Internet Authors Dont Need Nonsense

By: Mike Scantlebury

Many would-be writers and aspiring authors have a very negative view of Traditional Publishers. This is often because they experience their work being rejected regularly ' often on the flimsiest of grounds ' but also it may be because, almost without fail, the 'advice' offered by the publisher to the person submitting the work is pure nonsense.

An example of the former occurred to me just a few years ago. I submitted a plan for a novel and a sample of the work, consisting of several chapters. It was a murder mystery, a crime fiction novel. In the first chapter a record producer is shot. In Chapter Two, Mickey, the investigating hero, is mysteriously thrown across the desk by the deceased man's secretary as she tries to force him to have sex. The publisher was appalled. She said to me that 'most of the readers (of such books) were women' and that they 'wouldn't want to see sex happening so close to a scene of death'. Now, apart from the fact that the secretary's need was a trifle inexplicable to our protagonist too, I happen to believe that such an event was psychologically true. People often dive into sex when reminded of the shortness and uncertainty of life. Anyone remember World War Two? But that isn't the main problem. The fact is that this publisher went on to reject the proposal ' simply because she didn't like Chapter Two. That's the equivalent of a builder saying, 'You've got plaster coming off the wall in the kitchen. We're going to have to demolish the house'. No, the answer to the builder is to tell him to get his plastering kit out and get that kitchen repaired. The answer to the publisher is to cut Chapter Two and rewrite it the way she wanted it. Why wasn't I encouraged to do that?

Unfortunately this example illustrates the second problem ' nonsense. If the publisher had said she didn't like the sex scene, that would have been understandable. That's her prerogative. However, she didn't bother to do that. She resorted to the line that 'the readers' wouldn't like it. How did she know? Had she asked any? How on earth could she conceivably come to the conclusion that they would have shared her unease? What research is being done to confirm such a view? What focus group is meeting and having such discussions right now? None. None and none. As always, people who start work at Traditional Publishers soon find themselves awarded the powers of a god. They instinctively know 'what the public wants'. Disturbingly, it often coincides with their own particular bents, foibles and opinions. What else?

People who write books are faced with these prejudices so often that they soon come to take them for granted. They know that publishers and the people who work for publishers are entitled to their own opinions, and some writers even come to believe that years of experience in such a setting gives the person magical powers for knowing what the readers out there are clamouring for. Strange. If you listen ' I mean really, really listen, pin back your ears and listen ' you will hear the strangest thing. Nothing. Readers don't talk. They don't shout and they don't demand. Occasionally one will write a letter to a publisher, usually to complain. That tells you nothing, also. It tells you what one person thinks, what about the other thousands who bought the book? No, the only real feedback that publishers ever get is called 'sales'. If people buy a book it's because they want it. If they don't want it, they don't buy it. So, if publishers really understood their audience, then they would never fail. Every book that was issued would sell just as many as the Traditional Publisher predicted, no more, no less. It doesn't happen. That can only mean one thing. In truth publishers are usually surprised by sales ' either too few, or more than expected ' for one reason only, because they don't know what readers want. Not today, not last year and certainly not next year. That's just the way it is. It's an unpredictable business.

Luckily the Internet Author doesn't ever have this problem. Ever. They simply make their books available on the internet, maybe through a print-on-demand publisher like Lulu, and if people get to hear about the book and like it, they'll buy it. If they don't, they won't. It doesn't really matter what your views are, you, the author. It's all in the hands of the customers, the readers. They decide. It's just a pity that Traditional Publishing doesn't work like that. It's still based on blind faith and obtuse prejudice. That's why the opinions, and predictions, of Traditional Publishers are usually worse than useless. They're nonsense.


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