An excellent newsletter which I appreciate because it articulates well my own lived experience. As a children's book writer and illustrator I became fed up with hearing from editors "you use too large a vocabulary and your images are too sophisticated" so I began selfpublishing. When I was a kid I absolutely loved big words I didn't know. I made up what they meant and had such fun doing so. Eventually I discovered dictionaries but that didn't diminish my curiosity about unknown words. Also as a child I would look at complex images for hours- the more complex the better! Even simple line drawings can be complex in concept and fascinating to a kid like me. Consider the work of Richard Scary, Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, Beatrix Potter - I wonder if they submitted work today, as an unknown, if they'd be published today.

Anyhoo- that's why I do selfpublishing so I can create the words and images I'd like to see.

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Thanks Sue,

I was reflecting just the other day that the books that I read as a child were in many ways more sophisticated in their themes, the emotions and experiences they dealt with, and their use of language than most of what is written for adults today.

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So true what you say. I haunt used bookstores and love to find, for example, textbooks about art written in the 19th or 20th century. I have one art education textbook written in the early 1940s intended for preteens that surpasses in complexity of concept and language any of my late 1980s college fine art textbooks. As a young adult I learned more about color, composition etc from a book intended for 12 year olds at the beginning of WW2 than anything written a bit over 40 years later for university students.

So, yes, I read old books for the new thoughts in them. 😁

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I think you're right about taste being taught. A lot of people are scared off by the perceived difficulty of reading older fiction, and to be sure, it can be hard to get used to. It's much easier to stick to what you know and what's easy to digest. But in doing so, they're unfortunately missing out on some really good stuff.

Also, I admit that I hate the whole "everything must be a novel series" trend. You would think that short stories would be more popular in an era when people are starved for time. Apparently not.

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Dynamite essay! You said pretty much what I gleaned the year I tried to sell my novel. I reached the same conclusions about the business side of publishing but you broadened your observations to include a bigger cultural problem as well. I think this idea of the ebb and flow of cultural confidence is an very interesting insight. I sincerely thank you for writing this. It's helpful to find out I'm not so paranoid after all.

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Fantastic points!

I would suggest that this kind of averaging and optimizing is not only top-down from "editors" but also stems from the bottom-up through direct-to-consumer self-publishing.

As you've no doubt discovered in researching self publishing, the overwhelming narrative of "how to succeed" (and the visual evidence of Amazon bestseller charts seems to vouch for the truth of this) is to eliminate any aspect of your product that doesn't immediately conform to reader expectations for whatever genre you're targeting. Hence, everything "tends to" looks the same, read the same, and feature the same expected story structure and tropes.

This "formulafication" makes self publishing extremely vulnerable to AI.

I wrote a two part letter touching more broadly on this subject myself (if you are interested): https://josepharroyo.substack.com/p/western-civilization-deserves-ai



(I apologize for sharing my own letter in yours, but I would be quite interested in your take on my take on the impact of self publishing). Also, I do honestly wonder if there are any "pure" readers on Substack, or if everyone on here is also a writer!)

I have really enjoyed reading your essays, and I've glad to have discovered your writing!

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