Don’t worry, I’m not about to pitch you anything. I recently decided to give my first book away, thinking that I’ll get more readers and set my second book, still being worked on, in a better position to have some sort of following when it comes out. I decided to download some other free books, just to scope out the competition. I’ve been surprised by how readable and enjoyable they’ve been so far.
The first thing you need to do is get rid of your idea of what quality is. We’ve all been trained to equate slickness with quality, so that we’d rather watch a smoothly made, insipid and intellectually vacuous film than something rougher but more daring and interesting. Ahem. The same goes for books. Souless, mass produced books have essentially become advertisements for themselves, all of the content is cynically designed to sell books, literature has been reduced to the marketing of paper and data patterns on your e-reader.
With amateur books, you get something else entirely. Some are echoes of that sort of writing, but you also get daring, bizarre, and unfiltered works. There’s no editor telling the author that such and such won’t sell, so anything can happen. Authors can experiment, sometimes perhaps without knowing they are. And if you have to slog through some uninspired exchanges, you also are often rewarded with wildly creative insights into our culture.
It’s probably true that a large number of them may be unrewarding experiences. But I think it’s worth it to get outside of the American style of censorship and to start breaking away from the entertaining at all costs mentality that’s ruining our culture.