There's a lot of discussion on authors' motivation to write: why they write, what inspires their stories, the process of writing, etc. I see little, if anything, on the author's responsibility to the reading public.
We think it's a simple arrangement: we write and the reader buys. However, that simplistic understanding fails to acknowledge the reader's judgment in the decision making process which we can boil down to "What does the reader want?"
This discussion does not factor moral quandaries or consideration as to whether the author produces morally redeeming content. Let's face it, most such high-minded people would decry entire genres as unworthy of public consumption, regardless of the quality of writing. Again, here's another truth: a reader's motivation for reading varies. Sometimes the reader simply wants something fluffy and mindless, brain candy, a mental escape from reality. Sometimes the reader reads to learn or become informed about something. Sometimes the reader needs to feel less alone or wants inspiration. The reasons for reading differ, so authors write to meet those differing purposes.
No, this discussion concerns the quality of writing.
I doubt few authors deliberately publish garbage. Most authors believe they have great stories and that their storytelling does those stories justice. As both an editor and a reader, I can refute that statement: It just ain't so. I come across published books in which the author hasn't figured out the proper use of apostrophes. I see incorrect use of lie and lay and errors in present, past, and past participle tenses. I see rampant examples of information dumping and generally poor writing that has little structure and disjointed pacing. In short, I come across a lot of authors who let down the reading public due to the poor quality of their writing.
The belief that quality writing rises to the top, like cream, discounts the profitable effect of a mediocre or even dismal writer who has marketing savvy and a healthy marketing budget. Just as the advent of free content on the internet has trained the public to expect good content for free, I wonder whether the deluge of poor quality books has lowered reader expectations. Can readers distinguish the difference between good, mediocre, and poor writing? If they can't, then writers in general have failed their responsibility to uphold those standards of professionalism for themselves and for their readers. In short, we have contributed to the degradation of societal intelligence.
I prefer to believe that most readers do recognize good writing when they come across it, regardless of genre. I also do my best to uphold professional standards in the content I publish, whether it be a blog, website content, an article, short story, or book. I hold to those professional standards so as not to fail my current or potential readers or myself.
I am responsible for what I write, the same as every other author. The reading public should hold me and every other author accountable.
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