East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The World’s Greatest


As I browsed Twitter over breakfast – as one does – I chanced upon a link for a podcast, about … well, about stuff, the description was not that clear. What it was clear was, this podcast was being hosted by the world’s greatest expert in podcasting. It was written there, just like that “the world’s greatest expert in podcasting”. So I guess it had to be true.

Scrolling down, I landed on an ad for a new fantasy series. According to the author, this “most original” book features warriors, wizards, elves, dwarves, and a dragon. I am blown away by the originality.

No, hold it – I am being unfair to a colleague.
Nowhere’s written that you can’t write something absolutely original while using tried-and-tested, well-established building blocks. And it’s great when it happens, and I really hope this is the case.

But in general, it looks like the market (for lack of a better name) is again pushing us towards “the absolute best”, “the non plus ultra”, “the world’s greatest”…

A few years back I was at a writer’s panel with my brother (that was at the time studying Japanese in university). The writer in question had written a series of thrillers set in the East, and the moderator presented the guy as “the world’s leading authority on Japanese culture”. My brother started to giggle. When soon afterwards they read to us a descriptive passage from a novel, the travel-magazine-grade of the description was insufferable. My brother was biting his tongue not to laugh out loud. We let the author there strutting about his intimate knowledge of all things Tokyo, and went looking for a place to dine.

And really, we all like our work to be appreciate, and our skills to be valued, and our efforts to be recognized. But we are levelling everything and everybody to the sort of useless hyperbole that really turns out to be empty, and meaningless.

In the last year or so, on Amazon, a new trend started – and you get a blurb after the title of the book, like… “Killed by death. The unputdownable murder mystery thriller that will keep you peeled to the page” … “It lives in the broom closet. The most chilling horror story you’ll ever read.”

It was unpleasant enough when it was self-publishers that did this, in order to cram as many keywords in the title slot of the page, and thus play the algorithm. When it’s “proper publishers” that do it, it becomes simply tacky.
Does anyone really believe that adding to the title that the book is oh, so good, will push the sales. Is there really someone that looks for something to read on Amazon by writing “unputdownable” in the search window? Does somebody in marketing believe this really happens?

Attention is clearly become a currency – it probably always was, but now there’s a will to manage it like a resource.
The results are tacky. And usually stupid.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “The World’s Greatest

  1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of this type of shameless self promotion. Won’t make me buy a book that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

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