How Publishing Is Rigged You thought it was a meritocracy??


About This Site.

Welcome to How Publishing Is Rigged.

This site is a plea for sanity. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the dismal state of modern publishing and I’ll be using this site to share what I've learned. I care passionately about the future of literature and this site is my attempt to publicly expose the many things that are wrong with modern publishing. Please know that my efforts here are all for the good; I'm looking for change, and hopefully you’re here because you care and you also want things to change.

Once you get familiar with what’s available at How Publishing Is Rigged, you'll witness that publishing is controlled by a handful of individuals and their attendant cliques, and you’ll see that these people are the worst arbiters of quality. This small group of people gets to decide what’s read by the rest of the world, and that world is nothing like the decision-makers. Collectively and individually, today's literary gatekeepers are on the lookout for certain elements in the stories they publish: they seek writing that is cold, formulaic, uptight, boring, humorless and lifeless. The end result? The worst stuff gets published—at the magazine level and at the book level. The poor quality of the work has readers abandoning literature in droves. It’s no wonder that the publishing industry is in shambles—nobody wants to read what’s being published today.

In magazines and in books, I’m seeing the same kinds of stories over and over again, and all are devoid of real emotional content. I see MFA-type stories chock-full of English professors. I see nonsensical gibberish stories, stories that are nothing but trifling observations, and stories that go into great descriptive detail but lack any notion of substance or depth. On this site, I’ll perform detailed analyses of specific writers and works that exhibit these current literary trends, and in doing so, I'll expose the failures of these trends.

We want to feel something when we read a good story. We want fiction that has immediate and lasting impact on our souls and our lives, not the same old useless crap that we’re getting from today’s decision-makers. To turn the publishing business around, we need to boot today's literary gatekeepers and demand wholesale changes throughout the industry. And I'm not talking about buying more e-books, I'm talking about real changes that permeate every level of the publishing business. We don't want our literature to “hew to the established line” because the established line sucks. Anyone who defends the rules of modern publishing is either personally invested in the propagation of the current literary trends, or simply doesn't fully understand the extent of the damage that's been caused by those currently in power. Real changes in the industry will only be brought about by dramatic changes within its very core. Do your part and demand those changes from the gatekeepers out there in the Lit Biz world. Together, we can bring about the real changes that are needed.

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Four Kinds Of Stories

booksThe crappy stories coming out today can basically be broken into a few key types, each with particular identifying characteristics. Stories might feature slightly different topics and subject matters, but once you start to analyze the fiction that's most eagerly pushed by those in power, you can easily assign one or more of the following labels to each story. (There can also be a fair amount of overlap, as you'll soon see.) As I expose some of the truly awful literature that’s out today, I'll use these categories to describe the stuff I'm picking apart.

Modern literature would be in a much healthier place if instead of being able to lump contemporary fiction into the above categories, we were unable to assign labels to the work we read. I’d much rather discover that a story is new, fresh, different, and defies categorization. But what I've found again and again is that everything that I read can be labeled with at least one of the above four categories.

At magazines big and small, editors are all looking for the same attributes for the work that they publish: Be boring. Be lifeless. Be humorless. And the result is that all of these stories are fundamentally the same. And the editors at the publishing houses are no better than editors at the magazines. They also stick to the established formula and publish things that are safe: “We published Safe Novel X last year. Safe Novel Y looks just like Safe Novel X so let’s publish that one too.”

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Gibberish Stories


Most of the fiction that’s published today can be categorized into one of four categories, and in this examination of prominent story types, I’ll look at the “Gibberish” type of story. Do keep in mind that there can be a fair amount of overlap between the story types. A Gibberish Story can also be a Crumb, for example. The other types of stories include:

There is an increasing trend among the Indie Lit crowd to write nothing but nonsense. A reader of these Gibberish Stories doesn't even need to pay attention to what's on the page to “get the idea” of what was written. Because in actuality, there’s nothing to get; a reader can make up the bits he might have skipped anyway, since anything goes and the actual words used in a Gibberish Story are unimportant. In the Gibberish Story, holes ooze teeth roadways and pimple scarlet booby traps of eyeball lighthouses.

The people in that Indie Lit scene try to get away with so-called-liking this Gibberish stuff because one doesn't have to understand or even read a word of it to talk about it with their friends. It's like interpreting an ink blot—nothing's wrong, per se. And it's all “art,” right? So everyone can have and discuss their opinions, they can argue the merits of one thing and the demerits of another thing they've read in a Gibberish Story. They can even “disagree” with their friends (there are few things scarier to a Lit Biz person than going out on a limb and slamming something that is counter to what all of their friends are promoting) and feel good about themselves for “taking a stand.” For the lazy and the conflict-averse, this Gibberish is perfect fodder for a literary discussion among hipsters. They don’t have to read anything, and they don’t have to make real arguments that might be counter to what their friends are saying because nobody’s wrong and nobody’s right. Everyone gets a gold star for participating, just like in nursery school.

But give this Gibberish stuff to any real person and they'll tell you that it's total crap. The security guard on the night watch at my office would get through the first sentence of a Gibberish story and quit right there. He'd tell me he'd rather pass his between-rounds time playing solitaire, thank you very much. Hell, I'd rather pass my time covered in crawly things.

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Bauble Stories

Antique Jewelry BoxMost fiction published today can be quickly identified as one of four basic story types and in this post, I’ll look at what I call the “Bauble Story.” The other types of stories are listed here—but please remember—there can be a fair amount of overlap. An MFA Story can have a lot of Bauble Story elements, for example. The other story types are:

The Bauble Story is the stuff that is most easily identified by its close attention to surface details about delicate things—and most often, foodie-type things: detailed descriptions of culinary creations, baubles of an edible sort. Details about stemware and A-line dresses, three kinds of blue cheeses and carefully-folded lingerie. Pretty dainty pretty dainty things and nothing else, stories that are like a slow walk around Tiffany’s. Never you mind that an itemized list of delicate details offers nothing more than a glimpse of your grandmother's linen closet; the more delicate and boring the details, the better. A Bauble Story clasps its hankie-holding, lace-gloved hand to its just-modest-enough décolleté and sighs in relief: We've not gone too far. Our heart's gone a mite bit aflutter, but all's well after all.

The rich, emotionally terrified people who write these stories—and they don’t have to be women, or even feminine topics; masculine concepts (imagine detailed descriptions of the weathered surface of a leather messenger bag) are equally viable as subjects in a Bauble Story—are getting only so far themselves. And to protect their delicate sensibilities, these people have chosen to write about the safest, most boring things ever. And I'll ask again: why do they think we want to read this stuff? We're interested in literature that takes us somewhere new and gets our hearts pounding, not these careful observations of delicate pretty surfaces. It's very frustrating to see the same thing in venue after venue, even as those same venues purport to be new, edgy, and different.

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