In Defense of Snooki’s Book
Posted by Caitie F on January 5, 2011
I know, who would ever think that I would defend this book, but I am, thanks to something one of my favorite authors said….something than was hypocritical and why people call smart people elitists. Yesterday, John Green tweeted this to Simon and Schuster
“Hi, person who runs the Simon & Schuster twitter. I realize you did not personally choose to publish a novel “by Snooki.” But I just want to say for the record that while the book is very funny in its brilliantly/astonishingly depressing way. it also devalues the idea of books. And the idea that books are valuable is more or less the only thing between publishing and oblivion. By devaluing the idea of books (which I think we can agree Snooki’s novel certainly does) you are hammering a nail into your own coffin.”
S&S replied with
“We think the best thing about books, the thing that keeps our industry strong and our readers happy is the ability to distribute different kinds of books about a variety of trends, ideas, creeds & cultures to readers!”
To which John replied
“I would argue that readers can find texts about a variety of trends, ideas, creeds, & cultures without publishing houses. and, indeed, that if publishing houses continue to devalue their role in the creation of text-based narratives there will soon come a time when readers DO find stories without the aid of publishing houses. That should worry us.”
Then he goes on about how S&S didn’t add value to it.
I have SO many problems with his argument and the first is that publishing is a business. S&S is out to make money. They saw an opportunity and took it. And guess what? The book will make money.
She is a celebrity and people will go out and read the book and it will make S&S a good deal of money. Once it does, they can then go and sign more books, better books, that they wouldn’t have been able do without a book that sucks, but makes a lot of money..
Books that lots of people think are crap have been published since publishing began. It is nothing new. But you know what? Some people like these books that literary people hate and love to dump on. Those people purchased these books and then publishers took that money to invest into better books. Those books don’t last though. 50 years from now, people won’t still be reading about Snooki on the Jersey Shore, just like they don’t read the fluffy books from the 50s or 60s. They may still be reading John Green books though.
The business of it is as simple as this: the top 30% of books pay for the other 70%. Without the stuff that we literary types dislike, there would not be any great books. Only that 30% make money, about 30% break even, and the rest lose money. But a lot of those books that lose money are amazing pieces of literature that the masses never discovered. If the publishers only published great books, then there would be no industry because the money isn’t in the great books, it is in books by celebrities and James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, and Dan Brown. Lots of people like them and there is nothing wrong with that, there should be books for everyone. It is because of them that truly great books can be published. I
My second issue is that, as bad as it may be, people who never read unless their teachers make them do it will read this book. Yes, I would rather they read a quality book, but it is a start. They are people who never put money into the publishing industry and now they are. That can’t be a bad thing. Now, the industry needs to figure out how to get them to buy more. If it means they will start with reading Hilary Duff’s book or Lauren Conrad’s book, that is okay by me. It still helps the industry and people are still reading.
The thing that bugs me most about John Green’s argument is that he is a hypocrite. He has a wonderful agent. I adore 99% of the things she represents. She is absolutely brilliant and she really understand great YA. I would do almost anything to get to work for her. But she does have one series that I cannot stand (but I love how it made YA a ton of money and has gotten millions of teens to read) and that is Twilight. Yes, John Green’s agent represents Stephanie Meyer, someone who, according to a lot of people, writes “crap books” that has some of the same negative images that Snooki gives young women.
Like I said, the agent is brilliant and could have gotten all of the fantastic books on her own, but the success of the Twilight series helps all of her clients. She is very high-profile and has proven that she understands the market and the genre. There is nothing wrong with that. It is thanks to her reputation that authors like Ally Condie, John Green, and Lisa Yee are out there.
I am sure John Green has profited because of books that aren’t that great in other ways also. I bet his publisher doesn’t just publish great books. I am sure it is frustrating for anyone who is querying agents to see something like Snooki’s book get published when they have worked so hard and wrote something so much better…but that is a societal problem with celebrity, not a problem with agents and publishers.
There is room for all types of books in the market, including this one. As the person at S&S said, the best thing about books “is the ability to distribute different kinds of books about a variety of trends, ideas, creeds & cultures to readers”. That is what I love about this industry and reading. There is a place for everyone and the day we become to elitist to consider others is the day the industry will really die.