Someone is wrong on the Internet

Yesterday I had a banner day. I easily wrote 2,500 words in the space of a couple of hours and even better the words were good enough to keep. And that was just the opening of a memorable day because then the sun came out and my little guy and I got outside for some play time with the kids in the neighborhood.

This morning, while waiting for another awesome sunrise in Cloud City, I was thumbing through Facebook posts (apparently, my frist mistake) when I encountered this beauty. Just as the sunshine started to backlight the volcano, painting the clouds magenta and orange, I’d become engrossed. So much for my “No Internet Rule.”

Now, as the morning wears on I’ve got to get this crap-heap off my chest so I can salvage the possibility of more productive writing. Someone is wrong on the internet.

Brent Underwood’s snide stunt doesn’t demonstrate that traditionally published works are better than their independently published counterparts. It doesn’t diminish the accomplishment someone should feel when their sales inch up past the fold, and they get a “best seller” icon painted on their cover. Not even for a moment. And it doesn’t say a god damned thing about the quality of work that passes through either exclusive traditional channels or the democratic overworld of independent publishing.

And that’s why this article pisses me the fuck off. Because that’s exactly how so many ideologues will see it. They’ll see it as an indictment of self-publishing, demonstration that their competition is wrong and that their good ‘ol boys club is somehow better. Coke is better than Pepsi. Crest beats Colgate. Toyota v. Nissan.

This experiment demonstrates two things only. That Amazon’s expansive and unmonitored categorization scheme is vulnerable, and that snide commentary is a mainstay of the meta surrounding the publishing industry.

“We have important rules at my company about the projects we take on. We don’t work with authors whose books we wouldn’t read ourselves, and we don’t guarantee best-seller status. We say no to more work than we say yes to, but these principles help us avoid the gimmicky, one-hit-wonders who aren’t looking to write great books but instead are looking to trick people into thinking they have.”

-Brent Underwood, “Behind the Scam: What Does It Take to Be a ‘Best-Selling Author’? $3 and 5 Minutes

Clearly Amazon needs to address the former: if the can stop or even slow the creation of books about Brent Underwood’s foot they will simultaneously improve the quality and credibility of their lists while at the same time eliminating much of the negative press (which in their case constitutes lost revenue). That’s on them, they’re a big company full of smart people, and so it’s entirely possible they can and will do something about this problem.

As far as the snide commentary which perpetually lumps all independently published works into the garbage bin of literary criticism, insinuating that we’re all lazy, scammers trying to slip one by all you gullible readers, there’s little I can do. I’ve already written plenty, I will continue to write more. Each word will be loving linked the last and my craftsmanship will improve. But beyond these things I am powerless. You, the reader, have all the power.


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