You all know I write, and you all know I read. You may not know that I read 2 to 6 books a week and I blog about the ones I really like on a book review blog called Best in Fantasy. I try to write a new post for every Friday.
I began that blog two years ago, with an eye to promoting the books I loved, books that moved me. As it progressed, I began seeking out and promoting the books of indie authors. I do not accept free manuscripts, as I want to feel NO pressure to say nice things about a book. I always buy the downloads for this blog.
I have read some incredible, amazing work over the last 2 years–work I would never have been exposed to if not for the Kindle and the fact most indie downloads range in price from .99 to 4.99 and many can be found for free during promotional days.
This amazing access to great, innovative writing has created an entire sub-culture in the writing industry. People like me, bloggers who regularly read and love to discuss what they read are springing up everywhere and they are talking about what they read. And let me tell you, I have read some truly well-crafted books that stayed with me.
Authors are also springing up everywhere. Nearly everyone I meet is either a self-published author or a close relative of one. How humorous it is to find that we once-exalted tellers of tales are no longer special–everyone has a book in them or at least thinks they do, and they are publishing them.
This rapid expansion of the self-publishing industry has come with a price, however, and it is a huge one.
The ease with which anyone possessing the ability to read, access a computer and use the internet can publish their work independently has sparked a revolution. If you have read your American history, revolutions are NOT easy nor are they bloodless and pain-free.
For every book by an indie (or indeed by a traditionally published author) that I can feel good about recommending on Best in Fantasy, I see on average 6 that are just plain awful. These are books that would never make past the intake editor or an agent.
Some indie books are so abysmally edited it is apparent the author is the only person who has ever seen the manuscript. Some are moderately edited but not very well or professionally, and the author (as in my case with The Last Good Knight) gives way too much back-story up front and in huge info-dumps. This loses the attention of all but the most determined reader immediately, people who would ignore most typos and slight inconsistencies for a really good tale. This is where the unbiased eye of the editor can make a great novel out of a promising tale.
There are an incredible number of people writing books who have absolutely no concept of how to tell a coherent story. Not only is the book over-the top with descriptions (which take all the fun out the book) the whole thing can sometime feel like one long ego-stroking, autobiographical trip through the personal fantasies of the author, with him as the main character. Those books have what I think of as the ‘creepy-voyeur’ factor built into them, and I just can’t get too far into them before barfing.
Others start with a great idea, but the author leaves you wondering what happened to that kernel of brilliance, as the story sort of dies at the end and you are left wishing you had quit reading at page fifty. This happens with just as MANY traditionally published books as with the indies, folks! Take “The Book of Ruth” for example. How it made the Oprah Book Club I will never know, but it is one of the most depressing and abysmal books I have ever read, and I have read quite a few bad books. It totally turned me off of The Oprah Book Club.
The big 6 traditional publishers pretend that much of the crap they publish is all sheer magic, while loudly pointing out the faults inherent in self-publishing. And, while it makes me angry that they decry us as worthless but leap to publish us the minute we show any sign of real success, there are hard truths here we indies who are committed to the CRAFT of writing must face.
What this ability to publish any piece of garbage that falls out of your head does for us as indies is to tar us all with the same brush. THIS is the curse of the indie author.
The cure for this curse is as follows:
1. Learn how to write in your native language. Grammar and Punctuation are essential, even in modern literature.
2. Join a writing group and meet other authors, either in your local area or on-line. This will help you with steps 3 and 4. Enter writing contests such as Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards and participate in the boards and threads. Ignore the trolls, they pop-up everywhere (usually with badly written ego-stroking crap to their publishing credit.)
3. Develop a thick hide, and find an unbiased eye among your trusted acquaintances to read your work as you are writing it, so you can make changes more effectively and not be overwhelmed at the prospect of rewriting an entire manuscript from scratch.
4. Lose your ego. Your ego gets in the way of your writing. Are you writing for yourself or for others to read and enjoy your work?
5. Find a good professional editor. Check their references, and when you do engage their services, do not take their criticisms personally. This editor must be someone you can work closely with, who makes suggestions and lets YOU make the changes on your masterpiece yourself. They must understand it is your work and you have the right to disagree with any suggested changes. If you have this symbiotic relationship, you will turn out a good final product.
This blog-post today has been inspired by the fact that over the last three weeks, I cracked open a total of 19 books, both indie AND mainstream, and was only able to find one book that I enjoyed and gave four stars to because of editing issues, and one AWESOME, amazing book that will get 5 stars from me.
Traditional publishers are failing us as readers by pushing their successful authors to spew a book or even two a year, beating dead horses and creating long-winded series that go nowhere and have no entertainment value.
Some of the worst books I read over the last two years were written by two authors who have also written books I really enjoyed, but their best books were written in the early days, when these authors were not book-producing machines.
I expect more from a traditionally published book than a boring info-dump at the beginning, and lackluster characters you don’t give a hoot about. I hold every book I read to that standard, and I am willing to forego some editing bloopers, which with the rush to publish nowadays, they ALL have, traditional or non-traditional.
I just want to read a good story!
I want to be swept away to new lands and people I want to know and meet.
I want to be challenged and entertained.
Books are my drug and my addiction, and I am compelled to talk about them, to share them and re-read them. That is why I blog every Friday on what I enjoyed reading that week. Stop by this coming Friday afternoon and see what I am reviewing this week on Best in Fantasy. There will be a new review posted by 7:00 a.m. PDT.
In the meantime you can checkout the review for A Lesson for the Cyclops, a wonderful novella written by indie Author Jeffrey Getzin.