mainstream American culture pretty deeply disappointing. The tragedy with where the book industry is heading is – like the movie industry – they’re going for sure-fire remakes, rather than testing new ground.
But when you break it down, the mainstream is giving people what they want. Millions of people went to see “GI Joe.” That’s not really cultural progress. One of the reasons I’m so attracted to self-publishing is because it is a form of progress – potentially giving voice to those who have been drowned out by an increasingly-dumbed down mainstream. But as time goes on and all readers want is “bad” writing (I think you can tell the difference between Pynchon and Koontz without me pointing it out) then I might just be in the wrong line of work.
This is a long way of saying that I think that this site would do very well to have another voice on this site of someone who is both a fierce self-publishing advocate and someone who loves/aspires to the mainstream. It might make the site more well-balanced and help further self-publishing’s possibilities. Let me know if you’re interested.