Saturday, April 12, 2008

A small matter of quality


"I think all of us like to do things to the best of our ability and it has nothing to do with the competition factor, it has to do with quality."
Jerry Bruckheimer


I think too many of us have forgotten the definition of quality, or we've stopped caring.

In the quest for more and more and faster and faster, we've lost this important attribute. We all know we have. We all complain about the lack of quality in items we purchase. We fuss if our 'fast food' meals takes more than 15 seconds to receive and then fuss when the quality isn't there. How much quality should we expect to get in food prepared in 15 seconds?

As much as I would like to believe Jerry Bruckheimer's quote, I have a hard time doing so. I believe most of us just want more and faster, and cheaper. The cheaper things are, the more things we can buy. Never mind if they fall apart quickly or are less than truly satisfying; we have more of it.


I see it in my own profession, as well. I've read excerpt after excerpt of new books coming out. I browse bookstores and read the first two paragraphs from new authors, or at least new to me. It becomes rather disparaging as I continually find weak openings, incomplete sentences not used purposely or for effect, repetition to the point where I want to scream, "Enough already! I get that's she's busty and he's well built! Okay!"

I see a flux of adverbs used instead of strong verbs. I see sentence structures and paragraphs that fourth graders could write (no offense to fourth graders).

I've read the first 25 pages of a book where nearly nothing happens and what does happen is cliche and ... repetitive.

I see authors bragging about having four or more books published in a year and I have to wonder how they have time to rewrite and edit and rewrite again when they're producing so quickly.  And ... when do they find time to study the craft in between selling it? I see them say they don't have time to read. Then, how are they learning and improving?

Maybe I don't have room to talk about producing since my most recent book was supposed to be out last fall and still isn't, and since I have only two books out since 2003. One of them is 3-4 times as long as most of the 4-book-a-year novels and I have been working other jobs in between, so I'm sure those are both factors in the difference. I'm sure some writers see my producing stats and roll their eyes. Still, much of the time in between, I've been continuing to study the craft: reading, reviewing, perusing how-to articles and books, and going back to rewrite and edit several times.

I do believe it should be about the quality, not the competition. How many matters less to me than actual content. I prefer a nice sit down dinner even if I have to do it less often than numerous 15 second meals.

Although I've been trying to stretch into the many contemporary writers, I find myself falling back into my beloved classics when quality still mattered. They tend to take longer to read, but oh, how much more I get out of them!

"You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal."
William S. Burroughs

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Amazon and PODs


The buzz is flying furiously. No, the bees aren't out again yet, not here, anyway, but POD publishers and authors are being stung by Amazon's new policy.

If you didn't know, Amazon bought Booksurge, a POD company, back in 2005. Although Booksurge was not one of the better names in the industry, with inferior printing being charged by some of the authors, Amazon's name helped to make it one of the better known companies, and they say the quality has improved.

Now, Amazon has taken a new direction with their POD plant by insisting that all POD books must be set up through Booksurge in order to have "Buy it" buttons on Amazon listings, or they must go through Amazon's Advantage program.

What does that mean to authors and other POD companies? It means extra setup fees. Authors going it their own instead of through traditional publishing companies already pay fees to whatever company they find that best suits their needs. This policy means they will also need to pay set up through Booksurge, unless, of course, they simply decide to abandon their chosen company and work only with Amazon's company. It means Amazon is trying to pull a monopoly on the POD business.

Now, they say they are trying to make the shopping experience better for the customer because they can provide faster "one box" shipping if they print the books themselves and lower transportation costs by not needing to ship the books in. Here's their statement:

There are several problems with this statement:

1) Even when a customer orders several items using their free super saver all together shipping (one box, supposedly), it often comes in separate packages, even when the customer has stated no shipping rush and if they come one day apart. My last order included 3 items, super saver shipping, no POD books, and all 3 things came separately.

2) If publishers use their Advantage program, which means selling on consignment for a large discount, they have to ship their books to Amazon's distribution services, anyway.

3) When LSI (the printer for most all POD companies) prints books for the companies that are sold from Amazon, they ship them directly from their own distribution center using Amazon boxes and Amazon sales slips. There are no additional transportation fees and there is no additional waiting time.

So what does it really mean? Authors and companies using POD and not using Booksurge are getting screwed for no reason except Amazon first makes money printing the books and then makes money selling them.

I will no longer be buying from Amazon until this policy reverts, and my 'buy it from Amazon' links will be removed from everywhere I advertise my own books.

This is a blow against indies and individual choice in favor of big business monopoly and I won't support that.

You can order my books, as well as any book with an ISBN,  through any independent bookstore. Find your local store at Booksense. A link is to the left.

Angela Hoy at Writer's Weekly