A Tale of Two Authors

March 21st, 2011 · 37 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Monday, March 21, 2011 was a big day for publishing. On one hand, we have author Barry Eisler announcing he turned down a two book, $500,000 deal. On the other hand, we learned that super-hot indie author Amanda Hocking is shopping a new series, with a price tag climbing above $1 million for worldwide English language rights.

Needless to say, the ensuing discussion has been awesomely full of punditry and speculation. Thus, me! If I do not offer my two cents, then I will surely be kicked out of future publishing cocktail parties. After all, I must have thoughts on this madness.

So where to begin? I am presuming Eisler made a calculated decision, one that factored in the very real loss of worldwide print sales (wherein I completely agree with Mike Shatzkin on this point). Oh sure, there are ways to compensate, but this is not a trivial business choice.

On the other hand, Hocking is likely looking at those same worldwide print sales and realizing there’s money in them there books. The two authors are looking at the same worldwide market and taking different approaches. One is a seasoned author, the other is just now realizing her potential.

So who is making the right decision?

Both.

Yeah, that’s a helpful answer. Bear with me.

Eisler has an established fan base, and he can tap into a growing network of indie authors who are, for lack of a better concept, forming their indie marketing circle. This is not a new concept. It’s the way indie romance authors — those digital-first (or digital-only) authors — have built careers for the past decade. History has shown this works for some authors.

I think of it as a numbers and talent game. Only a few authors truly rise above the pack. It’s like real publishing, only with more control. However. Any author who goes indie has to become an end-to-end business. Writing, editing, production, distribution, marketing. Oh sure, some of these can be outsourced, but the author must be on top of all these function. Cannot let any one of them slip.

Just as few employees in corporate jobs have the ability to be management and worker bee, few authors have the skills to be everything and more. The authors who seem to do best have what can only be called an entrepreneurial spirit. My belief is that writing is a creative process; being an author is a job.

And it’s not an easy job. This is why I believe Eisler calculated more than a few odds. One does not walk away from a purported $500,000 easily. As many smart people have noted, you don’t go into publishing to get rich.

What Barry Eisler has going for him is control (not to be underestimated), speed to market, the ability to experiment, and instantaneous worldwide digital distribution. This comes into play in our next section.

Now back to that other hand.

Hocking has, and I think you’ll know what I mean, tapped into the Twilight zeitgeist. Something I’d note no major publisher (or minor) has managed to do. I have not read her work, but know more than a few people who have. Clearly she can tell a story that engages readers (not an easy skill!), but there is a consensus that she needs more editorial oversight. I believe in editors in a big way, and know that good editors make a story so much better.

Hocking has also, conservatively and based on news reports, netted well over a million dollars (before taxes, those pesky things!). That is serious money in publishing. I know people who’d sell their souls for that kind of publishing money.

It’s also hard money for publishers to meet. This is an author who is accustomed to making seventy cents on every dollar. Used to getting paid monthly. Used to freedom.

Yes, she’s only reaching a fraction of her audience. Print remains the dominant worldwide format, and, while digital is growing like crazy (a key component of Eisler’s calculations), ignoring any part of the publishing marketplace is something one must do with extreme intelligence and caution.

Can print publishers offer her at least as much as she’s making as an indie author? It’s easy to throw money at the problem. But is it as easy to throw money at the success?

I said I think both Eisler and Hocking are making the right choices, but, if you were to corner me in a bar and ask me which author is following the right path right now, I’d say Eisler.

He’s taking a riskier path, for sure, and there is no guarantee. His history suggests he has some talent when comes to calculated risks. And while he’s burned some publishing bridges, he also has a track record in the industry.

Hocking, however, is more of a publishing dark horse. She’s done the indie thing amazingly well. I cannot over-emphasize how critical this is, and how well she’s done it. But there is a gap between indie publishing (especially self-publishing, without a lot of professional editorial input) and corporate publishing.

The biggest challenge, and the reason I’m putting my money (virtual because the husband hates it when I bet cat food dollars) on Eisler is that the publisher who signs Amanda Hocking today will likely not have a book on the shelf before 2012, more likely 2013. Note my nouns.

The Hocking zeitgeist is right now. Her audience is right now. Her moment is right now. Can this buzz be sustained a year or more? Can her audience be engaged for that long? Yes, if she’s continually giving them the books they want…at the price point they want.

Will the Amanda Hocking audience pay $9.99 for her books? This is not an idle question.

Can publishing capitalize on an Amanda Hocking? This is a serious question.

Note: Sarah Weinman, wisely, questions my belief that Amanda Hocking will lose momentum. I did consider Sarah’s arguments while writing this, but felt then (and sorta feel now) that two things will slow this phenomenon down. The first is the competing works clause in an author agreement. The publisher Hocking presumably will eventually sign with (how’s that for confidence?) will surely balk at any works they deem “competition” for their own release. How Hocking works around that and pleases her audience becomes a challenge.

The second hesitation I have is that publishing a book is a lot of work, and even the most seasoned writer finds challenges in undergoing the full editorial process on one book while creating new works. Once Hocking is assimilated into the traditional publishing machine, there will be a constant flow of work for the series she’s creating for that publisher, and I worry it will come at the expense of her indie work.

File Under: Non-Traditional Publishing

37 responses so far ↓

  • Claude Nougat // Mar 22, 2011 at 3:08 am

    Great Post! I agree with you, both authors are right and publishing can probably capitalize on Amanda Hocking…provided she’s willing to give up her “indie” attitude and accept her publisher’s editorial and marketing guidance.

    For those of us who are unpublished authors, my view is that these two are NOT role-models.

    They’ve got things going for them that most newbies simply don’t have: Eisler has the benefit of a strong fan base and Hocking is clearly very Internet savvy – not to mention that she must be a prolific author.

    Because to make it digitally when you are unknown and untested, you need to do at least three things and do them well:
    1. establish an effective on line presence (blog, facebook, twitter);
    2. tap into a widely read genre (in Hocking’s case the YA Twilight stream);
    3. be ready with a series a books (Hocking started with a trilogy)

    If you haven’t done that, forget it!

    And that’s why I’m into blogging now and btw, also into writing…! Or else, it wouldn’t make much sense, would it? But, whoof, what a lot of work it is!

    Claude Nougat
    http://claudenougat.blogspot.com

  • Claude Nougat // Mar 22, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Great Post!

    But Amanda Hocking and Eisler are special cases – hardly role models for unpublished authors!

    Because to make it digitally when you are unknown and untested, you need to do at least three things and do them well:
    1. establish an effective on line presence (blog, facebook, twitter);
    2. tap into a widely read genre (in Hocking’s case the YA Twilight stream);
    3. be ready with a series a books (Hocking started with a trilogy)

    So unpublished writers beware! Unless you’re capable of doing all these things, the likelihood of “making” it digitally is thin indeed…

    And in any case it’s a lot of work – I know, I try to maintain a blog AND keep writing !

    Claude Nougat
    http://claudenougat.blogspot.com

  • K.C. Woolf // Mar 22, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Great article, Kassia. You raise interesting points.

    Maybe we will see publishing evolve into a fast, zeitgeist-sensitive track, and a slower, more timeless track.

    Pricing would be different for each, depending on what value the books have for readers. Some books you buy to read, re-read, store and fondle, others you just consume.

  • Eoin Purcell // Mar 22, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Kassia,

    Totally in agreement Kassia, there is no new normal. The system is changing and as it does, different models will work at different times.

    Eoin

  • Jianne Carlo // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Excellent analysis. Cat food dollars are all I’d bet on anything in the publishing universe right now! :)

  • Steve Emmett // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:11 am

    It is quite a minefield at the moment. Where will we all be in two years?

  • Lesley Cookman // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Fascinating argument. I’m currently rushing around doing both at once, promoting my latest
    print title and going into self e-pubbing for some other titles. Trying to keep a finger in both pies is exhausting!

  • World Spinner // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:47 am

    A Tale of Two Authors | Booksquare…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  • Amy Edelman // Mar 22, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Great post, Kassia. You really get to the heart of the matter and bring up some very interesting points. Those who are now choosing to self publish are definitely pioneers. IndieReader (www.indiereader.com) was created for the book-lover (like Rolling Stone is to music) to chronicle, explain and celebrate those indie journeys.

  • Emily W. // Mar 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I agree with the other commenters, very good points. True to form, though, I have to harp a bit on foreign rights and other subsidiary deals that publishers (and agents) bring to the table. Depending on the author, these are not inconsequential, and certainly the expertise to make those deals and manage all the contracts and payments are a good argument for the continuing existence of publishing professionals, as is the simple opportunity to get your work into more languages and before more audiences. It seems to me this is another big benefit besides print sales that Hocking is gaining by choosing to work with an agent and looking for a traditional publisher, and it’s another benefit that Eisler is walking away from. (I don’t know how widely Eisler has been published abroad, a quick search shows he has publishers at least in Spain, France, Germany, and Japan. Perhaps he will continue to work with his agent for rights sales, though I have to wonder if his foreign pubs will be as enthusiastic about acquiring books that haven’t been professionally edited – a big value add, as you wisely point out!)

  • Rich Friedeman // Mar 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I’m glad you talk about Eisler in terms of calculated risks. To me, that’s the issue that tends to get lost in the indie vs. traditional publishing debate. Traditional publishers increase some risks for authors (particularly new ones) and reduce others. Disagreements about what’s a fair royalty, for example, only make sense in the context of that balance.
    @Claude, your point is right on from the perspective of what indie publishing authors have to do to succeed, but I disagree about Eisler and Hocking and not being role models. They both leverage their assets to support an indie publishing approach. They both write what people want to read, Eisler plans to leverage his fan base, Hocking her online savvy. How is that not a role model? Their results are clearly atypical, but so is Stephen King’s. Very few will ever sell anything close to that many books. Does that mean he’s not a role model?
    Taking a Hocking or Eisler like approach to publishing is certainly no guarantee of success, but neither is taking King’s. Publishing is a tough business, and understanding your strengths along with your tolerance for and your ability to mitigate the risks are how you should pick a path. You have to write well either way.

  • Kevin R. // Mar 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Your post brings up some legitimate concerns, but it suggests Hocking is moving from indie to corporate in a simplistic manner.

    She knows there are advantages to publishing independently, and she also knows there are advantages to signing with a major publisher. Knowing this, it would be crazy for her to simply jump ship from one to the other, when there are advantages to playing both fields.

    Whether playing both fields is possible is another question, as you point out. But it’s hard to believe she’s going to drop her marketing know-how the moment major publishers take an interest in her.

    My thought is it’s going to be a struggle between her and her traditional publisher for rights and royalties. Once you taste those fat indie royalties, it’s hard to go back.

  • Henry Baum // Mar 22, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    I’ve always thought the ideal was Beck. He got to put out records on Geffen, while also retaining freedom to release records on K Records and other places. Waiting for the hybrid deal where a writer gets to do both – self-release some titles/mainstream-release others – and Amanda Hocking’s in a good place to negotiate that kind of deal.

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  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Henry — Beck is a great example, and one (I hope) publishers can look at as a way forward. I remember being amazed that Geffen allowed him to record on his own, and think both entities benefitted from the freedom.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Kevin — I’m not sure I suggested Hocking would drop her marketing know-how. It’s a matter of bandwidth, and, as humans, we all only have so much. Plus there will be pressures from the traditional publisher. I’d like to think she can work both markets (and I believe they are distinct markets) effectively, but knowing many authors from both camps, I am aware of the pressures they face.

    I think the decision made by Hocking (if such a decision is actually made) will be as carefully considered as possible. I also think she’s young, particularly in publishing years (oy!), and it is hard to make huge decisions without some level of experience. That being said, I am rooting for her. Very much.

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 22, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Emily — Thanks for jumping in on the foreign rights issue. I *think* I alluded to the losses Eisler may face, and those international sales are, you know too well, very lucrative. I would not, ever, try to manage this sort of business on my own. I don’t have the expertise, and I certainly don’t have the time. Eisler did suggest an evolving role for agents, particularly his, as he transitions his own business, and you point out very legitimate roles for someone who knows the business, particularly on the international level.

    One thing, and I think it’s worth noting, nothing about what he’s doing precludes professional editing. At SXSW PubCamp, Jane Friedman emphasized the importance of good editing, and I could not agree more. If I were to look at my potential budget for self-publishing, editorial is where I’d put most of my money. I know self-published (indie) authors do this as well. Actually, it surprises me how many do hire editors (though it makes me very happy for the editors I know).

  • Kassia Krozser // Mar 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Claude — I would not say that Hocking or Eisler is a special case. Hocking, clearly, achieved her success by working hard. She was unpublished until she self-published. She has worked hard, but she started out from zero. Yes, what she did is hard, but what she did is the result of drive and ambition. I mean that in a good way. Her formula, as you’ve outlined it, works for her. I am hearing other success stories that work for other authors. It all depends on what you write and your goals.

    Likewise, Eisler is not a special case. Yes, he’s an example of an author moving in a counterintuitive (as we know it today) direction, but there are thousands of mid-list (or slightly above) authors facing this dilemma. Is he a role model for unpublished authors? On many levels, no, but I’d argue (forcefully!) that there are lessons for the unpublished author to learn, the most important being that you can have a career on your own terms.

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  • Caridad Pineiro // Mar 23, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Great blog and lots of great comments that provide lots of food for thought. In particular, it does seem wise to point out that neither Eisler or Hocking are your typical indie author. Eisler has an established fan base and is gambling that the increased royalty scheme will offset any potential loss in sales from those who still want print copies. Hocking has run a well-oiled publicity machine that has put her name out there. There is a lot to be learned from how she did that, but can every author do it? That remains to be seen. Regardless, they are pioneers and should be watched so that authors can make reasoned decisions in the future.

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  • Nic Boshart // Mar 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Come on Kassia, you know that Amanda Hocking is secretly James Frey, right?
    Seriously, it’s only a matter of time before publishers start making up indie personalities and cranking out unedited, direct-to-digital YA.

  • Theresa M Moore // Mar 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    They are both blips in the universe. To quote a certain supervillain, “when everyone is super, no one will be.” I laud their current success, but I was toiling to get my books published for 30 years, and the only way I could actually see them in print was to self-publish. They happened to be lucky. The rest of us work just as hard to be recognized as ever. Every year we see superstars in the literary firmanent fizzle out as the new trend comes along, so I’m just going to push my waterwheel and keep going.

  • Kevin O. McLaughlin // Mar 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I agree with your overall analysis. Both are right (I think) if they’re doing it for the right reasons.

    Barry has already built a solid bestseller rep and has tens of thousands of fans who will buy whatever he writes, regardless who publishes it. He only has to sell about 83,000 copies of each book to break even (the deal he turned down was $500k total for two books). For Joe-on-the-street, gambling you’ll sell 83k copies is rough, but Barry will almost certainly do so, and more, over the years or decades the book will be making him money.

    If he can afford to self publish, he’s at the point where he probably should.

    Amanda is a different story. She’s got a great work ethic – she wrote and published six new books in the last ten months, in addition to the three she had written when she started in May. Most writers think they’re doing great to spend a couple of hours a day typing, tops, but writers like Amanda are putting in many times that. By sending a book a year to NYC publishers, she’ll be able to gain new readers who would not have seen her books in the ebook and online stores – she’ll expand her franchise. And she’ll still be producing several other books per year which she can self-publish to capitalize on the expanded visibility. Essentially, if she plays this right, she can use the NYC-purchased books as a loss leader. She’ll earn less per book than from her self published ones. But she’ll gain a big boost in readers that will make all her books earn more money.

    I wanted to say one other thing. In your blog entry, you comment that there is a “consensus she needs more editorial oversight”. I’ve read this – generally from detractors to indie publishing in general – and I know it has to have bothered her. I hope it’s not a factor in her decision making at all. I mean, she can hire a strong pro editor to edit her book for a few thousand dollars. That’s a tiny fraction of what going to NYC will cost her in lost income on those books she’s selling, so that really doesn’t make any sense. Just as important – she was selling hundreds of thousands of those books despite the occasional error. Readers love the stories, and most really don’t mind a few errors much. In all, a good chunk of NYC produced novels I’ve read have similar error quantity to the two of her books I’ve read; if those same books, word for word had been published by Random House or some other large corp, I think the detractors would have been silent

  • Kevin O. McLaughlin // Mar 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    It’s interesting to note that a number of indie writers are already selling overseas rights, with or without an agent. And since Barry’s work *will* be professionally edited, I don’t think that will be a barrier to sales.

  • David Schwartz // Mar 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I beg to disagree — I think Hocking is mistaken in attempting to sign with a traditional publisher. It’s like becoming famous selling water then signing on to have a wine company produce and sell water for you. There will be a huge delay while they “purify” the water and maybe add a little flavor to it, and what will probably end up being sold in the end is … wine. If they knew how to sell water, wouldn’t they already be doing it? And why will it take 2 years to purify the water?

    There’s a factor that has been over-looked here, and I think it’s a critical factor.

    Turnaround time.

    At least, that’s what I’ll call it here.

    Hocking got where she is by churning out a ton of material very quickly, and it was absorbed by her readers as fast as she could crank it out. There was very little resistance between her writing material, and her readers reading what she wrote.

    Critics can throw stones at the “quality” of her material, but it apparently isn’t very important to her readers who are PAYING FOR IT.

    I mean … how many “editorially pure” books are there on the market that haven’t sold diddly?

    This is a “shoot from the hip” approach that Hocking has proven — at least in her niche market — that the market is willing to accept.

    Hocking has built a viable business using a model that every publisher and expert in the world would say hands-down “will NOT work!” And she wants to turn over the marketing reigns to a company who is almost guaranteed to hold that position, no matter what they tell her otherwise.

    The quality of most blogs wouldn’t pass muster with publishers either, but they seem to be flourishing as well. So clearly there’s a larger market for not-so-polished material.

    When will publishers figure that out?

    If you’re willing to give up being a perfectionist, and ignore the common wisdom that says nothing is worth publishing until it has passed through many iterations of editorial polishing, then almost anybody can do what Hocking has done.

    Yes, I think she’s an EXCELLENT ROLE-MODEL for aspiring writers today! How many millions of books are sitting on shelves waiting for an acceptance letter that will NEVER come? I’m not saying they all will find a reader base, but many of them can and will IF their authors are willing to follow Hocking’s lead.

    Clearly, she’s developed a large market base, and it can probably continue to grow very well without a traditional publisher in the loop. What the publisher will do is expand her market, at the expense of delaying publication. Which could OBLITERATE her existing market.

    Given that her rapid turnaround time may be a critical factor in her current success, Hocking could be shooting herself in the foot by signing with a traditional publisher who’s going to try to gentrify her, at the possible expense of losing her existing customer base due to time delays. That’s fine as long as they can deliver an even larger customer base.

    However, given that they don’t have a clue how this model is working, I think that’s a HUGE RISK for Hocking to assume. She’ll get her money, and then perhaps disappear into oblivion courtesy of the purists at the publishing house.

    In contrast, Eisler has chosen to jettison the publication delay process in order to get his products to market faster (although there may be other factors at work).

    But one thing that wasn’t discussed is … both authors can hire editorial help directly, much more affordably than what it would cost through a publisher, and get the same quality results at a lower cost in terms of turnaround time.

    CreateSpace obviates the need to worry about finding someone to print and distribute books for you. So the only real factor is … can you hire the expertise needed to build a publishing PROCESS that gets you faster time-to-market (turnaround time) than what traditional publishers offer, without having to give up tons of rights and marketing options in the process?

    Today Hocking may be viewed as an “exception”. However, as we start to see an increasing number of people self-publishing, we’ll discover folks who are selling thousands of books into starving markets and making far more money FASTER, with a less “pure” product, than the traditional publishing industry has ever been willing or able to deliver. And there’s no reason to believe the publishing industry is going to change.

    This isn’t limited to books — look at the explosion of indie movies and musicians who are getting critical acclaim without even the slightest nod by traditional media publishers.

    In a world where traditional publishers can’t get more than 5% of their “best choices” to sell-out of an initial printing run, you have to wonder how off-base their selection criteria is if so many self-publishers are managing to have so much more success ignoring their 100+ years of accumulated “wisdom”. There’s clearly a blind-spot at work here, and the publishers aren’t even admitting it exists.

  • Adam iWriteReadRate // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Great article, enjoyed reading. Thanks for posting. Indeed it’s an interesting time fir both writers and readers.

    We’ll see what the future holds.

    All the best

    Adam Charles

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  • Lee Rogers // Mar 27, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    New authors who have the technical skills and time to do it all — editing, HTML, blogging, social media etc, will be *very* tempted to go the indie route in the first instance.

    It would not surprise to see more decisions like Hocking’s once any success is established. And having those skills on display should entice print publishers who know that success requires more than having a good story, well told.

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  • Wodke Hawkinson // Apr 3, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Normally, I would say Ms. Hocking did exactly what any writer would do given the opportunity. But, another part of me wonders if she shouldn’t have waited. She seemed to be doing very well on her own and using a remarkably simple yet effective business plan. I wish her all the success in the world. She is an inspiration to writers everywhere.

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  • Shelley // Apr 14, 2011 at 8:19 am

    The multi-talented are admirable. It’s hard for writers who just want to write.

  • Nick Taussig // Aug 11, 2011 at 6:50 am

    What the fuck is going on with modern fiction?! I’m dying to read that wonderful book, which has a bloody big heart, yet I cannot find it. Gifted writers I greatly admire like William Boyd are now forced to churn out books like Restless, an all-too-familiar spy thriller that will be forgotten in no time, written for a pay check and no more. I can hear William’s agent whispering in his ear, “Look, just give me something I can get on Oprah, okay. The friggin chimps in Brazzaville Beach aren’t cutting it. The public are not interested in Central Africa and its primate inhabitants. Give them something more familiar, Will, something they can relate to. Yes, another World War II spy yarn, that will sell. The market will lap it up. This will be your bestseller!”

    And so writers of the quality of Boyd are forced to pen boring, mediocre fare – yes, commercially-driven fiction conceived for the market first and the committed reader second – the kind of unremarkable books which those of us who believe in, and have a passion for, literature have bought and read a hundred times but never come close to finishing. Hell, we don’t even get a third of the way through them. And why? Because they are unremarkable, are not alternative, do not inspire. We know these books well. We pluck them off the shelves of Barnes & Noble with great anticipation, our hearts beating excitedly. We dive into them as soon as we get home, settling ourselves on the settee and reading the first few pages in a kind of frenzy, longing to be immediately lost in their fictional worlds, consumed by them. And yet they do not grip us, do not move us, and soon, we are easily distracted from their pages and are looking for something else to do, to occupy us.

    Who’s at fault here? The bookseller, the publisher, the agent, the writer or the reader. Well, all of them, to the extent that they are all slaves to the market. Yes, the relentless commodification of modern fiction is a ghastly thing! Why, because it encourages mediocrity, books becoming as bland as DIY furniture – made to measure, functional, conceived to do a particular job. Make you laugh, make you cry, bish bash bosh, job done. Now, books sit beside rows of tinned tuna in supermarkets, nothing more than commercial goods to be consumed, easily digestible and not too taxing. Idiotic sales statements adorn their covers, publishers reassuring would be readers that, yes, don’t worry, it’s more of the fucking same! And so, “Jo Nesbo is the new Stieg Larsson!” and “If you loved the Twilight series, then you’ll love The Immortals even more.”

    A new book today, if it has a chance of being published, must not possess a whiff of the alternative, the innovative, the cult. A few possessing these awkward, unwanted traits do, however, slip through the moronic, money-grabbing filters of agents, publishers and booksellers, thank God, such as Michel Houellebecq’s Les Particules Elementaires or Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but they are rare indeed. Hell, these two were published over a decade ago! Perhaps the logic of agents and publishers is the very same as tabloid editors and media moguls. The public want the lowest common denominator, therefore give them this and they will not ask for more.

    The majority of writers comply, because they have to: they have children to feed, mortgages to pay. And so they write safe, producing work that imitates others, written within a clear genre, which their agent can flog easily to the publisher, and which the bookseller can then peddle to the lazy reader, who’ll consume it like a bag of popcorn, mindlessly and effortlessly. Others, however, think fuck ‘em and self-publish. The agent or publisher might be too damn lazy and disaffected to do the work, but they are not. They believe in what they’ve written, however challenging or idiosyncratic it is, and they’re sure that even if the mainstream will not appreciate their work a small niche will, and greatly. Notable self-published authors include James Joyce, Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf. These three, James, Marcel and Virginia, cared little for the majority, the consensus. They wrote not for the market, but for the love of writing, the beauty and truth it contained not the moolah it made. The same can hardly be said for James Patterson and Tom Clancy!