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Waiting for Goodreads (not Godot)

The book launch was really a dream come true, a wonderful time with friends and family, a great way to bring my baby into the world. Now we wait for the reviews.

If I had written a play, we’d only have to wait overnight to see if it was well-received. With a 264-page book, it’s going to take a while. Waiting at Sardees (Sarducci’s, in Montpelier) for the reviews is just not an option, unless I want to move in.

I don’t know how other writers do it; it’s driving me kind of nuts.

I didn’t write the book in a week. It probably won’t be read in a week, so the reviews are likely a long way out, and I am not patient by nature. I have noticed, however, that the waiting is qualitatively different from waiting for a magazine’s decision on a story or waiting for a response from an agent. When dealing with the great gatekeepers of popular fiction, there is the temptation to assume that they are the ultimate arbiters of quality, which is demonstrably false.

They are often good at picking up what will likely sell. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, was a huge hit; all three books sold in the hundreds of thousands. If you enjoyed those books, good on you, but I only made it through three pages before I deleted it from my Kindle. In my view, the writing was absolutely awful. It was amateurish to the point of foolishness, with nothing to redeem it but the titillation of BDSM frolics for repressed readers. Vicarious living is, of course, one of the great joys of reading, but the book was so poorly written, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to get into it. (And this from a guy who reads sci-fi and fantasy!)

There were tortured genius drinking themselves into comas after that book came out.

The traditional publishing industry, then, is not an arbiter of quality, but of marketability. I find that most traditionally published writers conflate these things and label any criticism of traditional publishing as sour grapes by writers without the talent to present their work to the literary cognoscenti. To be sure, a whole industry has sprouted to serve the needs, and sometimes the egos, of wannabe writers. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes the publishing industry just misses the boat or that a writer may not have a story that has great commercial value or that has not yet found its audience.

I do not think the traditional publishing industry is evil or necessarily corrupt. It functions like the monopoly that it is. I am grateful to live in a time where I can at least get my words into print, where my stories can be heard, even if only by a few.

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