Why doesn’t America read?
Well, it isn’t a simple answer. Certainly, there are still many out there perusing internet articles for current events or scanning various sites for information, but where are all the Americans who read for entertainment?
Anyone who does actually read will claim that there are large communities of readers on sites like Goodreads, that there are plenty of places to download e-books like Smaswhords, and that the big boom in books released through Amazon and to e-readers would prove that there plenty of readers in America, but in truth, it’s a very small fraction of the country that engages in the lost art of reading.
Here’s a quick quote from the L.A. Times
The study found that overall, 72% of American adults have read a book in the past year, while the percentage for millennials, ages 18 to 29, was higher: 80%. The percentage of overall book readers dropped from the previous year, when 76% of American adults reported having read a book, either all or part of one.
Do you see? These are people who have read a book in a year, and not even a whole book; lot’s of people try to read, and then give up after a few pages, but why? Furthermore, the study doesn’t discuss what kind of book was read and why; some people glance at a non-fiction book for information, but does that count as reading?
The major presses are releasing tons of books for entertainment in America and other countries, but the presses are way out of touch with today’s audience; they don’t post book releases and reviews to social media outlets, they don’t really show any commercials for new releases on television, and unless someone is already a subscriber to Reader’s Digest, there isn’t anyone out there reading magazines containing book releases, but is marketing the problem?
No, it isn’t. The problem is that today, everyone and their grandmother can sit down at their computer, type out 50,000 words, buy a cover from some photoshop artist, and release it through Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu. These people are often called indie authors, but that’s incorrect; indie authors are published through indie presses like Baen, actual presses with editors, marketers, and printers. The correct term is self published author, and these authors release their books through POD companies like Friesen Press; it’s a flurry of unedited mush, and, all too often, self published authors also release e-books, which flood the market, through Amazon and Smashwords.
But why is that a bad thing? Is it inappropriate to write a book and release it? Would not the readers and the market decide if the author and book are worth buying? In a free trade system, yes, but these authors get together through social media and trade books with each other, so that they can all give each other 5 star reviews on book sites. The result is a poorly written, cliched, stagnant piece with 100 5 star reviews enticing readers to buy a book, and then readers purchase it to find the writer wasn’t able to string together five words, much less reveal a cogent plot, and so they feel shilled, and they give their 1 star review, but it doesn’t end there. That doesn’t solve the problem.
You see, these self published authors get together on social media and tell each other to support other self published authors because they write for a living and need to pay their bills, so they all congregate and talk about trading good reviews in order to boost their sales, and there doesn’t seem to be anybody out there trying to dissuade them from this practice, which fools unsuspecting readers into buying trash.
Now, not all self published authors are terrible writers just like not all mainstream books are properly written. Some of them hire professional editors, others buy manuals to learn how to properly edit, some find beta-readers for feedback before a release, and some have degrees in literature or composition, but it’s so overly difficult to know which author has an inkling of editing when tons and tons and tons of e-books are flooding the market, and as I said, they all have hundreds of glowing reviews.
Another problem is the book reviewer industry. When a major press, or even a true, indie press, releases a book, they hire professional reviewers from companies like Kirkus to read and write a real, professional review on the book; these are paid professionals who take their careers very seriously, and they will describe in detail the good and bad points of the book. Furthermore, if the book is terrible, they will explain why and provide their rating for everyone to see. Self published authors don’t do this; they claim that paid reviews are biased, but it’s the paid reviewers that tell and post the truth!
Here’s the kicker, since these self published authors have been destroyed by real reviewers, they resort to each other for fake reviews, and they will even find blog sites and review sites to post reviews. Many will go so far as to create fake email accounts with which they create fake Amazon accounts, and then they give themselves great fake reviews.
On top of that, too often, these non-professional reviewers promise that they will NOT post a bad review. Instead, if they don’t like the book, rather than shaming the author, they opt out of posting the review, but reviews are not for authors, they are supposed to be for READERS. Readers deserve to know if a book is a waste of their time and money!
So, why doesn’t America read anymore? Because every time an American tries to pick up a book and start reading, their eyes are assaulted by uninspired dialogue, unbelievable characters, convoluted, nonsensical plots, and feel so disgusted with the world of reading, that they become jaded, thinking that books are simply terrible. In the end, they aren’t wrong because most of the mainstream trash is also poorly edited, and I’ve blogged extensively about that as well. You can see it here on Quora.
What can be done? Writers, all writers, can start hiring competent editors. You can learn more about editing here.
No one is saying that people should stop writing; it’s great that so many Americans have decided to put their thoughts into words, but they should do their due diligence and make their work a professional masterpiece; it doesn’t matter if the concept within the story is any good, everybody has different tastes, what matters is the quality of the writing, and the only way to let readers know whether a book is worth reading is by posting a real review.
If a book is bad, people need to say so. If a book is good, people need to say so, but what’s killing the reading industry is the masses of self published authors trading these fake reviews and these non-professional reviewers deciding NOT to post bad reviews; they must post bad reviews because reviews are for readers, not authors.
Add to that the dreck spewed from the disconnected, mainstream publishers, and what do you have? Americans that don’t want to read!
The Brian Griffins of the writing industry have been taking over. Someone needs to curtail this horrendous practice and restore reading and writing in America to its former glory.
Not only do readers deserve to know if a book is readable, but the authors deserve to hear why their book was bad, so that they can sit back and improve on their next novel. So many self-published authors write and release a book every month; there’s no way a book written that quickly is ready for release, and these clowns have no idea that they can’t write because they’re surrounded by their own ilk, raving about how amazing their book is, even though it lacks any kind of punctuation, all the characters talk the same, the plot makes no sense and wanders off like a drunken horse, and offers no lesson whatsoever.
Add to that all the mainstream writers out there buying 5,000 copies of their own books in order to fake their way onto the New York Time’s Best Seller list. It’s all garbage. It’s all designed to take your money; it’s no wonder America doesn’t read!
Do you want America to start reading again? You can help to solve the problem. Before you buy a book, take a look at the reviews; look at the 5 star reviews, look at the 1 star reviews, and then, on Amazon, you can click “look inside” and actually check to see if the writer was able to keep an idea within a paragraph; there’s an art to writing; it isn’t just words on a page. Each word has to fill the sentence with life. Each paragraph has to drive the essence of the story forwards. Each piece of dialogue has to sound like people conversing, and if an author fails in these concepts, readers will drop the book and walk away, enraged at the fact they just blew 2 dollars.
Please, America, read again; read reviews, good and bad, take a look inside the book, you have the opportunity, and on Smashwords, you can often download a free sample of the book. You can check out sample on Barnes and Noble, too. You have the powers to fix the issue, so stop complaining that no one reads anymore, and start promoting great books, and start chastising bad books.
Readers, you wonderful, American readers out there who still love finding a diamond in the rough, please review all the books you purchase; reader reviews are by far more important than professional or author reviews. If you want America to read again, give them a reason; talk about how good a book was; talk about how bad a book was; inform your fellow readers, so that all of you might band together on social media like the self published authors who are trying to trick you into buying a 50,000 word train wreck.
Be wary, be very, very wary; lots of self published authors will maliciously post negative reviews for writers if the other writer gave them an honest, bad review on their book. I’ve seen it; one author trades a book, he or she posts a review of the other author, and then, when they get their bad review in return, that author will remove their first review, and write a scathing indictment instead only to try and make themselves feel better, so it’s up to you, the American reader, to fix the book industry. If you love to read then you must review for better or worse, and you must tell your friends and family as well.
Help me make reading fun again. Please, but don’t just stop there, either. If you’re a professional book blogger or book reviewer, you can really share your influence, and you can earn money doing so.
Don’t just buy books from Smashwords. Sell books through Smashwords. Smashwords offers a super simple type of affiliate marketing where if you simply post a referral link on your site, and people buy the book through your link, you earn a portion of the sales.
Got a bookblog? Constantly discussing books with friends? Well, then, you’re selling books. Might as well earn a cut. Learn more here.