Blogs are wonderful. They begin being about one this, and then comments lead them in a different direction. A couple of posts ago, Mark made a comment about the distinction between work that is good and that which is popular. That'sfFar too interesting a thought to hide among the comments. I happen to know that he is a fab photographer, but his thinking is apt for every corner of the arts.
But I shall limit myself to the writing context, as that's the only one I know anything about.
It's hard, being on the outside and looking in, to get a feel for how publishing is these days. All I have to go on are the articles in newspapers and publishing press (such as The Bookseller), and comments from writers in blogs. There seems general agreement that the industry is squeezed, that the big publishing houses control much of what is reviewed in the papers (and what makes it to the tables at the front of Waterstones), while the small publishers are bravely swimming against the tide and bringing out books that are daring and different but might not make the huge profits demanding by the likes of Harper Collins.
For it is the books that make most profits that are seen to be popular. I don't, personally, like reading Dan Brown, but his publishers must love him.
Meanwhile, the small publishers have to sift through the deluge of submissions from writers whose work slips between the confines of conventional genres, or uses unfamiliar forms and structures. Somehow they have to find enough good-enough books to make enough profit to keep going.
Propping the system up are the readers - and writers.
Not all writers want to win the Booker Prize. Nor find their book heaped among piles of holiday reading. Nor even be particularly rich. They simply want to write the best book they can, and hope that enough people are entertained by their efforts. Some simply don't have the energy to survive the submission process, or the emotional resources to withstand endless rejections. Some want to control whole writing and publishing business themselves. They just want to be good at what they do.
And, from among this group, we hope to find self-published gems. There may not be many treasures among the self-published eel vomit, but they are there if we hunt for them. Books that are different, and exciting, and ask unusual questions. They may never be popular, but that doesn't mean they aren't wonderful. And often they are wonderful in a different way from the books piled in bookshops.
Or are they? Do you equate quality with popularity? If not - what criteria do you use the decide if a book is 'good enough?'