by Larry Brody
Are you one of the many authors proudly self-publishing on Kindle? Merrily celebrating having cast aside the shackles of the big publishing houses and their creative, or maybe not-so-creative, demands?
It may behoove you to think again. Here’s how Parul Sehgal put it in The New Yorker for newyorker.com on October 25th:
Is Amazon Changing the novel? In the new literary landscape, readers are customers, writers are service providers, ands books are expected to offer instant gratification.
Sehgal’s article is extremely well written and thoughtful, and pretty damn scary as well. Here’s the gist:
In “Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon” (Verso), the literary scholar Mark McGurl considers all the ways a new behemoth has transformed not only how we obtain fiction but how we read and write it—and why. “The rise of Amazon is the most significant novelty in recent literary history, representing an attempt to reforge contemporary literary life as an adjunct to online retail,” he argues.
He continues with this:
McGurl’s real interest is in charting how Amazon’s tentacles have inched their way into the relationship between reader and writer. This is clearest in the case of K.D.P. The platform pays the author by the number of pages read, which creates a strong incentive for cliffhangers early on, and for generating as many pages as possible as quickly as possible. The writer is exhorted to produce not just one book or a series but something closer to a feed—what McGurl calls a “series of series.”
In order to fully harness K.D.P.’s promotional algorithms, McGurl says, an author must publish a new novel every three months. To assist with this task, a separate shelf of self-published books has sprung up, including Rachel Aaron’s “2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love,” which will help you disgorge a novel in a week or two. Although more overtly concerned with quantity over quality, K.D.P. retains certain idiosyncratic standards. Amazon’s “Guide to Kindle Content Quality” warns the writer against typos, “formatting issues,” “missing content,” and “disappointing content”—not least, “content that does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.” Literary disappointment has always violated the supposed “contract” with a reader, no doubt, but in Bezos’s world the terms of the deal have been made literal. The author is dead; long live the service provider.
There’s more food for thought in Sehgal’s article than in even the biggest five star restaurant. Read it all HERE
One thing you probably should keep in mind: The Yikes! factor here is sky high.