I have to admit that reading Hugh Howey has become an increasingly enjoyable experience over the last several months. The blog is now a fascinating mashup of misstatements, invective, valuable insights into indie publishing (though we could certainly use more), Amazon fanboy enthusiasm and pure silliness. You never know what you're going to get.
I've been casting around for a word to describe Hugh when he goes off the rails and crashes into the hard concrete of reality and bounces up, like the super hero Rubber Man, and proceeds to go off the rails in almost precisely the same fashion soon afterwards on exactly the same track. He's not riding Amtrak, he's riding Acme.
Take, for instance, Hugh's latest proclamation on the book business. Books, Hugh proclaims, are "exactly like razors." No qualification, no irony, no self awareness. He means it. Read the article. (I do warn you that the rest of the piece is another mistake-littered mush of pseudo-Marxism, misstatements and misunderstandings of how car distribution works, and pronouncements that demonstrate that he doesn't understand channels and how and why they exist. And yes, I know he worked in B&N. But he didn't learn anything.)
Now, anyone with a bit of understanding knows there's something very very wrong with the claim that books are "exactly like razors." (He means blades.) And no, I'm not making pretentious claims that books are "art" and "culturally" valuable and getting my nose all runny when I think of Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Twain and Conrad and so on. Some books are art and culturally valuable and some are awful and a waste of time and most fall somewhere in between that spectrum. And yes, obviously books must compete with other books and other forms of entertainment. And books do sell both directly and through channels as do other items.
But take a look at a pack of razors and then open up two books and then think about what's different between the two experiences. You're a smart audience so I'm only giving you five seconds.
Times up. Figured it out? Of course you did. You saw immediately that every razor looked, felt, and performed the same function. If any blade didn't, you'd head back to the store and demand a replacement.
But any two books are different and must be, of necessity. (And don't be a wise ass and talk about print runs or copies.) That's because every book ever written is, inherently, a hand crafted item. And while genres and categories of books exist, within them every book strives to bring a unique experience and slice of knowledge to the reader that can't be duplicated by any other book.
Not all books do this well. Not all driftwood lamps are attractive (well, none of them, actually) and not all hand-crafted furniture is well made. But once 1984 or Pride and Prejudice and yes, Wool was written, there could never be another one of them ever written again.
And this reality impacts the economics of book creation, production, and distribution.
So when Hugh says stuff like this, what do you say?
I say it's Howeyish!
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Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
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