Are Traditionally Published Books Really Better?

Since the Ebook Revolution has taken off, there’s been no lack of supporters and detractors of it. One of the things I read repeatedly from the skeptics is that, “…most indie published stuff is trash – or crap…” Those same skeptics go on to state, “unlike indie ebooks, traditionally published books and novels are polished, professionally vetted and edited”.

Watching Good Morning America, they were talking about this years ‘Hot Summer Reads’. In showcasing the new thrillers, Tom Clancy’s ‘Against All Enemies’ caught my interest. I enjoy Clancy’s work, but I haven’t read one of his novels in a long time.

I went to my Kindle and looked up Against All Enemies. A few things turned me off. First, the price of the e-book is $12.99. The hardcover is $15.38. The second thing I noticed is that Tom Clancy and Peter Telep authored the book. Collaborations are nothing new, but when I saw that the book had a two star rating (41 one-star vs. 11 five-star reviews), I knew something was up.

Reading the reviews, it was evident to die-hard Clancy fans that this book “was not written by Clancy”. The style and voice are very different. More telling was that several reviewers stated that the military technical details of the story were incorrect in several areas. Anyone who knows Clancy knows that detailed military technical knowledge is his expertise. It was suggested that Telep wrote it and Clancy just put his name on the cover (without proofreading it) to make it sell.

Here are some of the comments:

“I made it to page 2 before seeing proof that this is another non-Clancy work. Here’s a part of a sentence describing the Pakistan Special Service Group: (it isn’t dialogue)
“…an organization similar to the U.S. Navy SEALs, but, ahem, their operators were hardly as capable.”

‘Ahem’? Amongst non-dialogue description in a book not written in any 1st-person narrative? C’mon. I stopped reading at page 14, and I’m returning the purchase…”


“The style is very different, there is none of the descriptive writing that is Clancy’s style. The writing in fact is very poor and vague.”


“Why Tom? You surely don’t need the money? Why do this to your fans? To treat people who’ve loved your work like this is worse than low, it’s just crass.

And Putnam? This is a disgraceful act from a book company, supposedly staffed by people who care about books. Was Sales & Marketing in charge of this debacle? Figures low this year, were they? How did the book lovers in your company let this through? Did anyone in Editing put up their hand and say ‘Ah, guys…’ Because edited, it was not… Basically, I’m thinking everyone just threw up their hands and said, ‘Too hard, 5 o’clock, I gotta train to catch.’

A shamelessly cynical exercise, and a sad day for novel lovers. Shame, people, shame.”

‘Nuff said.

In looking at other Clancy novels published over the past few years, also with two star ratings (see Dead Or Alive and Teeth of the Tiger), I saw similar complaints, “shabby”, “needed editing” , and “horrible writing”

I wonder what those who are traditional publishing proponents would say?

Whether Putnam is having sub-standard writer’s pen the books and using Clancy’s name to sell them, or releasing poorly written books by an author who has for whatever reason, lost his edge – is this no less “trash” or “crap”, but at a much higher price? Who is truly doing the reader a greater disservice?

5 thoughts on “Are Traditionally Published Books Really Better?

  1. Victoria says:

    You make a good point. Junk comes in many forms, even from those who should know better. There are a lot of bad ebooks. There are a lot of good ones out there too.

    • BigW says:

      Very true Victoria, and I have been enjoying a lot of indie ebooks lately.

    • Ases says:

      Today we took the kids to a bouncy-bounce pooryalm kind of place. At the place, there is a little mini-carosel (probably misspelled that) with three seats for kids to ride on it. My two older kids love this thing. It takes 4 tokens to make it work, each token being $.25. The ride lasts for a minute? Maybe. I gave no thought whatsoever to plunking a buck at a time probably 6 or 7 times. Not just because the kids like it, but because really, it’s a buck. And I have fun watching them have fun. So whatever.A buck a minute, and I didn’t feel ripped off or anything. But I surely must charge $.99 for a full length novel that takes several hours to read. Riiiiight. Sure. Whatever. Hell, I’m buying into the notion of $2.99 for short stories as well, now that I’ve thought it through a bit. I mean, how much does a comic book costs these days? Not much more than a short story there, is there?Just sayin’

  2. OMG! BigW, you are so right! I just got done with an online discussion with a legacy author who keeps insisting that all the indie “crap” in the Kindle store is going to turn readers off of reading. He seems to think that anything published indie will automatically be worse than something coming out of NY. I can’t believe what BS that is!

    Also, he thinks that this indie publishing world we are in now is a bubble that will pop and everyone will have to go back to traditional publishing anyway, so we should all just seek a traditional publisher anyway. He thinks e-books are a trend and once the fad is over, everyone will go back to reading print books.

    As for as I’m concerned, these people are in serious denial and need take their heads out of the sand and see what is really happening and what will happen.

    • BigW says:

      Hi Melissa,

      There will always be those who deny any sort of changes because it scares them. It disrupts the routine of their lives and takes them out of their comfort zone. Change is a permanent part of life – and like with all change – you need to adapt or become obsolete.

      This so called “bubble” will pop, but not in the way he thinks. Right now traditional publishing is a Pangaea that’s coming apart. Once the turmoil of the movement is over, publishing will be transformed into all new continents.


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