THE NEW YORK TSUNAMI OF SWILL CONTINUES; NYer Eric Felten holds his nose while dissing self-published authors

A guy named Eric Felten wrote a piece in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal blasting the world of self-publishing. Here’s an excerpt from it:

It isn’t just the elusive prospect of riches that excites the untold thousands of hopefuls crowding into the new self-publishing space. They are buoyed by escaping the grim frustrations of trying to get published the old-fashioned way. No more form-letter rejections from know-nothing agents and can’t-be-bothered editors.

It’s only natural for those locked out to despise the gatekeepers, but what about those of us in the reading public? Shouldn’t we be grateful that it’s someone else’s job to weed out the inane, the insipid, the incompetent? Not that they always do such a great job of it, given some of the books that do get published by actual publishers. But at least they provide some buffer between us and the many aspiring authors who are like the wannabe pop stars in the opening weeks of each “American Idol” season: How many instant novelists are as deluded as the singers who make with the strangled-cat noises believing they have Arethaen pipes?

Pretty elitist, isn’t it? In fact, it’s as New York elitist as you can get, in my opinion. Insulting, rude, disrespectful, unmannered…I could go on and on.

Notice how he admits that the “gatekeepers” aren’t doing their job. Well, I could’ve told you that. The fact is–and Mr Felten doesn’t seem to realize this–that readers stroll into bookstores every day and weed out “the inane, the insipid, and the incompetent” all by themselves in 15 minutes of browsing. Everyone who’s ever been inside a Barnes & Noble knows that of their tens of thousands of titles, there is no shortage of crap. It’s usually not too difficult to spot the lemons after reading the back cover or maybe a paragraph or two inside.

Well, don’t you know that those very same readers can perform that very same vetting process as they browse the shelves of Amazon? Most books offer sample pages and they all have descriptions and covers which serve as very efficient signposts.

Also worthy of note is Mr Felten’s smarmy implication that all self-published authors are nothing more than delusional, untalented slugs who are utterly incapable of penetrating the golden gates of New York publishing. The reference to a buffer between US and “them” is very telling. Oh so very New York.

Someone should tell Mr Felten that the “gatekeepers” long ago gave up the pretense of admitting only the work of the highest literary content, and in the process, sheltering the delicate eyes of the reader from offensive crap. Nowadays, they claim their principal function is to produce books which are professionally formatted and edited, and with killer covers. But of course, even that’s BS. Their real function has always been to produce books which will make money.

And for that matter, they don’t even do that too well.

Snooki, anyone?

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6 Responses to THE NEW YORK TSUNAMI OF SWILL CONTINUES; NYer Eric Felten holds his nose while dissing self-published authors

  1. Ali

    “Pretty elitist, isn’t it?”
    “Sorry Mike. not if you’ve read some of the cack, I have by those who confuse editors with gatekeepers”

    Sorry to rain on the e-parade, but there is an aweful lot of cack sent by the amateurs out there, too lazy to hone their craft. And the market just gets smaller with the time constraints we are all under.


  2. Of course there’s a lot of self-published crap, Ali. I’ve read my share of it. But there’s a lot of legacy-published crap, too. My point: the function of the “gatekeepers” is NOT to protect the discriminating reader from crap, but rather it is ONLY to admit those books which will make money, regardless of their content.

  3. Felton said nothing other haven’t said better in the past. He also lumps all self-published authors together, which is short-sighted and (supposedly) beneath a publication with the reputation of the WSJ.

    No matter. I’m still smiling from the felicitous phrase, “tsunami of swill.” Well done.

  4. Dana–I can’t take credit for “tsunami of swill”. It was used before by a traditionally-published author referring to the increasing number of self-published books in recent months and in the months to come.

    I did, however, turn the phrase to apply it instead to writings like Felten’s article, which is only the latest in an endless parade of elitist rants about the new opportunities for authors, who no longer are dependent on the condescending approval from the “gatekeepers”.

  5. I agree with JA Konrath — he wrote that the only gatekeepers he wants are readers. I understand that the publishers want to make money off books since it’s their business to make money. What I don’t get is people who think self-pubbed writers should not have the opportunity to compete with the publishing giants.

    And I think that’s what most of us self-pubbed writers are really asking for–just a chance to compete.

  6. Mike Dennis

    Right you are, Mark.

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