Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hello Indie Libraries, Good-bye James Patterson

Penguin pulling ebooks from libraries the week after announcing an exploitative "self-publishing assistance" program. Author's Guild grumbling about ebooks in Amazon Prime library. Publishers continuing to price ebooks at $10 and up.

The funny thing about paradigm shifts, like any trend, is they are more than halfway over before you notice them. In fact, it seems the noticing marks the beginning of the end. Which, incidentally, is why "writing to trend" is a terrible idea.

In this case, we have tradition reeling in the velvet ropes and hoisting the gate to the ivory tower, making its content elitist, overpriced, and inaccessible. Bully for them. A bit of a rah and that. One can't be troubled by the masses when literachuhhh must be preserved at all costs.

And as one door slams closed, a hundred others open. With Amazon rumored to open its Prime lending library to indie authors, the lines are really drawn in the sand. Overdrive allows authors and small publishers to apply for digital library distribution.

And guess who will jump the line? The writers with nothing to lose.

I don't think anyone can make the slightest guess about how all this will turn out. But I make one prediction: readers are soon going to become even more aware of the shell game they've been forced to play, given a small pool of authors. I think readers are going to discover that the indie authors and small-press authors will be the new populist literature, and they will like those books just as much as they ever did "the old guys." Frankly, I think we're in need of fresh blood. The paper bestseller list looks old and weary, the same names and the same sentimentality.

I've always said, "Put me and James Patterson both in brown paper bags, and I like my chances." Not that I am "better" than Patterson, but there's nothing especially special about Patterson besides a monopolistic distribution system that ensures bestsellers. Patterson was the perfect, penultimate achievement of that broken system. And, in a way, that achievement is part of what is helping break it as the tower collapses under its own weight. Ghostwritten corporate product masquerading as art. Nothing personal against Patterson, the man, but publishing a book a week doesn't mean you are a "writer."

I think we deserve better. And now we have better.

All that's left is hiring someone to ghostwrite Patterson's epitaph.

(Need more writer babble? Janice Gable Bashman let me talk about Act 2 of a writing career at her blog today)


  1. "Frankly, I think we're in need of fresh blood. The paper bestseller list looks old and weary, the same names and the same sentimentality."

    I couldn't agree more.


  2. I agree too. I don't like James Patterson's writings because it bores me within two or three chapters. I have gotten excited about some of the indie authors like JR Rain and Gemma Halliday.
    Fun writers and great reading. Makes it fun again.