Is all well in the land of books?Posted: October 29, 2010
The BBC asks the question, “Is modern fiction just not up to scratch?”
It seems that the literary world is up in arms over a tweet* that one of the judges of the Guardian first book award. It seems Claire Armistead is ” …frustrated by the standard of editing.” The BBC’s headline caught my attention, at first because the idea of literary quality was in my mind at the time. I had been reading some articles on the nature of good fiction and so, when I saw the Beeb headline, I wondered who was criticising modern literature now. It seems that the headline had misled me a little and it was actually about the amount of time Editors have to do their job – and the fact that they don’t just edit any more. Read the article it’s quite interesting.
It reminds me of the record and film industry. Margins are falling and they ask themselves, “Why?” The large media conglomerates appear to think of the average person as mere walking wallet, there to be thrown some tidbit so that they in turn can harvest an iota of cash. It’s the sort of mindset that plays by the numbers and gives the market what those numbers say that they want. The end result is somewhat bland and lacking in depth. As the perceived quality becomes less I don’t blame most people for thinking that it’s not worth paying for product that doesn’t seem to have the quality they are looking for.
What does this have to do with publishing? Well, if the same media conglomerates own the publishing houses then inevitably the same perceptions are going to filter down from the top. If your editors are too busy to do the job of editing, if they need to do other things, is it any surprise that the overall quality of the books might slide? I certainly don’t blame the people themselves; I’ve yet to come across someone who wasn’t interested in the business of telling good stories; but I do think that the publishing houses should be wary that they don’t start churning out large numbers of middle of the road or bad, books, just like Hollywood or the music industry, because if they do, then they might start to wonder where the cash has gone.
And then where will we be?
PS. I hope I am wrong.
* I have to say that one, off the cuff, remark doesn’t seem worth getting all he up over.