Someone should. Harsh though it may seem, many of us who labour fruitlessly to contribute our masterworks to the world’s largest slush pile (Kindle) are wasting our lives – lives which could be better spent in the arms of our loved ones or simply by living. We should be told.
For all of printing history a fraternity of agents and publishers have held court in just this way: unfortunately not with any degree of distinction. Success in obtaining a publisher is always more closely related to the university we attended, or the connections we can boast, than to actual ability. Evidence one aspiring writer recently who faithfully reproduced Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and submitted it to a dozen publishers. All turned it down, but only one spotted the subterfuge and suggested that he might be guilty of plaguerism!
Publishers and agents are also rather prone to running with the hounds: if, for example, Jesus Christ were to return to Earth in this generation and write an autobiography, he would be well advised to include an element of steampunk. Individuality in the hardback world lies forfeit to assured profit. Publish not in the land of the Canaanites, for they have not seen Harry Potter.
Rather than, as has been suggested, Amazon levying a charge for the upload of a book – this provides no guarantee of quality for the reader – let them consider using a small team of ‘readers’, either professionally or from their customer base, to vet book content and provide frank, hopefully impartial criticism. Then those titles that fail the test can be referred back to the author. I think this has to come, before the reader experience on Kindle becomes so haphazard that sales suffer.
May I please be clear: I have no idea which side of this particular fence I would fall. I discovered long ago that I am my own worst critic. It still mystifies me that ‘The Butterfly Man’ , one of my earliest ventures, should outsell the book I consider to be my best – ‘Hallbury Summer’. If several people told me the task was hopeless, that I would never be a writer, I believe I would still write because for me it is life itself, but at least I hope I would either change or improve, or keep the final result in a dark cupboard. Personally, writing is not all about publication; it is more a key to continued sanity.
We do not ‘deserve’ to be in print: no-one owes us that: but talent does deserve a level field, otherwise how shall we ever see it flower?