You Get What You Pay For

A number of things swimming in my mind today.

First, I read this article from BBC, speculating about robots writing novels. We already know that computers can and do generate news and sports stories–as well as children’s books. The latter are easy to pick out, because they’re generally assembled in China, feature licensed characters, and the sentences, while following the “subject verb object” format often don’t make either sense or story. And of course anyone who has cracked a book in the last five years won’t be able to help noticing that even Big 5 publishers seem to be trying to replace actual editors with a run through spell-check. And it shows. It really, really shows.

But does anyone aside from curmudgeons like me actually care?

I’ve been reading a novel from a well-known small publisher, and it’s breaking my heart. The story is outstanding. The characters are amazing.

The proofreading is appalling, to the point that it distracts me from the story. Of course the publisher already has my money, so what do they care? Pride in work? What’s that?

At the website of the publisher, who shall remain nameless, there is a job solicitation for proofreaders. The payment? A free copy of the e-book that they edited.

Yes, it all makes sense now.

I both edit and proofread. The last thing I want is a free copy of something that I’ve been laboring to bring to a publishable state–especially with no other compensation forthcoming. Nothing would make me care less about doing a thorough job. Literally nothing. This policy goes a long way toward explaining why shitty production values are such a stereotype in some circles.

This publisher currently has proofreader vacancies. Color me surprised.

A lot of people think “content should be free.” I’ve posted about this before, so I’ll let that poor, dead horse lie. A lot of people–enough people to support cheapshit bottom-of-the-barrel ebook production–apparently don’t mind a crap product if it’s cheap. Cheez Whiz for your brain.

I wonder how long before a computer can generate a novel that is sufficiently readable, and no one will pay authors at all?

Considering my knack for entering a profession just as it’s winking out, I’d imagine it won’t be long.

We get what we’re willing to pay for.

Published by jfaraday

Jess Faraday is an award-winning author of historical suspense.

2 thoughts on “You Get What You Pay For

  1. I feel sorry for that author. Surely they thought or were led to believe that more care would be taken with their work. And who is this publisher who has so little pride? Blargh!

    Very interesting article. I recently read Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, about robotics and networking. Among many things, the book talks about robot caregivers and pets that provide “love” to the elderly. Robots are getting sophisticated enough to do really advanced things that we once thought were the exclusive province of humans, and yet… robots can’t love, feel or be creative. They are merely performing to produce a result. A novel “written” by a robot may appear to be the same type of product, but it has been arrived at via an entirely different process. If some future critic pronounces it “good”, it will be because the critic feels and is human, not because the robot ever had any “insight” into the “meaning” of the product its algorithms generated. I wish that the discussions of how ! Amazing ! technology is, would touch more upon this point.

  2. The BBC article was fascinating–especially the idea that computers learn by ingesting feedback from humans about what makes a satisfying story. If I were a programmer, I’d consider this a really cool intellectual exercise. Unfortunately….

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