Love joke books. Fear Dan Brown.

(reprinted from my comment on Emily Magazine responding to this)

I dunno, threadjack [the guy with the other comment. I edited one of those dumb stupid scarce-resource-hogging books, a book called “Twitter Wit,” which I have specific defenses for, but I’ll make the general defenses:

1. There were always gimmick books. There will always be gimmick books. There were always literary books. There will always be literary books.

2. While there technically is scarcity, in that there is only so much money for the publishers to spend on paying authors and promoting books, this does not necessarily mean that all books are competing against each other. My book is *not* competing against the new Pynchon. No editor will *ever* take one look at a worthy literary work, take another look at my book, and decide to only pick one. Even if they did, the losing book would be shown to more editors!

3. The “bullshit” books DO NOT MAKE A LOT OF MONEY. Let me repeat this. Crowd-sourced, instant-audience, gift-shop books DO NOT MAKE LARGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY. Mine is middle-of-the-road. Blakeley’s advance was a little steep, and I’m betting the book doesn’t earn that money back, but only a couple hundred thousand were probably spent on the whole project, tops. What makes the money, and for all I know really does kill good books, is BLOCKBUSTER PROSE.

Think about it. My book: It’ll earn maybe a few hundred grand for HarperCollins if I’m lucky. LATFHipster: Probably the same. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol? Millions and millions of dollars. And to make sure that happens, Doubleday markets the fuck out of that thing. They printed 5 million copies. They paid for ads and displays and the top in-house publicists to land him on the biggest TV shows.

And is the book any good? No.

THEREFORE, blaming poor support of good literature on the proliferation of so-called gimmick books (again, I have a personal argument for why Twitter Wit is actually worthy, mostly because its content is wide-ranging and its contributors include aspiring authors and entertainers) is like blaming world hunger on an American kid who doesn’t finish his dinner. It’s a false causality that ignores the vast system at work.

4. I may as well believe you that people aren’t reading good literature as much as before, but I can’t recall any hard evidence for this. Over the long run, didn’t the sea change in literacy rates actually increase reading of the classics? On the other hand, William Goldman (author of The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy, and All the President’s Men) has said for decades that Hollywood is definitely going to shit because they just want to make Jaws over and over instead of using the big movies to pay the budgets of the little movies. And I’ll take Goldman’s word for that.

[ED: YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Meaghan O’Connell explains that Tumblr is not killing creativity]

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