Friday, June 08, 2007

A Quality Product

I am a lifelong student of American pop culture. I have watched intently as the Baby Boomer generation evolved into the consumer powerhouse that it has become. Products have developmental and marketing patterns that can be plotted on a chart. Each product category has its own chart. Some categories, and therefore their charts, have been greatly affected by the psychosocial influences of their respective markets. For example, are modern teenaged girls morons because they seek to emulate Paris Hilton; or is the Paris Hilton phenomenon prevalent because modern teenaged girls are morons? Is it the chicken or the egg? Is it the chickadee or the airhead? I think the truth evolves from some of both.

If you reduce every component within a product category down to a simple dollars-and-cents equation, the result will look just like America's consumer culture in 2007. The race to the bottom eventually benefits no one except the last CEO still standing. The pursuit of art and quality will be the first chicken on the chopping block.

This brings us to the POD market phenomenon. Anyone who cannot see clearly that a modern American new author has less chance every day of succeeding in the traditional publishing market is obviously writing blindly to the oblivion. iUniverse offers a dim, distant beacon through the oblivion for any who choose to rise to the light.

If you choose to move toward the light, I want to be one who helps you achieve your goals and reach an appreciative audience. Quality and professionalism are the leading attributes I seek to achieve, and these are the same things I look for most in an iUniverse book I have selected for review. The composition of the subject matter is your job. The production of the product is the job of iUniverse. Unlike your image of what you have always perceived tradtional publishers to be like, iU works more like your computer than it does Random House. By that I mean garbage in, garbage out. The people at iUniverse just produce the Word document you give them. The only person who can change this is you. It's up to you to produce the product that any reader will be proud to own. It's bad enough that iU charges for your book by the pound, but they don't much care one way or the other about the quality of the product. The elevator is out of order and you have to carry your own bags up the stairs.

The more you can write a book as if you had to read it, the more likely someone else will like to read it, too. In nearly all cases, the time and effort you put into the project will become obvious to the reader. The reverse is also true. When I am examining a book for review, I always look first for evidence of true quality. The subject matter, genre, and plotline are secondary issues as far as I am concerned. I want deserving authors to succeed. It matters very little to me that the book's audience is large or small. Of course the more competitve the territorial genre is, the more critical the plotlines become. If you write about a subject with very little competition within the subject field, there is somewhat less reason to be concerned with compeitive choices offered by other authors or publishers.

Paris Hilton disturbs me a million times more than the details of your plotline. If I was boss of the world, such media explosions of triviality would never exist. You would not be able to hog all the shelf space at B&N just because your face has been on TV a lot and you could afford to hire a good ghost writer. If I was boss, we would make all our consumer entertainment purchases on the basis of quality. Television media, subject matter obsessors, and slap-fighters would have no say-so in the matter. Every book sold would be purely because it was the best quality product the author and publisher could produce.

There are three reasons why I accept only printed iUniverse books for review. Here they are in descending order of importance. (1) I spend all my computer time doing research; not reading books. I have a lot of opportunity outside my computer time to read books, and that's when I read books. (2) It keeps the riff-raff out. The iUniverse marketing plan places a little higher bar on the authors than does Lulu. All the other POD companies are either overpriced or underfunded. As an iU author myself, I am fully aware of the details of the company's product. I understand what the company does well and what it does not. I could start a big slap fight at this point right now, but I try not to do that on this site. Some of you think the pathway to success is to publish your book without a known POD company name on it. I see your point, but I do not agree with it. I think writers should expend their energies in other ways, such as taking the time to proofread their works more effectively. (3) If you have to pay for, box up, and take a copy of your book to the post office to send it to me for a review, then you have invested at least a little time, money, and effort. You care enough to obtain the best for your baby. I offer a lot of personal service in the deal. Only those who have put forth more effort should receive more in return. As I said in reason #2, it keeps the riff-raff out.

This is the home of the honest, legitimate reviews for iUniverse books, so don't expect flowery praise for every element of your book. Yes, I am still the official, anti-corporate cheerleader for iUniverse authors. I still may present you with kinder reviews than some others might offer. You have to read between the lines. If you're not any good at that, what are you doing trying to be an author?

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