More on Literary Snobs

In a recent blog post of mine “Books and Literary Snobs”, I began it by saying the following:
“Since the emergence of the internet, online publishing and the plethora of books now available to us, a second disturbing breed has emerged – the literary snob.
While thanks to small press and self-publishing, it is true that the vast majority of published authors these days far outweigh the fortunate few, chosen by establishment publishers, rarely if ever will any of the former become successful.”
Since writing that post I have become even more aware of another trait among today’s literary snobs – pomposity. Sadly there are a number of people who will only ever read an author their fathers introduced them to.
The emerging author of today will be deafened by the loud ‘tut tutting’ being uttered by these narrow minded individuals who are quick to judge, based only on one reading experience of a new author’s work. If they had their way, the only books made available to the general public to read would have been written in the nineteenth century, or maybe up until the middle of the twentieth. Certainly none published by anyone other than the ‘big six’ establishment publishing houses would be allowed into the public domain in their view.
A little further on in my previous post I added the following:
“Yesterday I read a list of best selling books that were rejected for years, in some cases – decades, before the snobs within the world of establishment publishing took notice of them. The list of titles, too numerous to mention here, astounded me. Perhaps it shouldn’t. After all, they were first timers once just like you and I.”
One thing all of these pompous literary snobs seem incapable of comprehending is the fact that all writers, be they first timers, or old established hands, if they are at all serious about writing, continue to hone their ‘voice’ until the day they die. Writers like Dickens were panned beyond belief when they were first published; something the pompous literary snob of today conveniently seems to forget.
I feel exceedingly sorry for these lonely pathetic individuals whose personal library is severely limited to a few volumes written by authors such as Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dickens, H. Rider Haggard, H.G Wells, Jules Verne, Agatha Christy, Graeme Green, or maybe even Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately, they are the kind of people who firmly believes that reading anything new, is somehow beneath them.In a way, they remind me of my father’s generation who clung to the dream that England still ruled the waves, and had an Empire. Like them, today’s literary snobs are dinosaurs!

While they continue to prevail, be they private individuals or so called literary critics, all unfortunately still listened to by the ‘big six’ publishing houses, what chance do today’s emerging writers stand? Most establishment literary prizes like the ‘Booker’ here in England are never won by a newcomer beyond the world of the establishment publishing scene.
While those of us who live in the real world are prepared to read something new, be it from someone who has self-published like myself, the ‘big six publishing houses’ are all sadly missing out on so much promising talent by ignoring today’s plethora of new writers, or worse, dismissing them out of hand simply on the word of pompous literary snobs who currently hold sway, or narrow minded literary agents in the pay of the ‘big six’.


13 thoughts on “More on Literary Snobs

  1. I think the 'Big Six' are wondering what hit them Jack. The publishing world is changing way too fast for dinosaurs. At the moment, if you stand still, you get run over!But I do think readers are adapting very fast along with a new younger generation that have discovered a way in which they like to read. Perhaps you could call it the iPod effect. The young were born with technology in their pockets, so putting book in their pockets is a great thing.And they don't care who published the book. If the like it, they like it. Or not!


  2. I agree Derek. However much we may all complain about the way companies like Amazon operate, at least through them and similar book outlets, the young are able to instantly download whatever book they choose for little money from modern day writers. At least Amazon does not ignore new writers, unlike the "Big Six". 🙂


  3. This is a food for thought article. The ‘Writers like Dickens were panned beyond belief when they were first published; something the pompous literary snob of today conveniently seems to forget;’ is a similar experience self-published authors often have to go through.I will share the experience of a National Honor Society member with a 4.0 GPA. How he and his friends in high school absolutely ‘love‘ one of my books. It was being passed among the students until it disappeared. As a student, he wanted to write a book report on it. But the teacher in front of the class used it as an opportunity to undermine ‘self-published’ books and authors. Yes, the teacher said would read the book too.In the end, it did not change the others students view of the book's contents; however, I felt it appropriate to share my experience with your quote and well written article above.


  4. I agree and disagree 🙂 I'm not sure I'm comfortable calling them 'literary snobs' or lumping them together with the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing industry. I don't think they're entirely wrong. Remember that these people are readers too. They're not some monsters out to put down the work of hard working authors. I think we have to understand the reasoning for some of their decisions. All authors believe their works are worth publishing. That's the arrogance and confidence of all authors, otherwise we wouldn't have books to read. But the sad fact is that a large percentage of those are barely readable, either because they're so badly edited that you can't get past the first page without being pissed off at the number of errors (most of which would disappear if they bothered to pass it through a simple spell/grammar checking) or they should work on their craft a few more years before they inflict their works on the rest of us. But because of the ease of self-publishing, all of these books are being released to the hapless public, flooding the market and making it an impossible haystack that we must all endure to get to the few needles worth reading.I, for one am pissed off with the amount of time I have to waste reading crap in order to find the good stuff and it's becoming much harder now because there is so much more 'stuff.' I prefer relying on reviewers with good, reliable reputations and the same taste that I do instead of relying on publicity and recommendations by Amazon that is based on services they are paid for.One other thing, I find that I have far less of a problem with enjoyable and quality books when I go to a bookstore or look for books from reliable imprints. Not to say that they don't sell some crap too, but I find far fewer books that make me want my money back. I also have found some great new authors who are from indie presses, and some who are self-publishers, but the percentage of those are far less than from the established presses.I'm having a grand old time going through my list of favorite authors, people like Barbara Hambly, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, P.D.James and read the backlist items I missed the first time around and most of them don't disappoint me. While I am not happy that their books are far more expensive than I think they should be on Kindle, I will invest money on them because I know I'm getting enjoyable quality, not because I'm a snob but because of my personal experience reading their books.At least, that's my own personal experience. I'm sure other people have had different experiences.


  5. In the world of ebooks these days on sites like Amazon, we are given the option of "Look inside", the electronic version of reading a couple of pages. That's where I decide if I wish to read any further by buying a copy. I don't simply buy blind. If I can't read a couple of pages, then I won't buy, unless someone else has already read it and maybe deposited a review on Amazon or Goodreads. But at least I don't simply ignore someone new on the scene as the literary snobs still do.


  6. I love how the snobs forget that the 'greats' were just guys living in what might today be viewed as squalid conditions. One can imagine the rejection letters they might have received…'Dear Bill Shakespeare,We thank you for your submission but Snooty Publishing is a family company. Quite frankly, we don't feel that your absentee family in Stratford reflects the demographic that we aim for. Nobody wants to read about Venetian merchants. We would suggest changing the main character to be an American…


  7. Bravo for this article. The snobs are with us always, and if writers aren't careful, the putdowns snobs issue from all orifices can be crippling. These "intellectuals" often play a two-step game: First, upon learning you are a writer, ask, "Have you written with any publisher I've heard of?" as if the only presses of worth are those THEY have heard of. If it is a small press, then they can dismiss it with a snort. If a well-known press, they then follow up with something like, "Yes, but when are you going to do some serious writing?" The best reply to either the snort or this question is a thoughtful fist to the mouth of the questioner. However if there are witnesses about (and sadly, there generally are), a writer must do his best to maintain self control and perhaps ask, "So, have you had anything published lately in journals no one reads?"


  8. I agree with you Duncan. Smacking them in the mouth is a serious temptation. However, I find saying something like "Thank you for boring me with your opinion" usually works, especially if they flounce off in a huff. 🙂


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