Friday, 2 September 2011

The gloves are off the 3rd! Just because you've written a book doesn't make you a writer

I've been thinking about this for a long while, pondering if I should post this, but I feel I need to say something. It's my blog in the end and I can post whatever I like, right?
I've been watching the Indie community for the past few months and I've been among 'writers' for over two years now. What I have observed is a lot of people who have written a book, think they are now a writer and will be famous author. Their mum, auntie, sister, gran and two best friends said their book's great, too, so it must be true. Bursting with confidence they submit their humble scribblings. Then: the truth hits home, rejection after rejection; soon, they will be able to plaster their entire house with them. Still, they don't think something's wrong with their writing, it's the others who don't recognise their genius.
They decide to go for self-publishing. Heavens thank Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. They get their friends and family to buy a copy each and write a review. Of course it's all praise. Ah, it looks so pretty, doesn't it? When the first real reader buys the book and complains about the bad editing, poor characterisation and plot, apart from the typos and other errors, it's the arsehole who didn't get it, when more negative comments arrive, they cry out for people to put those stupid reviewers right.
No joking, I've seen it all. I wonder if the 'never give up' advice might do more damage than good to some of the 'authors' out there. Stephenie Meyer's and J.K. Rowling's rejections are quoted. Well, Meyer had about 15 and Rowling 12. That's nothing in publishing. I got about 45 for all my three book together. Then, I don't write YA and I don't have a series at the ready. I know why my books got rejected, though I had an acceptance for the shorts stories and an offer to resend after tweaking for No Wings Attached, both of which I denied in the end.
I hear pure readers when they say they have enough of Indies, though there are quite a few who are good, sell well and made themselves a name, there are still far more who receive dream-shattering reviews on their books. Or there are plenty of Indies who don't sell, despite all effort to market their books. Maybe that's a hint for them to either write something else, or just give up. Maybe that's why they got so many rejections in the first place (unless they write for a small market)? Perhaps they need to learn a bit more about writing and hone their skills before they throw their unreadable books at the public. Many readers already voice their demand for some sort of quality for the Indie books, I absolutely agree. I guess that would shake up the market considerably and we'd have about a third of books left. A certain standard would force aspiring authors to edit and proof-read their books until they're green in the face. A shame they're not doing it already voluntarily, it's part of the 'job'.
And: not every person who has written a book is cut out for the industry. To survive as an author, you need to learn constantly, produce at least one book a year - a book of quality, that is, the Indie-market is fast and every changing, before you know it, you're forgotten. And that's the pressure many self-appointed authors can't handle.

Always remember: just because mummy says you've written the next bestseller, doesn't necessarily mean it's true.

JUST ADDED after misunderstandings: I'm not addressing the issue of cutting edge literature or books that don't fit into neat genres, they often have a small readership, hence the low sales. 


  1. Here, here Stella. In my own case I operate through a proper publisher, editor and copy reader.

    However the blame for bad mistakes and errors, typos, etc, can't necessarily fall at the feet of the self pubbed writer.

    Since Kindle raised its head,closely followed by Nook and all the rest, I've bought E-book versions of the classics and also current works of established authors of note like Michael Wood, only to be annoyed by typos and in Wood's case missing items illustrations in his "The Story of England". I complained bitterly to Amazon and, to their credit, they fixed the problem and re-sent my Kindle copy to me.

    I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that the world of publishing as a whole is to blame, not just the rejected and therefore self published.


    The fault has to lay squarely at the door of the E-publishers, whether they be the big six or a company like Amazon.

  2. Ouch - sorry, I can't help but write the stories I write . . . if I was inspired to write something more commercial believe me, I would! I guess that means I should just give up due to low sales, but I don't think I will - thanks for the advice though ;)

  3. Jack: I know about the errors in books that are turned into e-books. That's a glitch. I'm talking about Indie authors who don't proof-read or edit. Hell, I had errors in my books, but they're fixed now. It's more the plot I'm moaning about.

    Sessha, you're with a publisher and you knew that your books are more for a minority, though I still think they're getting there. You're a good writer, that's the difference.

  4. There are so many different things going on in the industry at so many different levels, it's hard to put a finger on any one thing and say 'this is the problem' or 'this is the solution.' You're right in that there are many, many people out there writing books that just aren't very good (yet). Difference today is they can self-publish due to technology, ebooks, firms like CreateSpace, etc. So the market is absolutely glutted with very poor quality writing that didn't go through any gatekeepers whose job is to keep quality at a (somewhat) higher level so readers/consumers have some confidence that when they buy books, the books will have been written by someone with at least some level of talent and then have been put through a proper editing process.

    However, there are also some absolutely brilliant writers whose work just would never be deemed commercial enough, or fitting neatly within a genre or shelf-space, or just too cutting edge to attract many sales, and in years past these starving artists would never have had their works published. Today, through quality indie publishers, those rare gems can be published and reach a small but very grateful reading audience. And once in a great while, there's that one-in-a-million shot when some indie book breaks out.

    Of course, the problem is every writer likes to think they're in the second category rather than the first, and that they'll be that one-in-a-million.

    The one I read and think "no talent, lazy hack, can't write for beans" may be the one you think is brilliant, cutting edge, and possible break-out best seller. It's not up to me to tell someone 'you can't write so you should just stop.' I can give advice and opinions and suggestions to someone on how to improve, which is mainly by reading great writers and writing, writing, writing. Someone's first attempt at a novel may be pretty horrid, but their second or third or tenth may be brilliant.

    The ones I think we agree on are the ones who write at a truly amateurish level but think they are brilliant and won't listen to any helpful critique and make no effort to improve. And we've all seen those.

  5. And Robb, that's my main point. I don't think we two could ever think differently. I mean, you might not like a book I love, but you'd see at least a certain standard in it. I know that taste differs and that's absolutely fine, it does with traditionally published books, too, but I'm talking about those who put their books out there because mummy and their best friends said it's good without even questioning it.

  6. Hi Stella, So many good points in this post. Yes, it is so true. Anybody can be "published" now. Matter of fact, I writers' conference I have attended for two years now publishes their own compilation book and lure new writers with the incentive of leaving the conference as a published writer! A little cheesy... but a fun and inexpensive way to get a short (very short) piece in a book with about 100 other writers, editors and publishers that attend the conference. Still with "big name writers and people working for big publishing houses" the book has not been a big seller... probably only 1,000 or so. So yes, everyone sent them to their family for Christmas.

    I have found some indie publishers to be more respectable than others. Some take their own reputation in consideration and will NOT publish trash or unedited/not proofed books. So I would really check out the books the indie publisher is letting get published. If they have no standards I would never use them.

    One more point, I have found that some people pay reviews to place "good" reviews on amazon, etc. I have twice received through a person in YA area marketing himself as a cheerleader/teacher for inspiring young writers... but to me it is more like a fan club... an email from an organization that has a "job" offer for people who read books and write reviews. Of course there is no way anyone "working" for them is reading the books because they get paid $1-5 per review... like that would be worth anything... they advertise that they have one reviewer making $30 an hour.... yeah, like I am so sure.

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  8. Well, Lindy, there's a difference between Indie Publishers and Indie Authors to self-published authors. Though a self-published author is also an Indie author, the Indie Author published with a small independent publisher is basically traditionally published. Meaning the author went through submission, editing, professional cover art, etc. The publisher also (usually) does the marketing. Though I've seen indie publishers (mostly e-books) appear, who just take anyone one who can't run fast enough, do no or just little editing in hope one of the books will make it. That's not a model I would opt for.
    The stories in the compilation are fine, as long as you don't have to pay for it.
    Re paying for reviews: there are enough people out there who love a free read and that's how it's working. I'd never pay a reviewer for a good review. I'd rather have an honest negative review. :-)

  9. Great post, Stella and, as you already know, I'm of the same opinion. I'm actually shocked when I see such shoddy work and amazed at the leaps they take to embarrass themselves in the end. :)