Internet Authors Dont Need Club Class

By: Mike Scantlebury

If you go into any supermarket in England and inspect the fruit, you may be pleased to see that some of the apples are bagged up and labelled 'Class 1'. However, looking around, you may be surprised to note that there aren't any corresponding bags marked 'Class 2'. It seems to be Class 1 or nothing! That's great, the individual apples are all free of blemishes; nicely rounded and approximately the same size; same colour; all good quality. You've got the best. Luckily, 'the best' is also reasonably priced, so you can afford them. If they were too expensive, you'd be struggling. Like with champagne. If there was such a thing as 'Class 1' champagne, no doubt it would cost hundreds of pounds a bottle. Far better to look for the 'economy' class of champagne for fifteen or twenty pounds. Maybe still a trifle expensive, but justifiable for a special event, such as a birthday. If it's a bit more expensive – say it's called 'medium priced' – then you'll find the smart young executives are buying it, the ones who make their money in the stock market, buying and selling pieces of paper.

In fact, most products have several 'classes'. The easiest thing to note for most people is air travel. There's always a 'Club Class', or Business Class or First Class, where you'll find the business people travelling at the tax man's expense, or the movie stars and singers. In some ways it's reassuring, to think that when you get to be a star, you too can spend your time in an exclusive VIP area, where you don't have to mix with the hoi-poloi, the great mass of ordinary people. For them, of course, there's the comfort of knowing that they're getting 'good value for money', and aren't paying twice the price for a bit more leg room and a free glass of champagne. What extravagance! The truth is that many of these 'ordinary' travellers are quite happy to be where they are. They might have a twinge of envy for the rich folks on the next level up, secreted behind a velvet curtain, but they're also happy with the bargain they've got. They don't want 'Class 1'.

This idea – that not everyone demands travel in a Rolls Royce but may very well be content to drive an old sedan – is a great source of comfort for the Internet Author. You see, most Traditional Publishers play the game of 'Class 1 or nothing'. They tell the aspiring author that their book has to be top-notch, the best, the most inspiring, moving, thrilling, well-written story on the planet, or they won't be interested in taking it. They can't be seen – they assert – to be putting out novels that are second-rate, less than perfect, having defects, flaws or plot lapses. There's only two problems with this assertion. One, is that it's demonstrably wrong. Go into any bookshop and check out the new publications. Are they all perfect? Not at all! If Traditional Publishers are so good at screening out the blemishes on the apples, how come some get through? No, something's wrong somewhere. Either they aren't very good at their job, (the job they tell you that they're doing – of selection and scrutiny) or the whole story is a can of -

Second, there's readers out there in the world. Oh, them. Yes, we tend to forget about them. They're the people who buy the books and keep the whole show on the road. Publishing isn't a business that exists for publishers. It's a way of getting books to people who will pay for them, the readers. And guess what? They aren't all looking for 'Class 1'. Plenty of people enjoy the 'economy' book, the good read that's never going to win a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize. Think about Quentin Tarantino. He makes movies for people who love B movies. I said 'B', not 'A'. Get it? Well, good ol' Quentin has done pretty well for himself. What's the equivalent in the world of books? You supply that answer!

When I was younger and had first moved out of home, I lived in a shared house and we went shopping together every Saturday morning. We got used to the idea that we had to look for the bargains. We looked for the cheap versions and the special offers. You know about 'bacon bits'? When the man behind the counter is slicing up the bacon, he gets left with odd bits, half slices, offcuts. It doesn't happen so much any more, but there was a time when he would put them to one side and people like I was then would happily buy the 'bits'. They were a darn sight cheaper than a full cut, and although a bit fatty, had quite a bit of meat on and the full taste of bacon. We were young, our taste buds weren't so set in stone, and we were happy.

Well, somewhere out there are authors creating books that are the equivalent of 'bacon bits'. They might get the brush-off from polite society, but they know two things. One, they can get their novels published and publicised on the internet, even if Traditional Publishers turn them down, and Two, there can find readers who are interested in leftovers, offcuts and 'Class 2' stories. They like the energy; they like the kitsch; they like the feeling of raw, unformed structure. Together they form a market. Internet Authors can tap into that world. They don't have to get trapped on the usual ladder, fighting their way to the top where the bright lights are, tempted by misleading and old-fashioned dogma. They can look on the web and make a new world, one where variety and diversity are valued and shared. It's a great opportunity.



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