Why Everyone’s An Author Now

Reading & Writing


The Observer just ran an interesting article that confirmed my suspicions. A marketeer uploaded a fake book onto Amazon, took a photo of his foot for the cover and added it into Amazon’s format, bought three copies and was awarded a ‘Number 1 Amazon Bestseller’ banner by the company. What he did was tick two madly opposing categories that the book supposedly covered – there are sixty of them to choose from – so that technically he was number one in a field of three.

It’s incredible how many authors feel threatened by Amazon and outraged by the idea of non-professional authors writing. I don’t. I think anything that gets people writing is a good thing, and there are those who through writing will discover a skill in themselves.

Back in the 1980s everyone was panicked by the idea that video would destroy cinema – it didn’t; after the early days of plunging box office admissions video eventually grew the market and encouraged it. In my neighbourhood alone we’ve gained arthouse screens, indie cinemas, rep houses and too many pop-up cinemas to count.

In books, hardbacks are having a resurgence and people are reading more. The problem remains that the young have too many other distractions, but many discover a love of reading as they get older. So let them read – and write – but there’s no quick fix. I live opposite the film director Mike Figgis, and his partner is a concert pianist. Yesterday she sat down at her piano first thing – and was still there at ten o’clock last night. I get it – this is exactly what you have to do.

I started yesterday at 6:00am and finished at 9:00pm – this is quite normal. On the flipside of this I have a friend who tells everyone he’s a writer but to my knowledge has no interest at all in putting in the hours, and has never produced anything. Rather, he likes the idea of being a writer, a bit like kids who decide they’ll go on a talent show and sing. But the real pleasure of writing is to see a well-turned phrase or look at the shape of your finished work. You don’t become a writer to get dates. In my experience, writers usually work without a readership in mind.

So everyone’s a writer now? Maybe. Not everyone will put in the sheer hard graft to become a halfway decent one. But those who do will find it a very satisfying vocation.

6 comments on “Why Everyone’s An Author Now”

  1. Ness says:

    But not every ‘writer’ has readers, let alone those who enjoy a book on merit not hype.

    I’ve decided it was a mistake to start reading The Sand Men this week as 33c outside temperatures are making it way too evocative. Bin night tomorrow – I’ll be putting the bags out in daylight hours.

  2. slabman says:

    Damn – I wondered why sales had dropped off for the biography of my foot (“Pedal Extremity”)

  3. Ness says:

    I hope it was your right foot, the left has been there, done that…

  4. Helen Martin says:

    However, a mass murderer wrote a book and put it on Amazon. I don’t know whether he sold any but it took the government threatening action to have it taken down. There is a law against criminals benefitting from their crimes. There is a problem with taking the book down because a book would be one way for an innocent person to stimulate interest in reviewing a case but where does one draw the line? It was suggested that the income (if any) could have been directed to victims’ services.
    This is a trifle off topic but it’s what happens when publishing is uneditted. (Why don’t benefit & edit double the T at the end?)

  5. Matt says:

    I write, just for myself. I enjoy reading my own stories. Who doesn’t? I would never publish as I am scared of criticism, a bad review on Amazon would kill me…

    I agree though most people like to think of themselves as something but are hardly ever bothered enough to put the time in.

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    And record pluggers knew which stores to buy records in to skew the charts, I’m sure the same could be done with books too. Plus reviews are from more sources know, not just by someone in a newspaper who happens to be in the same circle as the publisher and so on, Private Eye makes wonderful reading of this.

    On Amazon the bad reviews are usually more helpful than the good, if it’s generic ‘its terrible’ then it’s safe to read the good ones, the reviews that warn of bad formatting to bad story telling help. One of my favourite reviews began ‘I don’t normally finish books but….’ I thought why bother getting books, I never finished the review.


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