Is Amazon the Death of Literary Culture?

JA Konrath always puts me off with his blowhard tone, but everything he says in his blog post, "Amazon Will Destroy You" is pretty much on target.

A powerful example of the attitude he's decrying can be found here: Six Degrees Left: Is Amazon the Death of Literary Culture?

Here's my response to that dialogue (I guess you could say I'm "Konrath lite"):

Thank you for this extremely interesting conversation, in which — for my taste — Laura Ellen Scott stands out as the voice of reason. (Aside to LES: Drop the Kindle in a Ziploc bag for bathtub reading.)

Since my first novel was pubbed by a wonderful literary press (now called MacAdam-Cage) in the mid-90s, I’ve done over a dozen Big 6 books as an author and ghostwriter. During that time, I watched fiction acquisitions become increasingly constipated, while nonfiction acquisitions became increasingly obsessed with celebrity, and creative writing majors were pumped out of grad school with not a clue about how to make a living writing — creatively or otherwise.

For all the hand-wringing about the fate of booksellers, I heard very little concern for those of us who’ve dedicated our lives to the creation of books. It never seemed to occur to anyone that the health of literary culture might be maybe possibly kinda related to the health of authors.

My first Kindle breathed new life into my reading; 20 years of writing has taken a serious toll on my eyesight. First, I consumed all my favorite classics and loved them more than ever. Then I started working my way through recently ballyhooed fiction, and I’m sorry to say it, but I was bored out of my effing skull.

So I started digging into some of the works being indie/self-pubbed on KDP. Not the 99 cent mosh pit. (I believe the 99 cent price tag was brought to the publishing industry by amateurs, the way sailors brought syphilis to Hawaii. Those who introduced it had a great time; those who live with the legacy, not so much. The gold rush will end by 2013, I think, as readers click to the reality that most of the .99/free books are crap.)

I read JEWBALL by the hilarious Neal Pollack; THE DEADWOOD BEETLE, a gorgeous, long out of print, literary novel by Mylene Dressler; THE VOLUNTEER by Barbara Taylor Sissel, an amazing voice who refused to make the compromises that would have made her novels easy grist for the traditional mill; THE LONG DRUNK by Eric Coyote, whose agent believed in the author’s quirky brilliance but never quite managed to get this bordering-on-Henry-Miller, reprobate-noir novel past the gatekeepers.

Left to the wisdom of “book culture” and indie booksellers, not one of these novels would be available to readers today. This is what Amazon hath wrought: authors allowed to push the artistic envelope, readers allowed to think for themselves, a democratized literary ecosystem.

Last year, I started a digital imprint to indie pub e-editions of my out of print backlist, and it went so well, I recently pubbed my latest novel myself. This year, I started forming a coalition of seasoned, professional authors who are stepping off the edge of the map to create a new brand of literary career that hybridizes the best qualities of indie and traditional publishing.

We’re maintaining and building relationships with agents and publishers, but we’re our own gatekeepers now. We hold to the importance of traditional editing and professionalism, but now we have creative freedom we never had, because traditional publishers can no longer afford to take the creative risks we’re prepared to take. And they never could afford to pay 70% royalties.

This revolution was inevitable. It is exhilarating to me, as both a reader and a writer. And it’s the healthiest thing to happen to literary culture since Gutenberg.

Popular Posts

Do not compromise, for only the valiant can create. ~ Frank Capra

Browse by topic...

#Alzheimers #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth #dementia #howilibrary #MothersDay #sxsw #yougottohavefriends alternative cancer treatment Amazon American Cancer Society anger art ask ashley astroid galaxy tour autotune Bald in the Land of Big Hair bee gees bernie blood cancer Blood Cancer Awareness Month blue mercy blues brothers book review boxer rebellion cancer carnet de voyage CASUAL VACANCY cat stevens chemo brain chemotherapy chevy ssr City of Dark Magic climate change coping with cancer craig thompson Crazy for Trying crazy on you dave brubeck declaration of independence deep cotton did you feel like going like that dinah washington Django rheinhardt Dune dwight okita earth to joni english Enough About Me environment erica jong europe family far enough from heaven farewell summer fear of flying feminism First You Write free book gabby gifford garden of your mind ghostwriting gloria estefan gloria gaynor go with god gore vidal gotta get a message to you graphic novel grateful dead great words hanging by a thread happy holidays have a listen heart HIPPIE BOY homeopathic care hunger games hurricane isaac I feel better now I'll Have What She's Reading I'm So Effing 50 IFTTT iggy pop indie love Indie Pub Adventure Ingrid Ricks Instagram J.A. Konrath James Joyce jeff zaslow JK Rowling Joni's List just sayin kenton nelson kickstarter kill smartie breedlove kindle freebie lead zep League of Extraordinary Authors led zeppelin legitimate rape Leukemia Lymphoma Society life life in general lisa hamilton literary fiction love love and other natural disasters lymphoma Lymphoma Reasearch Foundation Magnus Flyte mavis staples memoir Merry Christmas most awesome thing ever mother daughter movie mr. rogers Music My Memories of a Future Life mystery Nancy G Brinker nerdgasm nina simone non sequitur nora ephron orna ross Orts and Excerpts parenting with cancer people being people photobomb Planned Parenthood poetry politics Promise Me prospect of my arrival publishing news random loveliness ray bradbury red cross Relay for Life remix research rabbit holes richard III richard linklater robin gibb Roz Morris sex shakespeare slide whistle social support Something Awful stairway to heaven stella link books stella's umbrella Sugarland survivorship Susan G Komen for the Cure sxsw sylvia plath that explains a lot The Book Biz The Hurricane Lover the last lecture The Secret Sisters theme song du jour todd akin Trailer Park travel unfairly awesome waking life william Gay woo woo writing craft yeats you've got mail