Power to the People

Image Credit: Fist from Vector.me (by rapperklimov)

For a long time now, Amazon has been the Mecca of all self-publishing authors. I have written in posts past how I feel about the self-publishing industry. I have voiced frustrations about writers publishing sub-par reading material and calling themselves authors. I have been silently shaking my self-righteous fist at the Amazon.com company for aiding and abetting in that material being shoveled out to the public.

But there is a change in the wind, a radical new way of accounting for things that makes self-publishers think twice about what they are publishing and what they are producing. Amazon has shifted their payment policy, and in my humble opinion, this change is going to revitalize the way books are read on Kindle devices from this point out.

The paying system changed on July 1, 2015. It used to be that authors had to produce titillating cover art, top-notch descriptions of their work, and sit back. These devices would draw readers to choose the book and they would open it up. As many times as I have done this, I have quit after reading the first few pages, finding the work unreadable and terribly done. Every time I have done that, the writer has received payment anyway.

That stops now. The book is not paid out based on the choosing of the book, but on how many pages were read. A snappy cover and perfectly phrased description will no longer insure that bad writing goes rewarded. You will have to write good work in order to see any monetary reward at all. A page-turning novel will have to be written in order to get your pay out.

I read an article about this change and heard a lot of negative things said. I think they deserve to be evaluated, and I will do so and make my arguments. The first point was that stories would be bulked up so that writers can make more money on the story. I’m not going to refute that some of that will happen, but at the same time, I’m not sure it will be as terrible as predicted. I am very different from most writers in that I have a stunning amount of respect for my readers. I won’t put something in front of them that is not worthy of their time, and I trust their bullshit meters.

I trust that the people who are reading my books are enjoying themselves, because in the end, they hold the ultimate power over my work. It is not the other way around. No one stands behind my readers with a loaded gun forcing them to turn the page. They, at any time, can set it down and walk away. They can say, “Yeah, this is crap,” and never pick up one of my books ever again. It will happen. It has happened. Readers, as a people, are choosy about how they spend their time. Each of them has an agenda. They are looking to be entertained and they are looking for enjoyment. They know when they are being jerked around. They know when they are reading “umm, and then, a umm.” They can sense that shit and they walk away.

No reader is going to allow their time to be wasted, because in the end, they can leave instantly with little or no provocation. It is a reality that rules the industry of publishing. If an agent reads a piece and it is chock-full of filler, it ends up in the trash bin. So will these books. The writer of self-published work will now be held to the same criteria.

Another, more terrifying, prospect was mentioned that instantly chilled my blood and had me breaking out in sweat, until I thought about it for a while: The Sound and The Fury would never have caught on under this system. Faulkner’s masterpiece would never have been read past the first chapter, which is confusing and frustrating. The reader would have stopped after the first few lines and Faulkner would have gone broke.

After a few minutes of thinking this out, I decided this was sabre rattling, too. Faulkner would not have been a self-published writer. Under no lens can we look back at him and think “Yeah, that guy never would have gotten past the front door. He would go in through the service entrance for sure.” That is crap. The man was a genius. The Gate Keepers would have snapped him up in a heartbeat. He would not have relied on Amazon for his success. He would be known and studied no matter what age he wrote in.

Again, my unfailing trust in readers brings me to the conclusion that great writing will always rise. Work like Faulkner’s cannot help but find its way to those readers who look for that caliber of writing. I am excited about this new system because self-published authors will find their work being judged by the only real experts in the field. The readers. They should have the ultimate power over the written word. They should hold sway over the writer’s livelihood. When in doubt, trust the diligent reader. It’s their time and energy we are playing with. Give the power back to the people. They will know what to do with it.

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