I have to comment on a recent story in the Huffington Post by Real Time With Bill Maher writer Chris Kelly about the novel recently published with Glenn Beck‘s name on. It has everything a lit industry blogger could want:
Self-publishing. Derivative plot-lines. The influence of celebrity on sales. The question of whether literary merits — or other, less culturally healthy influences — drive publishers.
And, although Kelly’s story is at the left-leaning HuffPost, he shows how the same crummy politics can be used by both sides of the partisan divide. Entitled “Glenn Beck’s New Novel About Liberals Staging 9/11 Is a Lot Like a 2005 Novel About Conservatives Staging 9/11,” the piece reveals how the plot of The Overton Window, credited to right-wing celebrity Glenn Beck, is remarkably similar to a relatively obscure self-published novel called Circumference of Darkness, by a writer Beck thanks in the credits of Overton.
In Overton, right-wingers are the heroes and left-wingers are the villains. In Circumference, as you probably guessed, it’s the other way around.
But, backed by a publisher marketing blitz and a famous media personality’s name on the cover, the book will likely hit the best-seller lists. This touches on so many issues I read about on the various writing and publishing blogs I frequent:
♠ In a practical sense, is the marketing of a book is the responsibility of someone whose function is to write, or someone whose function is to market? Which way is the most professional, in terms of working best?
♠ If the book really is as horrendous as so many reviewers are claiming, wasn’t self-published limbo where it belonged? And, by extension, is limbo where any book that has to be self-published belongs? Leading us to…
♠ What does this say about the comparative value of self-publishing vs. traditional literary agent filtering? Would the literary agent model have protected readers from being pitched such a dreck novel? Or, on the other hand, shouldn’t a profit-seeking lit agent have considered hooking up this dreck novel with a famous pundit’s name so it would sell?
♠ Finally, does this mean that the profit motive and quality tend to have an inverse relationship in publishing?