This Story Has Everything, About A Story That Has Nothing

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?

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