I have to vent: When you've got no leg to stand on, you can always just be a big fat snob about things. You put other people down to make yourself feel better. Why? Because that is the only way you can feel good about yourself.
Snobbery is pathetic. Snobbery is a mark of desperation. Happy, confident people are not snobs--they just don't need it.
Guess who does?
Apparently certain members of the Author's Guild, who recently spent a pleasant evening making fun of people who are not like them, like the woman who wrote 50 Shades of Grey!
The really convenient thing about snobbery is that it lets you abandon all pretense of logic. (Why do you have to buy Frette sheets? Because they're Frette sheets! What do you mean, they feel like burlap? They're Frette sheets!!!) You can sneer at someone who isn't traditionally published because they write mommy porn. But of course traditional publishers produce a ton of mommy porn--that's pretty much the large majority of romance books, which are the industry's biggest-selling genre. Take away the mommy porn, the quack diets, and the celebutard books, and traditional publishing collapses overnight.
Ah, well--I'm sure E.L. James is crying all the way to the bank. I bet she could buy and sell David Rakoff and Sarah Jones a hundred times over at this point. And if that makes Rakoff or Jones uncomfortable, maybe they should look at the financial terms that were offered them by their precious, precious traditional publisher--who, it should be noted, would cut them both loose and blacklist them both in a second if they could sign James by so doing.
Oh, is it mean to point that out? Is it mean to point out that traditional publishing is a business, not a literary salon? Is it mean to point out that your financial interests and those of your publisher don't always coincide?
In half a second.
Readers of e-books are especially drawn to escapist and overtly commercial genres (romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction), and in these categories e-book sales have bulked up to as large as 60 percent.
OK, where to begin?
With a quiz!
Q. Readers of e-books are "especially drawn" to romance and mystery/thriller because....
A) They are stupid stupid stupidheads who are stupid with their stupid e-readers and their stupid iPhones and their stupid gadgets and stupid kids these days and their stupid stupid stupidness!
B) Uh, aren't those pretty much the most popular genres in any format?
Wasserman's a book editor--isn't that pathetic? Of course, he's at Yale University Press, so he's somewhat protected from having to know his own industry.
Which is why he does things like lump together genres like romance, mystery/thriller, and science fiction.
From a commercial perspective, these genres are nothing alike--science fiction is not a big seller. Which is why traditional publishers largely abandoned it. Which is why indie titles dominate the e-book bestseller lists.
It's harder for indie authors to produce and (especially) to distribute paper books--you have to lay the book out and reach out to indie bookstores (forget the chains). Science fiction is big in e-books because it's simply not as available in paper. I wanted to read Wool (I haven't yet! No spoilers!) so I downloaded it--what choice did I have? My local library doesn't have it, and I seriously doubt The World's Worst Barnes & Noble does.
Oh, but I forget! Wasserman has the Power of Snobbery, which handily defeats the Power of Logic, or the Power of Actually Knowing What the Hell You Are Talking About!
All these genres the same, because they are...escapist!
You know, like the science-fiction novel The Hunger Games, which is about a teenage girl living on the brink of starvation who is forced by an oppressive government to fight other teenagers to the death. That book was many things--violent, brutal, and stressful to read--but escapist? No, escapist it was not. I just finished another science-fiction novel, The Windup Girl. Again, a very good book, but again--escapist? What the hell are you trying to escape from? Having enough food to eat? Good health? Being able to walk the streets in safety?
And thrillers? Honestly, there are many books in the thriller genre I don't read because I just can't handle all the violence and gore and sadism and death and...escapism.
Anyway, if Wasserman wasn't so busy being a snob and a gloom-and-doomer (big time! That article's kind of a Nation special--everything's just awful, although you're not sure exactly why), he might have noticed something really pretty exciting about e-books and self-publishing: Books are becoming bestsellers that, not long ago, never would have been made widely available. Books are being published that, not long ago, never would have seen the light of day.
Why not? Because they were not considered commercial enough.
He writes that with traditional publishing:
We...feared bloated overheads would hold editors hostage to an unsustainable commercial imperative. (We were right.)
Now these bloated overheads are gone. Now no one is a hostage. Call me crazy, but I like that.