A New Quality in the Book Market

Recent conversations and experiences brought my attention back to the deterioration of quality in published books. Most people think that the eBook market is to blame for the lack of care for quality or authorship. However, I do not think that this means that the quality will keep going down or that this trend will continue.

Originally being a facilitator for writers by offering services, publishers became the dominant force, telling writers what to write, because the market demanded it – thus sticking with the tried and true, which had proven to make money. As a result, the moment it became technologically possible, writers tried to escape from those shackles, and get back to writing what they considered valuable – in that view the publishing industry killed their own viability.

But in combination with the idea that natural talents don’t exist and that everybody can learn to write a book, this easy access technology enticed countless other to try as well. most in the hope for fame or money, which is the situation we find ourselves in today: the market is overflowing with rehashed ideas, many written by teens, often without proper editing, and catering to an audience that seeks to escape reality. Or rather, to provide a hopeless generation with something to hold onto: the mountain of apocalypse stories gives readers unconsciously the feeling that if such disasters can be overcome by their heroic (teen) characters, then surely the real world can also become right again. In other words, this kind of reading material is serving a psychological need.

But this isn’t a downward spiral that will continue, but rather a transition period. We are already seeing new organizations popping up, ready to help those writers who are serious about quality. We see websites that frown on self promotion, and websites that compile lists of quality books that are then presented to libraries. More help in marketing is becoming available for those writers who cannot deal with this or with the electronic world. And many publishers are scrambling back, trying to do better by writers. There is also more demand for new topics, and not just to get away from the real world, but countless anthologies are popping up looking for writers to help shape a new future. In other words, they are appealing to that what writers tend to be good at: to speculate and imagine.

This sort of new quality control will start weeding out those who write simply because it is the fashion to do so. This will reduce the number of hopefuls in university classes who believe that writing is simply a technique, and slowly bring in a new infrastructure, in which the old-fashioned publishers are replaced, but story telling itself will not go away. We writers need to simply ride out this transition and support each other as best we can, but not give up.

Of course, we need to also watch that this new infrastructure will not start dictating topics and content again, but let us hope some people can learn from the past.

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