All well and good -- as I've said before, I am not opposed to opening the floodgates, as long as I have a filter, and for the most part, when I browse on Amazon, I don't even see these crappy self-published efforts unless I go looking for them.
However, something is happening that, foolishly, I didn't anticipate. I knew that most self-published authors are basically motivated by ego. They want to be published, they aren't good enough, so they convince themselves that vanity presses or self-publishing will make them a real author, and they'll show those elitist old dinosaurs in the traditional publishing industry that we don't need agents or editors any more. Deluded, but harmless.
Somehow I missed that the next step would be publishing ebooks as a purely moneymaking scheme. I mean, sure, all of these writer-wannabes also want to be rich and have Hollywood optioning the film rights, but they do, somewhere in the depths of their deluded souls, think they are actually writing a book worth reading, right? They have some writerly affection for their labor of love?
Nope. Now we've got the Kindle Swindle. Basically, you upload megabytes of keyword-optimized public-domain text into "book" form, and figure if you make an average of a buck or two a month from people who will buy a $0.99 book without looking at it too closely, and you have several hundreds books "published," you can make some real coin.
If you watch Goodreads and other book communities, you've probably already noticed that books by Books LLC show up in nearly every search. If you were to do, for example, a search for "Tomoe Gozen," you might get Japanese Women in Warfare: Naginata, Empress Jing, Onna Bugeisha, Matsudaira Teru, Tomoe Gozen, Komatsuhime, Kunoichi, Mochizuki Chiyome -- which sounds like a pretty interesting book, doesn't it? What it doesn't mention is that Books LLC basically publishes print-on-demand compilations of Wikipedia articles for outrageous prices, without telling you that's what they are unless you look very carefully. Also, they publish public domain books -- selling to the unwary what they could get for free from Project Gutenberg.
This is perfectly legal, though unquestionably sleazy.
Then there is Henry Baum of Self-Publishing Review saying bad writing doesn't matter anymore. His argument is basically that there are plenty of people who could care less if your writing is full of spelling and grammatical errors and has plot holes through which you could float the Death Star. If thousands of people will read really bad fan fiction, some small fraction of them will pay $0.99 for really bad original fiction if there is something in it that entertains them.
I cannot find myself in disagreement with Baum, in general. Given how horrifically bad most YA fiction is nowadays, it's clear that most young people are more about the squee than the writing quality. Of course good authors (and traditional publishers) aren't going to go away, but this does cast a different shadow over the future of the publishing industry.
Imagine pining for the days when Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer were considered the benchmark against which bad pro-fiction was measured?
(And yes, let's be honest -- as bad as Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer are, their writing is at least... readable. It's bad, but not slush pile-bad.)
Another trend is that all these self-publishers are being taught (by the enthusiastic self-publishing advocates who mostly make money by selling self-published ebooks about how to self-publish your ebook) to spam social media sites and have your friends and family pimp your book. In some cases, the scheme is to artificially boost Amazon's ranking of your book for a day or two, enough to put it on the first page and get people to buy it.
What I am seeing as a result is more and more spam like this. abbypeace is obviously either the author or someone paid by the author to do a blitz of every vaguely book-related comm on LiveJournal, as well as setting up phony magazine articles for publicity.
Check out a writing sample of this crap. And yes, I know by posting links I'm ironically boosting this fellow's signal in the search engines, but somehow I doubt it's really going to lead to more sales. At least, I hope not.
The point is, more and more of these people are going to be flooding the market, and book sites.