Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Tsunami of Crap

Some people believe the ease of self-publishing means that millions of wannabe writers will flood the market with their crummy ebooks, and the good authors will get lost in the morass, and then family values will go unprotected and the economy will collapse and the world will crash into the sun and puppies and kittens by the truckload will die horrible, screaming deaths.

Or something like that.

This is bullshit, of course. A myth. A fabrication. One rooted in envy and fear.

Readers aren't the ones worried about the scores of new ebooks being released. They have no need to be worried. There are already billions of books in the world. A few more million won't make a difference.

Readers are able to find what they want, quite easily. They can go into a bookstore and come out with a purchase, even though that store stocks 150,000 titles. They can go into a library, and ten minutes later walk out with a handful of books that interest them.

There are millions of websites, and YouTube videos, and things to buy on Amazon.com. There are thousands of choices on cable TV and Netflix and Hula. Yet we're always able to find gems.

No, the readers don't care if some moron uploads his ten-years-in-the-making opus "Me and My Boogers: A Love Story." They'll be able to avoid it just by looking at the crummy cover art, the poor description, and the handful of one star reviews.

Readers don't care if something is self-pubbed or not. They've read books they don't like by legacy publishers, and they may find books they don't like by indie authors, but they aren't going to give up reading. In fact, they're going to help each other find good things to read. Goodreads.com is a perfect example of readers becoming gatekeepers, sharing reviews and recommendations.

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that ereaders are actually increasing the number of books bought, and causing people to read more. There aren't droves of readers ditching their Kindles because they bought a bad indie ebook. Rather, there are hundreds of new ereaders and many thousands of new ebooks sold every day.

So readers aren't the ones perpetuating this stupid myth that the crap will destroy the world. It's the writers--specifically the legacy writers--who keep trotting this one out.

The reason for it is disappointingly obvious. Legacy writers no longer feel special, because now anyone with a book can sell it. Even worse, they can sell it for cheap, and get higher royalty rates, meaning these pretenders to the throne can actually make more than those who "earned" their spots in the pecking order by kissing legacy butt and waving around their rejections as badges of honor.

These authors fear loss of income, and are envious of the ease in which indies can self-publish and the money they can earn. But saying that out loud would make them look petty.

So instead, they cloak their fear and envy in a poorly constructed argument that says their real intent is protecting readers from crap.

Newsflash: there has always been crap, and always will be crap. Get over it.

Whenever someone feels the need to make decisions for me because I'm apparently incapable of doing it myself, it irks me. I can decide by myself who to sleep with, what to smoke, what God to worship (or not worship), and what to read. I don't need anyone to protect me from indie ebooks, and neither does anyone else.

If you're really worried about readers being subjected to crap, here's what you can do:


But enough with the whining about it. It makes you look silly.


«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 307 of 307
Unknown said...

200 comments. Not bad.

There is one point that everyone seems to have missed, and I'm going to toss it into the mix. I've noticed certain blogs that refuse to publish any comments that are positive about self publishing, or negative about legacy publishing.

Now this is where it gets really fun. A long time ago, back when USENET was the hot application on the Internet and the WWW was non-existent some really weird stuff was going on. We started seeing comments in the Borland newsgroups (Borland was a Microsoft competitor) saying things like "I like Borland compilers as much as the next guy, but there are certain things you can only do with Microsoft compilers."

Not too many years later when the WWW became real we started seeing oddly similar comments in the Netscape newsgroups, "I like Netscape as much as the next guy, but there are some things you can only do with Internet Explorer." And of course in the Apple newsgroups, "I like Macs as much as the next guy but there are certain things that you can only do with Windows."

I'm sure you see the similarity to certain statements we are seeing about self publishing, which are coming more and more regularly, and seem to be getting more and more desperate. So now we have fake blogs, which pretend to be average writer blogs, which are moderated, and will never, ever, allow any comments that have anything positive about self publishing to be posted.

At the same time we are learning about things like what HBGary Federal was doing, which included developing Persona Management software, which would have allowed one person to control 10 or 20 different fake users, or sock puppets, and you have to wonder if the Big 6 didn't buy some copies of this software from someone?


Because there's just too much opposition, and it's too consistent. I don't know very many writers who are all that happy with their publishers. Most writers are more than happy to consider a change in publishers, or new options. The Legacy Publishing model hasn't been good for most writers, except the very few who make the NYT bestseller list.

For the remainder, any change is likely to be for the better, and that has to have the publishers scared silly.


KL Mutter said...

This part baffles me:

I regularly see statements that, due to the market shrinking, publishers are accepting far fewer new authors.

Simultaneously, they decry self-publishing.

Seems the only remaining alternative is to simply not be a new author. I'll pass on that option.

W. Dean said...


I like your grandfather already…

I think I acknowledged that context is everything. Like the postmodern audience, you recognize that the typos in cummings reflect something about the character. Steinbeck tried to capture a Southern dialect and Anthony Burgess (Clockwork Orange) has his characters speak in an invented argot. But it would be completely confusing and ridiculous if any of these authors had just written the book in an affected way for no purpose.

Moreover, you should recognize that cummings so-called “rule breaking,” like that of all good writers, is highly contrived. The character still uses a polished syntax in the sample you offered (each sentence is complete and follows from the last); and the typos are phonetically accurate, e.g., “meens,” “sience,” “pepul,” so that you see the typos but you can still read them without effort. No real simpleton is going to be quite so well-spoken, and he certainly wouldn’t only make obvious mistakes, just as no writer is going to imitate a real simpleton’s errors for very long. It would be a total failure, even if it was true to life.

All of this should suggest that we’re talking apples and oranges. None of the authors of the stuff I’ve read intended the mistakes. How do I know? Because the mistakes serve no narrative purpose. They just confuse the reader, when the reader shouldn’t be being confused. The mistakes really are just unpolished or downright bad writing. So no, it’s not that I just don’t get it.

W. Dean said...

I’d like to point out a common misunderstanding. From time to time, some people here grumble about writing and style, and how they “don’t need no damn rules!” This is a misunderstanding fed by our modern distaste for being told what to do.

Good style and good books about style have nothing to do with rules dictated from on high by some self-appointed expert. These books (the good ones anyway) are about how to effectively do things with words. In other words, the “rules” for good style belong to the same class of standards as “best practices” in the trades, medicine and engineering, which tell you how to do something without breaking the bank or killing someone. In both cases, the “rules” are for the agent’s benefit.

So, sure, feel free to wire your house and write your books your own way. Just don’t be surprised when they both go up in flames.

Unknown said...

found this a real go getter type post. Rally inspires me to go and get self published, or at least some of my stuff!!


Paul McMurray said...

Thank you Joe, and everyone else--I'm doing a 3rd edit, because you're right: Once it goes out there, it's there, and why be embarrassed by crap you could have fixed with not much more time as compared to what you've spent on it already(at least timewise)?
OT: If I buy an ISBN from Smashwords when publishing there, can I use that same ISBN to publish on my own at B&N etc (I know about Amazon's system). Or is that bad etiquette? Thanks,

Selena Kitt said...

And any rule you care to mention, I'm betting that I or somebody on this board could find an example of how somebody broke it and came up with a masterpiece.

We once had a little writing exercise like this in a writer's group I was a part of. We each chose a rule to break. Totally fun. It can be done - and done well. Rules were make to be broken.

But you have to KNOW the rules before you can start breaking them!

C.J. Archer said...

There's a lot of crap put out by trad publishers too. Some of them have gone on to be bestsellers.

Anyway bad books make the good books look even better, no matter who published them.

Jon Olson said...


Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

Unknown said...

@Paul McMurray

Get smart. Move to Canada. Canada made a decision. To stimulate Canadian literature ISBNs are free, which is why I am now officially listed with the Government of Canada as a publisher, and have 50 ISBNs reserved for my use.

Oh yeah, and we get better Health Care. Cheaper too. And yes, we do pay for it, but it costs about a quarter of what American health care costs, and almost no one goes bankrupt because of health care costs (drugs aren't covered, but they do tend to be less expensive).


David Gaughran said...

Well, it looks like two more writers managed to shake themselves free of the "tsunami of crap".

Mark Edwards & Louise Voss have just been signed by HarperCollins (UK) on a six-figure four book deal. That's British pounds too.

I know Mark a little through Kindle Boards. He has been trying to crack the publishing game for a long time. He had a couple of agents, but could never get a deal.

They self-published for the first time in February 2011. In June they sold over 40,000 books in the UK alone.

In July they get approached by a big publisher.

Wonder how all those readers found them in that mountain of crap, eh?

David Gaughran said...

Oh, and that's with only two books out too. One of them for less than 3 months.

K.A.Tucker said...

"Me and My Boogers: A Love Story" A MUST read. LOL.

LOVE the article.

K.A.Tucker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Well, now with Casey Anthony out, I wonder how many legacy publishers will be beating down her door to sign a publishing deal.

Robin Sullivan said...

So what did Amazon do that shot Shaken up from 367 to 32 in one day? Just curious.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Unknown said...

Also, it's difficult to judge quality if you're an idiot.

By far my favorite quote.

While I haven't read all of Joe Konrath's books, I've read enough to be able to say that his
books are not crap. He's easily one of my favorite authors.

Friendless said...
Funny you should mention that Joe, all of the books I've bought as a consequence of reading your blog HAVE been crap. And weren't you gloating about a hundred one star reviews on Amazon? I think self-publishing is great for writers, but as a reader I'm waiting for a better solution.

And you continued buying several books as a result of this blog. Has I felt as badly spurned as you, I would have stopped buying books recommended on this blog.

Here's a tired quote for you.

"Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity."

I know I'm late, but I wanted to add my $.02

Merrill Heath said...

So what did Amazon do that shot Shaken up from 367 to 32 in one day?

I noticed that too, Robin, and had the same question.

Merrill Heath
It's Always Five O'clock

Ursula said...

John D said: I think writers, wannabe-writers, agents, and publishing industry pros spend so much time focusing on inside baseball, and associating with others who focus on it, that they forget that most of the "regular folk" out there (i.e., the book buying public) don't have a clue who the players are behind the scenes. They know what writers and genres they like, and they'll give something new a try if it looks interesting and of good quality. The imprint on the spine is irrelevant to them.

John, YES!!!! that's exactly it: the whole Inside Baseball. Well said!

Keri Knutson said...

David said: I know Mark a little through Kindle Boards. He has been trying to crack the publishing game for a long time. He had a couple of agents, but could never get a deal.

Sometimes people ignore the fact that a lot of writers aren't just throwing an old bottom-drawer manuscript up on Kindle, but instead have gotten tired of playing the publisher's game.

I've had agents, been in contract negotiations, but when the publisher spent a year dithering with our mystery series, my partner and I finally just decided to take the reins ourselves. Just this week we published the first two novels in the series and, boy, does it feel good.

Darker By Degree

Bev Morley said...

Lol, Awesome Joe, simply awesome!!!

Alan Tucker said...

I'm sure it's been said before, but it bears repeating: The problem with traditional/legacy publishing is the lack of throughput.

We have an extremely small percentage of people (the agents and publishing editors) deciding what's "good" (i.e. what will sell) and what isn't. Self appointed judges and jurors.

In a world of over six billion people, I'm pretty sure there are some pretty talented artists/writers/musicians out there who remain undiscovered. What's wrong with giving them an avenue to explore their abilities? Yes, there will be more and more William Hungs out there, but even he had his fifteen minutes, and I don't think I'm being too judgmental in saying his singing was "crap." ; )

Anonymous said...

@ Selena Kitt. You always have something to say.

T. Roger Thomas said...

Very well said!

Jeff Faria said...

Ian Martin said...
Who is to tell what's crap, and what's not? One man's crap is another man's chocolate cake.

I'm never having desert at your house.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"So what did Amazon do that shot Shaken up from 367 to 32 in one day?"

SHAKEN was featured in an Amazon newsletter yesterday.

Totsymae said...

Well, you told them and I like the way you said it.

Mary Anne Graham said...

I'm very late to the party, but love the post and agree with every word.

No writer - legacy or indie - is "superior" to any other writer. One may have better sales and more movie deals than I have fingers, but he's still a colleague.

Will the day ever come when writers will treat other writers with respect and leave decisions on what to buy to the readers?

Jude Hardin said...

For many writers, the ultimate goal is still to sign with a traditional publisher, the most recent example being co-authors Mark Edwards and Louise Voss.

But is six figures enough for the world rights to four books, two of which are already top sellers as ebooks on Amazon?

How much would a publisher have to offer for you to give up the rights to four books? What’s your number?

Word verification: aintzatt

Glendon Cameron said...

I had this argument with a friend about two years ago, she is/was a legacy published author. She essentially told me my book, would be no good without the vetting process of traditional publishing.

She was half right, I made a ton of mistakes, but I also have made a great income, so much in fact ,that writing is the only thing I do!!!

I know a lot of legacy authors with full time jobs because the writing income is not enough.

Once she realized how much I was making she got her backlist of 20 books and is in the process of putting them on Kindle, how ironic is that!

If you are good, not even great, market well and keep writing they will find you, even in a sea of crap.

wannabuy said...

@Glendon: "Once she realized how much I was making she got her backlist of 20 books and is in the process of putting them on Kindle, how ironic is that!"

I suspect your friend has not cultivated an audience in the ebook market. She might do very well, she might have to work to build the reader base.

Any which way, it will bring another reader group to ebooks...


Education Bookshop said...

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Jude Hardin said...

Facebook post from David Morrell:

At ThrillerFest, I heard some agents predict that the ratio of ebooks to print books will stabilize at 70 percent ebooks and 30 percent printed books. I also heard that hundreds of thousands of self published ebooks are now flooding the market, perhaps ending the novelty and the chance for untested authors to make quick dollars.

Walter Knight said...

I don't care about the tsunami. It's called freedom. Surfs up!

Bruce said...

From a reader (and maybe someday writer) viewpoint, the lower cost of entry helps a bunch in my opinion. When I'm in a bookstore, trying to find something to read, I'm a bit more worried about laying out that $10-15 for an "unknown". I'm much more likely to risk the smaller ebook amount.

Yes, I may get some I don't like, but I may very well meet up with a new favorite author, and for that same money, I can try a lot more people.

Likewise, if I get a bad one, I'm only out a couple of bucks. It doesn't turn me off nearly as much. It may not even turn me off that author, if I think they still have hope. Maybe they were just on an "off month" or something. I'll keep looking around.

wannabuy said...

@Bruce:"When I'm in a bookstore, trying to find something to read, I'm a bit more worried about laying out that $10-15 for an "unknown"."

I think this is a HUGE part of why there is so much FUD vs. Indie authors. For $15, one is less likely to risk the unknown. For $2.99 or $0.99... Why not.


John Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Brown said...

There will NEVER be a tsunami of crap facing a reader looking to buy. Ever.

The tsunami is a strawman.



Because shoppers always seek to limit choices (too costly to look at everything) and use a number of methods to immediately narrow those choices down--recommendations, reviews, what's on the shelf, etc.

When shopping for vanilla you don't go searching through the 500 brands available online and in the stores--Mexican, Vodka, Rum, organic, generic, brand, etc. It's just not worth the time. Something on the shelf is usually GOOD ENOUGH.

Likewise, nobody cares to look at 150,000 titles to find the best. They can usually find a number of books that are intriguing enough in the "smaller" selection any given vendor sets before them.

In the case of Amazon ebooks that selection in the store are the best-sellers, the ads, and the this person bought that.

Nobody ever sees the 4 gazillion books. Ever.


Vendors couldn't display a gazillion choices even if they wanted to.

No, just because Amazon says it have 2 quintillion titles for sale that does not mean they've been displayed. You only see a handful of titles at a time.

Even if you scroll through the various lists, you are rarely looking at more than a dozen choices at a time. And probably far less than 200 for any given time you go shopping.

Buyers NEVER see a tsunami. EVER.


Readers often have MORE THAN ENOUGH leads from what others have recommended. Friends, family, reviewers, celebrites, Amazon's this person bought that, best-seller lists (another type of tacit recommendation), etc.

This is important because the number of leads far exceed any given reader's capacity for reading.

How long does it take you to find one book that looks interesting? From browsing or recommendations or whatever?

Minutes. Maybe if you're having a really bad day an hour. But it takes so much longer to read one story than it does to find one.

That's why we all have two years worth of books to read in our queues.

Buyers avoid seas like the plague. Vendors can't provide such a sea if they wanted to. And they don't want to because too many choices leads to fewer sales. Finally, leads for good books are just too easy to come by and far exceed our capacity to follow them all.

There is no sea of crap. There NEVER was or ever will be one for any given reader.

Anonymous said...

Konrath, you're a first class jackass. I am one of the legacy publishers you disdain. I have been filtering bad work like yours out of the system for nigh on 25 years, and I think the lack of such a filter system will cause the system to clog up with crap.
We need a publishing system for writers to write the the required standard. I think we need to work on some kind of e book levy that can be re-invested into true publishing where we can maintain the high standards we are used to and expect.


David Gaughran said...


So you want to tax indie books to prop up the multibillion dollar conglomerates that insist on pursuing an unsustainable business model?

Great idea.

Why don't you put a tax on e-books to keep the price of print down?

What about a tax on online shopping which you can hand over to the chain stores?

While you are at it, you might as well raise a tax on gas for the Buggy Whip Manufacturers Hardship Fund.

bunnyrabbit said...

Careful Dave ... the person you just replied to isn't some "Anon" poster who's too scared to reveal their identity! No, it's someone who posted "Anon" because they can't figure out how to post on Blogger.

The evidence is the "MK" at the bottom of the post. I always wondered what happened to Max Klinger after MASH --- he became the biggest publishing mogul in Toledo!

David Gaughran said...



I don't care if it's Martin Luther King reincarnate, a bad idea is a bad idea and should be called out.

A tax on indies to shore up Big Publishing?

That's the best I've heard yet. Still laughing...

Hold on. I thought self-publishing was irrelevant, and that Big Publishing was going to smote us with its giant paw once it took a moment off from polishing its Fabergé eggs?

wannabuy said...

@David:"Hold on. I thought self-publishing was irrelevant, and that Big Publishing was going to smote us with its giant paw once it took a moment off from polishing its Fabergé eggs?"

I remember posts that as soon as big publishing really paid attention to ebooks and submitted all their books as well as the backlist they owned; indies would have no chance.

A tax is a big joke. Were dime novels taxed to support the British publishers? The anon hasn't done the math. Well, I'm ok for supporting Toledo publishing. New York? Too expensive and who determines what is good enough? I say it is the reader.


bunnyrabbit said...

OK, Max Klinger ... if that is your real name! ... if Konrath's work is so bad, who exactly do you consider a "good" writer?

Dan Brown? James Patterson? Stephanie Meyer? Snooki? Clive Cussler? Tom Clancy on his last 3 novels? You know, all these celebrity authors whose techniques are cited as evidence of "bad writing" by the same gatekeepers who claim they're so good?

I'll bet you loved "Wicked" though. And I bet your favorite movie is "The English Patient".

But hey, I still respect you as a war veteran ... even if you never carried a gun. Thank you for your service in Korea at the 4077th!

AvidReader said...

That is a very valid point. If you are like me, and you've read Twilight, than you know first hand that crap can be hidden under a sleek cover design distributed by a big publishing house. Since that nearly traumatizing incident, I have learned to rely heavily on customer reviews. The self publishing revolution is one of the best things to happen for readers as well as aspiring authors. As an avid reader, I have to say, I love having options, and self published works opens up a whole new world of great reading for me. I support the self published author, and firmly believe that their success and profit is well deserved.

CC MacKenzie said...

Hot News!

JK Rowling is self pubbing her Harry Potter books. And she's just sacked her agent.


It's all happening.

wannabuy said...

@AvidReader:"If you are like me, and you've read Twilight, than you know first hand that crap can be hidden under a sleek cover design distributed by a big publishing house. Since that nearly traumatizing incident,

I too have read multiple 'big6' books that sucked. In my favorite genera, the quality has been falling for two decades. I thank the indie authors for their excellent work.

As you noted, read the comments. As Katie noted earlier, reading is highly subjective. Read what you enjoy. :)


Amy said...

While on vacation this last week, I was thinking a lot about this subject. As usual I vacillate between wild glee at finally finding success as a writer and wincing that my success is based on books I've published as an indie author rather than my traditionally published works.

Then I realized: writing is one of the very, very few professions where people sneer at those who "make it" if they don't "make it the right way". That is, make it by being traditionally published.

In my day job, I have my certification(s) from Microsoft (MCSE) but they have meant absolutely nothing as far as actually doing my job. I've met MCSEs who were completely incompetent. I've met people who were fantastic and barely graduated High School. I could care less, because when you get a REAL JOB, it's the performance of that job that matters. Not "how you got there" or what "seals of approval" (e.g. MCSE) you got along the way.

This is probably the first time that writers are facing the same thing: that is, we now have a level playing field. Quality will shine. The junk will sink to the bottom.

I'm not worried.

I just wonder how long the feeling that "indie writers are not as good as US" will last. I'm hoping it fades into a bad memory in fairly short order, but I have a bad feeling it will linger like that bad odor around the trash can.

We'll see.

In the meantime, no worries. There will never be so much junk that it overshadows the good stuff.

John M said...

This may only be a ripple in the "Tsunami of Crap," but I thought it might add some perspective to the discussion--and maybe a little humor.

A couple of days ago I received a rejection from an agent for my YA Fantasy, EON'S DOOR. She thought the book sounded interesting but just didn't think it was right for her.

I sent the query in October!

I politely replied that if she changed her mind she could purchase the book on Amazon.

Selena Kitt said...

@ Selena Kitt. You always have something to say.

Um... that's rather the point of a comments section on a blog, methinks...

I politely replied that if she changed her mind she could purchase the book on Amazon.


Nancy Beck said...

A couple of days ago I received a rejection from an agent for my YA Fantasy, EON'S DOOR. She thought the book sounded interesting but just didn't think it was right for her.
I sent the query in October!
I politely replied that if she changed her mind she could purchase the book on Amazon.

@JohnM - LOL! Love it! :-)

Verification: resti. Yes, I be resti right now, since it's Sunday.

Anonymous said...


And you're the third rate Jackass who just proved Konrath's point. You think you're in a business that's about your tastes and not the tastes of the reading public. I'm personally not a Konrath fan, but you can't deny that thousands of people are paying money to read his stuff and they're coming back for more.

So really, all you're doing is calling the readers (your customers!) jackasses because they insist on buying things that YOU don't like to read.

Wow. You must be a real delight to your family at the dinner table.

Good luck, buddy.

- Z

Anonymous said...

I wish guys like Konrath all the best. He is the modern day penny street publisher.I am more focussed in the area of 'High Literature', and have published and written such works myself.
I am a publisher and go to great lengths to filter the sludge away, so that only golden nuggets are left. I have an eye for seeing talent, but the public do not.
Konrath's efforts are laudable, but not a match for anything I have published. Even when my own books were published, I ensured they met the same high standards as the rest of the crop.
Just ask this, can Konrath bring a tear to your eye by describing the fall of a leaf from an old oak tree over several pages? Most certainly not! He is a hack and where as my heritage goes from Steinbeck, to Hemingway, to Dickens, Shakespeare and beyond; his heritage follows quite a different path.

I also find his cheer and happiness whenever he hears of closing book shops and publishers a little cruel and self congratulatory in the extreme.


Anonymous said...


I understand how you feel, and I would feel the same way after spending decades bringing great books to people. And I would also feel annoyed and bitter that some things seem to be changing too fast and in ways that seem to be removing that all-important "filter."

But recognize that now the "filter" mechanism is evolving to where the public IS the filter. And although I do not think you will ever agree that the public can identify talent better than any individual can, your belief is not supported by the science of complexity when applied to market forces.

Here's an example of what happens when you pool the opinions of a large number of people (which is in essence what happens with Amazon ratings, GoodReads, and so on):

When I was in graduate school, a professor ran this exercise in a class of 60: he passed a jar of jellybeans around the class. Each student looked at the jar for a couple of minutes and then privately wrote down his or her estimate of how many beans were in the jar. The professor revealed the actual number of jellybeans, and then had a student tally the individual estimates and come up with an average. He also asked the student to pick out the individual estimate that was closest to the actual number. Here are the results.

- The average of 60 guesses was remarkably close to the actual number
- The best individual guess was nowhere near as close to the right answer
- AND: in 14 YEARS of repeating this experiment, the professor has never had a different result--In other words, the group as a whole ALWAYS came up with the better answer.

And so will the reading public.

The fact is the public has never had the chance to make an informed decision. The only books they were allowed to read were ones that you picked. Now that they can pool their opinions on a large scale, the public will prove that they in fact are more efficient at wading through the slush that any small group of individuals (however well-read and smart and well-intentioned and sincere those individuals are) can possibly be. This isn't opinion; it is fact. Scientists from Caltech, Stanford, Princeton, and other places have run repeated experiments on such phenomena and come up with remarkably consistent results that indicate that the pooled opinions of mediocre intellects will trump the individual opinions of superior intellects every time. (Check the Santa Fe Institute for details on the experiments.)

Sorry that the world has changed on you. It will happen to us someday too.

- Z

PS: Not sure if the MK is Michael Korda, but if it is, then I have to say I've been an admirer of yours for a long time.

bunnyrabbit said...

As such an accomplished editor, maybe you should be less "focussed" on how you "have an eye for seeing talent, but the public do not."

Bringing a tear to the reader's eye with falling leaves? Please! Your kind destroyed all that long ago. I can hear the diatribe now: "That'll never sell! Put in more vampires! The clueless masses need my divine guidance!"

You're a fallible, mortal human with a somewhat useful skill. Not a unique skill. Stop pretending you're some angelic being with magical powers and do your damned job!

David Gaughran said...

MK - Given your literary traditions, you must be aware that Dickens was considered a "hack" too.

I'm not saying we'll be building statues of Joe in 100 years, but my point is that the "guardians of the literary heritage" aren't always very good at spotting what will stand the test of time and what won't.

Selena Kitt said...

Just ask this, can Konrath bring a tear to your eye by describing the fall of a leaf from an old oak tree over several pages?

Probably. The question is - why would he want to?


You're living in the past, where a majority of your audience had the time and the inclination to read several pages of words written about oak trees and their falling leaving.

We don't live in that world anymore. We live in a very fast high-tech, consumer driven culture where the written word competes with everything from music, movies and television to World of Warcraft and Second Life. Whether we should lament that or not is debatable, but that is the reality.

But there's a guy named Jude around here who would probably join you in your song of lamentation...

BTW, this whole JK Rowling firing her agent thing - no comments? I'm surprised the guy didn't jump from a bridge. That's a meal ticket no one would want to lose... :x

AndyBSG said...

This article pretty much wins the internet.

Any author or blogger who tries to convince us that the publishing gatekeepers are protecting us from being inundated with a tide of literary crap is either completely out of touch with reality, has an overblown sense of their own opinion or is just vainly trying to protect their own golden goose.

When Cable/satellite TV arrived in the UK everyone thought we'd all end up watching rubbish 24/7 without realising how bad TV had gotten. It's been the complete opposite. I now have access to some cracking US TV shows that I would never have seen over here.

The Ebook and self pubbing has had a similar effect. I can now actually find books in genres that have been deemed 'dead' by the publishing gatekeepers and, surprise, surprise, some of those genre's authors are now among the bestsellers(John Locke and his supposedly dead 'Wild West' genre).

You don't give people better novels by restricting the size of the selection and the sooner the gatekeepers accept this the better.

Caryn Rose said...

I am a HUGE music fan. I bought mainstream publications and picked up fanzines and listened to recommendations from friends. Time after time I bought albums or cassettes or CD's or even now, downloaded albums that were TERRIBLE.

Somehow I managed to amass a collection of music pushing 5000 items.

I get rid of more books because they take up room but the same thing happens with books.

As to the "everyone here is a writer" statement, my father isn't a writer, he's a reader. We bought him a Kindle when he got sick and couldn't get around. He LOVES finding new things on Amazon. He says he is reading more things in genres he never would have considered before. He's actively reading and discussing books like he never has in his life, and he's 73.

Do you know what he doesn't look at? Who the publisher is. He's downloaded some 99 cent books and didn't like them and he shrugs and goes onto the next one.

The Dissonance said...

Sharing this with so many folks. You nailed it! ;O)

tom lewis said...

I can only assume this was meant as a joke.

Ever read any fan fiction? I hope not, but if you have you'll have some idea of the kind of quality of 99.9% of the self-published ebooks out there. It used to be that the publishing houses screened this stuff for us. That's not to say everything they decide to publish is gold, true. One of the few things this genius said which is true is that there has always been crap. Any genre has its share, and it's even the bulk of what's published. The percentage of crap that we're expected to wade through will likely increase hugely.

Anonymous said...

Sharing this with so many folks. You nailed it! ;O)

Wow. How can anyone be this stupid? I'd really like to know. I mean, I assume we read the same article. I saw lots of unsupported (and unsupportable) opinions, a laughable attempt at employing reason, and a lot of bitterness. I mean a lot. I'd be willing to bet this dude has a stack of rejection letters two feet high, and thinks (as many bad writers do) that it's not him, no, it's the bonehead editors who don't recognize his genius!

Alan Tucker said...

@Anon at #263: You've completely missed the point. So what if he has a stack of rejection letters as tall as the Empire State Building? He has a large, devoted readership who enjoy his books . If he'd believed all those agents/editors/publishers who didn't think the work was worth printing, all those people would have lost the opportunity for that pleasure.

One man's junk is another man's treasure.

Joe, and most of the rest of us, are simply advocating "Let the people decide, not the gatekeepers."

Cy Mathews said...

MK, your choice of authors - Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, Shakespeare - is odd. All of these writers were, in their time, considered more "hack" than "high art."

Anonymous said...

Just ask this, can Konrath bring a tear to your eye by describing the fall of a leaf from an old oak tree over several pages?


Adam Pepper said...

Tom Lewis, no one is expecting you to wade through anything. The books will be out there. Wade or refrain from wading as you please.

Anon, I am one of those authors you are so freely dismissing. I have stacks of rejections. It’s not that editors are missing my genius. It’s not that simple. Do you think wading through slush is an exact science? There are such a wide variety of factors that contribute to why a book doesn’t make it out of slush, and the majority of them have nothing to do with the book itself.

Anonymous said...

Joe, and most of the rest of us, are simply advocating "Let the people decide, not the gatekeepers."

The point you've missed is that now the rest of us are being forced to do the job of the "gatekeepers."

Tom Lewis, no one is expecting you to wade through anything. The books will be out there. Wade or refrain from wading as you please.

Imagine Konrath's dream of self-publishing becoming the standard. We'll all be forced to wade through the crap.

There are such a wide variety of factors that contribute to why a book doesn’t make it out of slush, and the majority of them have nothing to do with the book itself.

Probably one big reason would be similarity to other writers. Konrath is like a like less able Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler. Why read him when if I'm in the mood for entertaining crap there already so many other dudes so much better at it?

Adam Pepper said...

"The point you've missed is that now the rest of us are being forced to do the job of the "gatekeepers.""

No one is forcing you to do anything. You can ignore Indie books. It's a free country. Stop worrying, the sky isnt falling. If you want to be spoonfed your entertainment, there will always be corporations happy to assist you.

Unknown said...

Anonymous has left a new comment on the post "The Tsunami of Crap":

Joe, and most of the rest of us, are simply advocating "Let the people decide, not the gatekeepers."

The point you've missed is that now the rest of us are being forced to do the job of the "gatekeepers."

Tom Lewis, no one is expecting you to wade through anything. The books will be out there. Wade or refrain from wading as you please.

Imagine Konrath's dream of self-publishing becoming the standard. We'll all be forced to wade through the crap.

There are such a wide variety of factors that contribute to why a book doesn’t make it out of slush, and the majority of them have nothing to do with the book itself.

Probably one big reason would be similarity to other writers. Konrath is like a like less able Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler. Why read him when if I'm in the mood for entertaining crap there already so many other dudes so much better at it?

The desperation is astounding. The other thing that is astounding is how none of these concerned people are willing to let us know who they are. If they are so terribly concerned, why won't they publicly make a statement?

That they insist on making their statements anonymously is a statement in itself. A rather hilarious statement at that.

At which point I have to ask, would you really believe someone who wouldn't tell you who they were?

I wouldn't.

Damned good shot Joe. You hulled them badly with this post. Otherwise they wouldn't still be trying to fight. The publishers are terrified. Totally and utterly terrified.


Paul Levine said...

"Me & My Boogers: A Love Story" sounds pretty high concept to me. Tie up those film and musical comedy rights, Joe. :)

oxylogos said...

Great post. Couldn't agree more.

"The reason for it is disappointingly obvious. Legacy writers no longer feel special, because now anyone with a book can sell it."

I do have the feeling it's also the traditional publishers that are very afraid of losing their old tried and true method of making money. They're scared shit-less (and rightly so, I think) by this newfangled technology that they don't really understand yet.

Unknown said...

And for some interesting views read Amy Shojai's write up on her visit to Thriller Fest:



Jim Murdoch said...

You make valid points but my fear is that with the increase in books – the good, the bad and the indifferent – there will be an increase in book review sites who will still only be able to review a finite number of books and so you will be faced with having to wade through more and more places to find something . . . let’s not say ‘good’, let’s just say ‘that suits your taste’. I look at e-book sites all the time and the vast number I wouldn’t read even if they were in hard print because my personal preference is for literary fiction and I’ve yet to find a place where these are clearly identified. I want to be able to filter out all the Twilight-rip-offs and bodice rippers and rip-roaring adventures and find what I’m interested in. Now, for all its failings, all I need to do with Amazon is look up an author I like and see what similar authors come up and I suspect that this is where I will continue to look for books irrespective of the format they come in. It’s not a perfect system but it does work. It’s no different to going into a bookshop and bypassing the horror, romance and action shelves to get to the ones I’m interested in and seeing what’s what. In principle sites like Goodreads are good but my personal experience is that I come into a wall of reviews and recommendations which I barely scan anymore because I already have more books on my to-read shelf than I know what to do with and as there’s no way to filter out all the stuff I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole I tend to tar it all with the same brush. It’s not that there’s too much crap, there’s too much everything.

Anonymous said...

"Newsflash: there has always been crap, and always will be crap. Get over it." So true. Once again, you've completely nailed it. Nice work, Joe.

Jude Hardin said...

But there's a guy named Jude around here who would probably join you in your song of lamentation...

LOL. You obviously haven't read my work. I wouldn't waste several WORDS describing the fall of a leaf from an old oak tree, much less several pages.

And I'll never again waste several words on you.

Selena Kitt said...

Oh come on, Jude. You've been supporting the "tsunami of crap" argument on this blog for as long as I can remember... You're the one who pulls out the "measurable standard" (I always think of it as analogous to the Prichard Scale of Poetry ala Dead Poets...) by which all books should be judged every time someone mentions the indie garbage piling up on the Kindle shelves. You and anonymous have a lot in common in your point of view, whether you want to admit it or not.

As for whether you describe leaves in detail? I have no idea. But you have certainly been vocal about bemoaning the loss of the "higher standards" anon spoke of so fondly.

Jude Hardin said...

Selena, have you ever heard me criticize Joe Konrath's writing? Or YOURS, for that matter?

The fact that I acknowledge there is absolute SHIT being published on Amazon and elsewhere doesn't mean that I'm some sort of literary elitist. It just means that I know SHIT when I see it.

Do you know SHIT when you see it? Have you ever taken the time to look at some of the tripe that's being "published"?

It is a tsunami of crap (or an ever-swelling puddle of pus, as I prefer to call it), but to arbitrarily lump me in with some anonymous asswipe taking potshots at my friend Joe Konrath is an insult I can't quite tolerate.

Selena Kitt said...

I'm not going to argue with you, Jude. If you can't see your own perspective or how you're perceived, that's not something I can force on you. Fwiw, I wasn't criticizing your writing, and I defended Joe's- my point was that you have been probably the most (non anonymous anyway) vocal proponent for the higher standards anon was calling for on this blog - a viewpoint that, while perhaps noble, is futile. And unnecessary. The good news is that I don't have to pay attention to the crap being published. I don't have to see or acknowledge it at all if I don't want to - as Joe pointed out, I can still find what I want to read in the plethora of offerings on amazon, just as I always have, just as any reader can - and will. I was just giving you a little virtual good natured nudge on the shoulder to let it go - ye ol defender of the dubious high ground ;) it's not worth your time and energy. The only way to combat bad writing is by offering an alternative. I have no doubt that you're one of the good guys in that department, Sir Jude :) but that horse is high and that lance is heavy and your time - really, all our time as writers - is better spent writing. And I'm off to take my own advice!

Jude Hardin said...

I'm going to blog in a few days about the difference between personal taste and whatever inherent merit a book has. In a nutshell, a book cannot be bad if it is deliberate and does what the author intentionally sets out to do.

Taste is subjective. But quality might not be...

Forget it, Joe. Trying to discuss quality with other writers is futile and unnecessary.

W. Dean said...

Perhaps there’s a lesson here: if everyone paid closer attention to style, MK wouldn’t have succeeded in baiting you. After all, no one who writes literary fiction uses the misnomer “High Literature.” Nor would any of these writers be so pompous as to call their books “works,” let alone compare themselves to Shakespeare. (I won’t even bother mentioning the garbled metaphors). The best tell of all, however, was “in the extreme,” an expression no one over seventeen uses without irony.

Jeff Rivera said...

Readers don't care whether it's published traditionally or self-published. Crap is crap & Cream rises to the top.

James Viser said...

There are alot of good comments on this thread. Aboutthe only thing I can add here is the notion of a "crap meter."

Is there such a thing? For example, can one discover how many refunds have been issued for a particular title?

Nicholas La Salla said...

I agree about this fact: readers will STILL find what they want to read. The Internet is a tremendous ally to us writers, and it can help readers just as much. The trouble is the competition -- but honestly, hasn't competition ALWAYS been the problem? There's ten thousand other books in the bookstore. Why would a reader pick yours over anyone else's? What are the chances?

One More Day is still selling pretty decent and it's been five months since I released it on Kindle. My short story collection Three Before Dark has only sold a handful in the few months it has been out. My new novel, a big dark fantasy piece called No Sunrise will see release next month, and I'm curious to see how well it does.

How do readers keep finding my books? I don't know, but they do, and that tells me that this crazy Internet is still working. If you want to read about something, you can do it.

Thank you Kindle.

And thank you Joe for another awesome post.


Scott Gordon said...

Finally a cover that makes J.A. Konrath proud!

Selena Kitt said...

Bwah! That's actually kind of cool in a gross sort of way :)

Selena Kitt said...

Bwah! That's actually kind of cool in a gross sort of way :)

Anonymous said...

I agree that this isn't an issue. I mean, yes, there will be more crap because there will be more books. But there also will be more wondeful books that wouldn't have existed if it were only up to legacy publishers. I too believe cream will rise to the top (I'm praying mine is one of these). As in traditional publishing there may still be some great books that don't do well and some awful ones that do, but that's just the way it is--self-publishing or not.

Mark Asher said...

I don't see it being a tsunami of crap being a problem, but a tsunami of books may be problematic for writers.

If you think of the way Amazon displays books, it's like they have a table at the front of the store. It's already hard to be on that table. How much harder will it be to make it on that table when there are five times as many books for sale?

The more books for sale, the percentage of books that get premium exposure becomes smaller and smaller. It's easier to be one out of a hundred than it is to be one out of ten thousand.

David Gaughran said...


But that's not how people actually shop at Amazon.

Most go there with a book purchase in mind already.

And, if you think back, there were millions of titles on Amazon before KDP. People still had no problem finding books.

Just like they don't have a problem today, and they won't in the future.

Mark Asher said...


"But that's not how people actually shop at Amazon.

"Most go there with a book purchase in mind already."

I'll differ. Amazon sells a lot of books by recommending them. They recommend books based on a lot of things, but sales rank is an important part of their algorithms. If you reach a certain sales rank, Amazon begins to sell your book for you. If you don't get to that rank, they don't work nearly as hard on your behalf.

Here's an example of how important visibility is, and how dependent that can be on sales rank. A number of erotica writers on Kindleboards had their B&N sales ranks artificially dropped by a thousand places one week. Their sales plummeted.

Same books that had been selling very well, some in the top 100 overall. The only thing that changed was their sales rank, and this had a freezing effect on sales because it meant B&N wasn't displaying their books to customers with as much frequency in the past.

David Gaughran said...


I agree that's how readers shop when they are there.

I was referring to the reason they have in mind when they first decide to go there. They usually have a purchase (or several) they already want to make. Then the Also Boughts come into play.

They don't wander in the endless virtual aisles of Amazon with virtual bookshelves towering over them, fearful that they will never find anything amongst these millions of titles.

People are worried about a massive increase of self-published titles. But the fact is, the real "tsunami" of titles has already happened.

As I said, there were already millions of books on Amazon before KDP. People still had no problem finding books they enjoyed.

Now we have a million items in the Kindle store, and worried that it might rise to several million.

So what. It's been like that for print books for some time. No big deal.

Roland Taylor said...

MAN! I must thank God for you, and this post :D! I was feeling like writing was a pointless move for me, but you have changed my perspective. So many authors out there are trying to discourage others, and getting offended when you point that out to them (that they are guilty of pointlessly discouraging others)... and it was putting me off completing anything.

This has changed my perspective, and I also would like to say someone recommended me to your blog, and I'm grateful. God bless!

Unknown said...


Ignore those idiots, and keep writing. Because the only way any of us ever get any better is by practicing. And the only way we can practice is by doing.

It takes time and effort to develop talent. Anyone who is trying to discourage you is no friend of yours.


Kiana Davenport said...

@Wayne Borean. Amen! And Amen. Star-ratings change. Opinions change. Good writing lasts forever.
Kiana Davenport, Author

Anonymous said...

THe slushpile and its rejects have always existed. An article like 'Tsunami of Crap' feeds into the fear of being sidelined and overlooked.

epobirs said...

I wanted to draw parallels between the publishing worlds of books and video games but it kind of got away from me. The good news is I've finally found a use for that blog account I started months ago!


I don't buy the Sturgeon's Law on Overdrive theory. When I was a kind in the 70s you could go to the SF section of the bookstore and realize you'd read nearly everything there except the newest releases. What wasn't so obvious was that vast number of unmemorable books from years ago had never seen a second printing.

After Star Wars the number of SF and Fantasy novels published yearly grew an order of magnitude, at least. There was a lot more crap than ever before but there was also a far steadier supply of good new things to read. Enough that I was far less likely to read the same book multiple time for lack of anything new to compete for my attention. Somehow, the good ones manage to float above the stream of sewage. I don't see that changing.

Now to get back to work on that booger romance.

epobirs said...

Tom Lewis,

That was one of the sillier things I've read in a good while.

Go to certain sections at a big store like a Barnes & Noble and you'll find a massive volume of material from the Big6 that is nothing more than fan fiction. Star Trek novels have been little more than a fan fiction industry unto themselves for decades. There are some standouts. Peter David's Star Trek work is worth reading because it's Peter David being Peter David. (He wrote a storyline for DC Comics that would have been a far better fourth movie than what we got. The Enterprise series lifted heavily from it for one of its better storylines.) Another writer given the same synopsis to work from has far less chance of scoring a hit. Likewise, the John Ford TOS novel, 'How Much For Just The Planet' could easily been fanfic in shorter form. It was hilarious but most really funny fanfic goes too far with killing main characters or some other offense to get officially published. Although there were some officially published anthologies of Star Trek stories from fans in the late 70s. some of those people became pros.

But every big media license that wasn't based on books in the first place gets print additions and spin-offs. Joss Whedon couldn't get the network to let him do a feature film revolving around a supporting character the Buffy the Vampire Slayer setting but handing it off to a competent writer to produce purely fan indulgence? No problem! And quite profitable, too.

Fanfiction went pro a long time ago. There have been print tie-ins to poular TV shows since the 1960s. Things like Man From Uncle and Get Smart novels. Sometimes they were ideas too elaborate and costly to do on TV or sometimes they just crap. But this all came out of the major publishers without a moment of shame.

A lot of this stuff is pretty good and a place for younger writers to hone their skills or experienced writers to make a quick buck for a flat fee. The best stuff indulges those who know the material well. The worst tends to be generic stuff that could be done without the license but would be very forgettable.

One of the best fanfic stories I ever read was not kept from conventional publishing for lack of quality but due to a copyright nightmare. It placed the X-Files, Highlander, Forever Knight, and some other genre shows all in the same world for a massive crossover adventure. It was incredibly self-indulgent but held together quite well. I'm told the writing staffs of two of the shows were impressed enough to slip in some jokes referencing the story.

The gatekeepers have done a lousy job of maintaining quality whenever a chance to make a quick buck came their way. They have no basis to claim a moral high ground.

The world will adapt and quality will be rewarded, more or less. It has ever been thus.

Unknown said...

Thank you @KianaDavenport!

I've heard a lot of people put down FanFic @epobirs, while ignoring the skills that writers can develop. A lot of our current generation of writers got their start with FanFic.

One more post and Joe will hit 300 comments. Who's going to jump in and make to 301, and start the article onto it's third comment page :)


Robert David MacNeil said...

A wise man once said, "90% of EVERYTHING is crap." Sure a lot of the self-pub e-books are crap. But you find the same thing in your local dead-tree bookstore. Many times before leaving on an international trip, I'd buy 2-3 books, just hoping ONE of them might be worth reading! When I used to frequent the library, I'd often check out 10 books at a time for the same reason.
The advantage of self-pub e-books is that...
1. You can read reviews online before you buy.
2. You can download a sample for free... and usually find out in a few pages if it's worth a read.
3. When you DO buy a book, you've invested $.99, or maybe $2.99, not the traditionally published price of $15-$25!
The e-pub revolution is the BEST thing that's happened for readers since the Gutenberg press!

Shawndra Russell said...

Finally...something brutally honest about self-publishing. I have recently barreled into the world of writing and noticed that some authors are generous, considerate, and welcoming of new authors while some act superior and have no intention of trying to help others or build a sense of community with other authors. You know which category the ebook haters fall into.

S. M. Boyce said...

@The Darling Novelist: Yes, I believe we should develop a 'Boogers the Love Story' anthology. It will be epic. leaving the world sneezing for more.

I don't believe that readers care where a book is published. Sure, they can get a hint that it's an indie book if it's $1. But look on Amazon; even quite a few traditionally published books don't mention their publisher on their Amazon page. If they do, it's a single line. If they don't, it's a smaller line on the first page of the preview.

In most cases, readers aren't looking for the publisher's name. If anything, they're looking for a writer they recognize. They just want a good story.

Anonymous said...

This is so liberating and inspiring - thanks for posting! Throughout my early years writing I was made to believe in the myth of rejections and catering to publishers and their editors, when in fact, communication mediums were opening up all along to connect me directly with the readers.

dave said...

Here is the thing:

Legacy Published Books have their fair share of crap, though I will say though they probably have less books out there that are full of grammar and spelling errors.

Self published have their fair of crap, probably more right now but I think that will change in time.

I get a strong feeling that many self-published authors are skipping the editing stage and are just getting it out there to try an earn a buck. But they will be kicking themselves in the ass as with each purchase they make, if people think the story is crap and the grammar and spelling is even worse. THey are going to lose readership

And ultimately...the key to making it as an author is not how many books can you sell to new authors, its gaining a loyal group of readers who will buy everything you put out.

In this day and age a persons career can be ruined over night from crap

SURE self-published authors will just switch to a new pen name, but people are quite clever and most people hiding behind a pen name are found out in the end

Moral of the story is

Yes self publishing is increasing in popularity and it probably is full of about 90% total crap right now, but that will change in time as more people jump the legacy bandwagon and move to self publishing

The only way I would go with a legacy is if they offered a contract that was like 2 million dollars

Jason Z. Christie said...

I'll put my books up against any, indie or traditional publisher.


But not based on covers and blurbs...

Hakan Guzhan said...

So true !
Kudos to you my friend?

Bill Peschel said...

Wow, Joe wrote his rebuttal to Thad McIllroy's rant against amazon three years before it appeared.


Why didn't you tell us you developed superpowers?

Unknown said...


But it was rather predictable.

Oh, HORROR, the World is Changing and I don't like it!

Basically that's all they said. Yes, they fancied it up a bit, but that is all they said.


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