Are Amazon’s systems ruining self-publishing?

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First up, I’d just like to sate that his is not a diss of the self-publishing industry (OR anyone I have read recently or otherwise who self published)

However I’ve been reviewing for almost ten years now and I have noticed a difference in quality of self published work from when I started. When I first sampled indie works I tended to find them refreshingly original, works of passion that tended not to conform to marketable standards. Sure there were a few odd ball reads, but overall the quality was high.

Of late I’ve been struggling to find works of equal measure (again I do have quite a few on the ‘to read’ I’m not hassling people I’ve connected with lately) or at least have been coming across published works that induce cringing rather than interest.

In asking around forums and whatnot it’s become apparent this isn’t just my experience. Something I was unaware of (and I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong) is that Amazon, probably the host of the majority of e-self-publishing, has an algorithm for displaying titles that favours publications within the last month – although as I write this I realize this may not be a specific time-frame set by Amazon but a natural effect of the classification of ‘new’ in their lists.

Anyway the point is, to my great shock, I read that indie authors basically now have to ‘publish or perish’ producing work monthly just to keep material in the public eye. My shock arose because even some of the trashiest formulaic traditional published series typically takes 12 months. I honestly cannot reconcile the idea of maintaining quality with such speedy turnaround.

So as I said this isn’t a criticism of indie authors or their work exactly, but an observation of the current system and how it’s influencing the market. Indie authors seem to be getting rewarded for quantity over quality, which not only creates a similar market but I imagine can only lead to burn-out and misery.

What are your thoughts on the self-publishing situation at the moment, am I exaggerating? Are there any folk out there willing to lend their voice to the experience of self-publishing?

 

Stop! Trying to diagnose Donald Trump…

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It’s probably important to start this piece with a clear position statement: There are approximately two issues upon which I agree with Trump (globalization has hurt lower and middle class employment, and the U.S. does have a bloody history [although I don’t agree this defends Putin]) and pretty much everything else about Trump I am strongly opposed, if not in radical opposition to.

I also think there are numerous psychological arguments against his practice as president, for example it’s fairly robustly shown that the attitudes of authority figures ‘trickle-down’ into a culture, and outright prejudicial policy encourages day-to-day prejudice, racism, sexism and so forth. Not to mention his wrong-headed approaches to ASD and offensive comments on disability. I could go on….

But

BUT

BUT

This recent trend of trying to diagnose Donald Trump I cannot condone or support and even feel the need to write this post in opposition!

This is going to take a bit of background so bear with me…

Firstly there is a ‘Goldwater rule’ eschewed by the APA (American Psychological Association) which deems it unethical and inaccurate to provide diagnosis for people that the professional has not personally examined.  This was originally intended to prevent professionals claiming public figures had mental illnesses, but lets be honest it bloody good advice in general (psychologist do find themselves expected to provide a diagnosis based off family member or other professionals report!).

Now a lot of people seem to be outright ignoring this ruling in regards to Mr Donald J Trump. A significant portion of those people are armchair experts, who despite my frustration aren’t really bound by any professional standards, but more and more qualified professionals are weighing in, including I’ve heard of a group calling themselves ‘Duty to Warn’ (based off the concept that a therapist breaks confidentiality if the duty to warn and prevent harm is more than the need for privacy). This group apparently contains psychiatrists and psychologists, so isn’t just a gathering of free citizens making an opinion.

People seem to be using the following arguments to justify their unethical practice:

  • Trump is public enough to provide adequate evidence for diagnosis or
  • The risk is high enough to justify the practice

Terms like psychotic dementia, narcissistic personality disorder, and paranoid delusion have been bandied about. Perhaps ironically this post’s intent is not to rule these out (because equally ethically one cannot confirm the non-existence of these disorders)

In regards to justifications, the problem with the first is that it is inaccurate. When making a diagnosis quantity of information does not beat quality. For example most diagnosis requires some data across contexts. Public speculation about what Trump is like in the White House does not count. Public appearances are problematic because even though they might not be ‘acting’ we all act in public, not to mention that even though Trump appears diabolical to most there is no evidence that he has been quite intentional with his actions – misleading, distracting, and pushing buttons. Most sane people might be distressed by this, but that is not quite the criteria for mental disorder.

The second justification is much more problematic. It does pose an interesting question, as this so-call group have named themselves ‘duty to warn’ professionals often have a duty to break confidentiality. The claim that Trump is so dangerous it justifies unethical diagnosis is tempted however there are many flaws with the argument primarily: Breaking confidentiality to warn people has a direct link with the ethic broken and the harm reduced – i.e. in order to prevent a greater harm (someone getting hurt) a lesser harm is caused (privacy is violated). When it comes to unethically (and inaccurately) diagnosing a president what harm is reduced? It’s highly unlikely that Trump will lose his post due to outside professionals throwing around diagnosis – not to mention mental disorder is not the typical route to removing a president (i.e. elections and impeachment) I realize it might contribute to an impeachment but its an unlikely spark for that fire (unless it comes from within the White House of course)

Furthermore an increase in risk doesn’t improve the accuracy issues. If said professional had examined Trump and were releasing confidential information this would be a different question. Contrary to how we feel, need doesn’t change reality. Being poorer doesn’t increase the likelihood of winning lotto. The more politically offense Trump is doesn’t make distance diagnosis more accurate even if it were deemed justified from a harm perspective.

What really bugs me about this whole deal is the weaponization of mental illness stigma from people who should know better. At the end of the day this is political mud slinging under the guise of professional qualification, I have no problem with professionals having political opinions, it is after all the whole deal with democracy. But one should not use their expertise for evil as it were. Not only does it stigmatize the genuinely unwell it also brings the profession into disrepute, mental diagnosis is not about political point scoring but for better understanding challenges and suffering and how to help people going forwards.

I want to see the guy out of office as much as anyone, but more importantly I don’t want to see my profession drag itself into the mud under misguided assumptions of ‘duty.’ There are a myriad of ways to use psychology to criticize Trump effectively and legitimately, without resorting to unethical and inaccurate practice.

Rant over

 

But Frankenword IS a Frankenword (is this post sarcastic without me realizing?!?)

1. Use real words. Is your website or blog littered with revolutionary, value-added, impactful, cutting-edge, best-of-breed, mission-critical words designed to leverage and synergize the current paradigm? Words like that are the chemical additives of business writing: Maybe one or two used sparingly won’t matter much, but too many will poison your content. Forget the buzzwords, […]

via Suck at Writing Quality Content…? (2 min read) — Millionaire’s Digest

Inflexibility: A writer’s worst enemy

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I’m just recently supporting someone through their first full novel draft, and as usual reading through various forums. On of the biggest problems I see for people is their inability to change. Of course this doesn’t present as someone saying “heck I’m just being too inflexible about this” it presents as issues like:

  • I’m stuck on how to get my story to work towards X, it’s gotta work towards X though
  • I love character Y I just can’t work out how to make them fit in the story
  • I’m not editing this again!

Hopefully this doesn’t come across too sanctimonious its taken me several years to realize just how willing you have to be to tweak, adjust and outright rewrite your work to make it more readable.

We’ve all heard ‘kill your darlings’ but I think people tend to fob this off as meaning there might be one or two favoured lines that need to be axed, or that ‘my darlings are much better than everyone else’s’. Realistically the saying should be genocide, or mass murder your darlings – because readers don’t care how much an author likes there own work.

It’s not just about attachment though, there are various reasons that it can be easy to get stuck on writing points. You’re probably familiar with the so-called ‘Pixar’ story tips. (full list here)

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Point 12 confused me for the longest time, like what how can there be several other possible story points, what about the truth? It seems like there is some sort of anchoring bias in our heads, when we imagine our characters taking one path we tend to stick to think that path is the way to go, with no other merit than it’ the first thing that popped into our heads!

I could probably go (rigidly) on and on, but I think one of the biggest mountains to traverse for a writer to be successful is accepting change. That the first draft isn’t CANON (I mean Tolkien’s first version of Strider was a hobbit with prosthetic feet, aren’t we glad for Aragon?)

 

What do you do to overcome attachment to darlings?

I want my horror recited by Raven and Sci-Fi explained by a patronizing robot

Written World Media, one of my favorite sources of information on publishing, published earlier this month a post on the trends that will define our industry in 2017 (if you don’t subscribe to its newsletter, you should; it’s free, comes out only once or twice a month, and is filled with tips, tricks, and industry […]

via 9 Hot Trends In Publishing In 2017 — Nicholas C. Rossis