#amwriting: thoughts on the industry

IBM_SelectricThe ease with which anyone possessing the ability to access a computer and use the internet can publish their work independently has sparked a revolution in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, revolutions are NOT easy nor are they bloodless and pain-free.

For every book I feel good about recommending, I see on average 6 that are just plain awful. I’m not only talking Indies here–some are books that should never have made it past the gateway editor of a large publishing house, much less an agent.

It’s true that some indie books are so abysmally edited it is apparent the author is the only person who has ever seen the manuscript.

Others are moderately edited but not by a professional, or someone who knows how to write. This is a flaw that can drive away of all but the most determined readers, people who would ignore most typos and slight inconsistencies for a really good tale. For these books, the unbiased eye of the editor could have made a great novel out of a promising tale.

The core of this problem lies in the incredible number of people who are writing but have no concept of what it takes to write a good novel. Once they have rewritten the rough draft to their satisfaction, they believe they are done.

Then, they publish it.

Sadly, this sometimes happens with traditionally published books as well. I see this as evidence that editing and proofreading by the large houses for many successful traditionally published authors is sometimes overlooked in the rush to cash in on a commercial success. These publishers set impossible deadlines and race to launch what they hope will be a follow-up best seller, but because they were rushed, these books sometimes fail to live up to the hype.

The Novel Meme LIRFAnd while this means that they publish crap too, the stink washes off the traditional houses but clings to the Indie industry as a whole.

This brings me to my point: The big 5 traditional publishers pretend everything they publish is sheer magic, while loudly pointing out the faults inherent in self-publishing. And, while it makes me laugh 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.

First off, I feel strongly that we shouldn’t rush to churn out more than one or two books a year. Romance novels can be a different kind of animal, but unless you are producing pulp fiction, the same applies. (Click here to read an article by romance novelist Merry Farmer on this subject.)

Traditional publishers fail us (as readers) by pushing successful authors to spew several books a year, beating dead horses and creating long-winded series that lose the way after the third book. We Indies have the luxury to take our time to craft a good book, as we don’t have externally imposed deadlines.

Some of the worst books I’ve read were written by traditionally published authors who also wrote books I loved. But their best (in my opinion) books were written in the early days when they weren’t book-producing machines.

Some general things for any author to do when they are first starting out:

  1. Learn the mechanics of 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 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. There are hidden aspects to every great book, and they are all centered around knowledge of the craft. An external eye is essential to the production of a good book. Check their references, and when you do engage their services, do not take their observations 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.
  6. Don’t give up your day job. Even authors receiving hefty advances have to struggle to make ends meet. (Read Thu-Huong Ha’s article, A New Book Shows the Financial Cost of Leading a Creative Life.)

EDWAERT_COLLIER_VANITAS_STILL_LIFEIt’s far more affordable now for a dedicated reader to buy enough books to keep themselves happy, but making your way as a reader through the many offerings in our eBookstores is a perilous journey, and you can’t always trust the quality by reading the publisher’s label. You just have to realize that whether a novel is traditionally published or Indie, some books are frogs, and some are princes.

You may have to read a few books you wish you hadn’t on your way to finding the book that sweeps you away. For me, that’s just part of the journey.

Sources and Attributions:

How Many Books Should You Write Per Year, by Merry Farmer, Nov 13, 2013

A New Book Shows the Financial Cost of Leading a Creative Life,  by Thu-Huong Ha, Jan 11, 2017, Flipboard

IBM Selectric, By Oliver Kurmis (Self-photographed) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Still Life, By Evert Collier (1642-1708) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Filed under Publishing, writing

8 responses to “#amwriting: thoughts on the industry

  1. All these points are very valid. Honestly, being a writer is a lot of work and one has to wonder if the pay off is even worth it anymore. I’ve been writing for the past three years now and have met some of the worst writers online. I don’t mean in terms of writing, but as people with inflated egos who think they are the best writers ever.

    It’s becoming more of a hassle than it’s worth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stephen Swartz

    It’s hard to remember it’s an industry. Hidden away in a cubby hole under a rock, and being able to do everything from there makes it less of an industry and more of predilection.0
    I never have sat down and thought that there’s a whole industry counting on me to come through with something brilliant. In the early days, when the industry was the only way to get stuff out, it was daunting and intimidating, and that alone often shut down my muse. Now, however, the muses are drunk most of the time and I type blithely on before they sober up.
    In the same way I no longer consciously follow steps or outline or do any serious planning ahead; it’s all garbled in my head yet comes out in fairly good order. Perhaps that is because I’ve been through “the process” so many times it’s automatic now. And that sets up the opposite effect: I cannot truly enjoy reading, say, a well-subscribed fantasy novel because I know the tropes and can predict what happens next, etc., so I might skip ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephen Swartz

    P.S.- My entry for the worst edited book from traditional publishers was the paperback of Dan Simmons’ sci-fi epic “Olympos” (sequel to “Ilium”). Constant typos, even getting a character’s name wrong in one scene. I doubt it was Dan’s fault. [Except for those distractions, a very worthy tome.]

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Stephen – I understand that writing process only too well, but as my writing muses are sober old ladies, I still follow an outline.
      Sort of.

      For me, the worst edited book I’ve lately read was written by one of my favorite authors who has begun turning out several books a year in two different series. The work is good, but the proof-reading was abysmal.


  4. I just had this conversation with a trusted friend and fellow author. I see some indies, and some traditionally published, cranking out 4-6 books a year and I cannot imagine how. One girl’s work in another genre is exceptionally good and she is a prolific writer who works a (mind-boggling traveling executive in a major corp.) full-time job, but she is a gifted exception. One of my favorite traditional authors in my genre puts out two or three a year. His last one had the characters I love so much, but there was no plot and it read like rubbish, bored me to tears, and his usually colorful characters were doing nothing. It read like words on paper to meet a count, with no emotion, feeling or action. There was no conflict to be resolved…just them riding motorcycles and being bad guys. It had a good premise…they were reliving the movie Easy Rider (or attempting to). But it didn’t deliver. I feel almost incompetent when I can’t keep up that pace. I’m doing good to get out one book every two or three years. I’m shooting for one per year as a goal. But I still don’t want it out there until it’s thoroughly edited and I know it’s a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @SK – For me, each book has a life of its own. I have different projects in various stages of completion, so while it actually takes about two years from start to finish, I can usually publish one book per year. Some people do seem more prolific. It took me four years to get Valley of Sorrows through the entire process, but only 18 months for The Wayward Son, so there you go.

      And–Never judge yourself by what you perceive others to be! You’re a rock-star in your own right!

      Liked by 1 person