Emerald Jaguar, aka emmyjag, offered up an interesting question recently about who's to blame for published books that are riddled with errors. Is it the author's responsibility to put out polished work? Or the editorial team's? The discussion (a good one, too, accessible through the post title) resurrected a question I've occasionally tossed around in my mind.
What's the publisher's role? What's the reader's role?
It seems to me, the final arbiter of quality is the publisher. That's where the buck stops. It's the company that sets the standards for its product; it's the acquisitions editor(s) who, in accordance with those standards, must decide whether or not to give new material a chance. I can't help but wonder how, if a submitted manuscript is dreadfully written (loaded with spelling, grammatical, and syntactical errors; lacking in plot consistency; burdened by wooden dialogue and leaden characters), the damned thing gets accepted in the first place!
And the damned things do get accepted. All the time. For electronic and print publication. I suspect we've all read the output of verbally challenged writers. I don't mean people who have an essential but occasionally flawed command of their craft, I mean those who don't seem to realize authorship is a craft.
So maybe they have active imaginations capable of churning out plot devices like there's no tomorrow -- say, dragon-shifter ghosts that haunt the British Isles, looking for reincarnations of their former soulmates . . . or whatever. Maybe they have a real flair for dreaming up kinky sex scenes. Both of those capabilities are just dandy, but they don't amount to trail of rat turds if the writer doesn't have a sound command of both the language and the fundamental elements of fiction.
To quote comedian Ron White, "You can't fix stupid." Were I an editor who had some corned beef hash of a story thrust at me, I sure as hell wouldn't know how to turn it into New York Strip. And the author sure as hell wouldn't know, either, because s/he thinks that hash is New York Strip.
Ergo, it's publishers who must bear the brunt of responsibility for what kind of product they put before the reading public.
But . . . but (and here's something else to consider) what's the role of consumers? If the reading public gobbles down the hash without complaint, publishers have no incentive to improve their menus.