Friday, March 28, 2014

Only Quality Will Move You To The Surface Of All The Authors Out There

A couple of days ago, as I was sitting at the dance studio with my daughter, I started through the Amazon site just to see what was there for my personal reading list. Look, I am someone always out for a good deal like most of you, so after I hit the Kindle section, I sorted from Lowest to Highest. I was shocked. Let me put it this way...I gave up after over 700+ book titles I scanned through. These were all books being "sold" for $0.00!

As I said, I gave up after 700+ titles. I hadn't even gotten to the authors at least charging something!

I bring this up because of the need, anymore, of insuring your writing truly is the highest quality. Just writing "the book of your heart" anymore is not going to cut it in this market. Why is this? Let me remind you of a scene from a movie, I believe I have quoted here before...

Mr. Incredible: You mean you killed off real heroes so that you could *pretend* to be one?
Syndrome: Oh, I'm real. Real enough to defeat you! And I did it without your precious gifts, your
oh-so-special powers. I'll give them heroics. I'll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be super! And when everyone's super...
[chuckles evilly]
Syndrome: no one will be.

The problem with the market right now stems from the issue of supply and demand. In simple terms the supply of authors out there is far outweighing the demand of the readers. We have flooded the market and, as a result, getting your name out there and becoming marketable requires your books to be AMAZING. We are now getting books to add to our To Be Read pile through word of mouth. A friend tells us about a great book. Some books suddenly gets some great press. We aren't finding these books anymore through simply browsing.

Remember in the past when we visited those great places called bookstores? We found new authors and new titles simply by looking through the bookshelves. We had our cup of overly priced coffee in one hand and strolled through the bookstore, picking up authors we hadn't heard of. Now picture trying to do that if we turned the Mall of American into one single bookstore. The odds are, you won't find those books now. It is far too overwhelming.

I know as I look at submissions, there are times I see projects that might work, but simply don't stand out among all of the other projects any more. They are simply "O.K." books and we need more of that.

I know this sounds depressing, but there is a solution to this.

  1. Don't rush I think too many authors today believe if they don't get their book out there within 72 hours of writing THE END, the book is completely dead in the water. After 3 rejection letters (probably poorly written) they suddenly scream, "See the market just doesn't appreciate my work so I am going to self-publish!" Look, it takes times. End Of Story!
  2. Learn your craft You have to take the time (there it is again) to learn how to use the various writing skills fluently, effectively and efficiently. You know that list: goal, motivation, conflict, dialogue, world building, setting, character development, plotting... There are a lot of writers that I see who are aware of this information, but really don't understand how and why we use it. You are still on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and until you can determine How and Why other authors use those skills effectively (reaching the Orange Level of Analyze) your writing will still be a bit basic.
  3. Think before you write This is another issue of rushing through the work but also an issue of not plotting our your stories. You are madly typing words on a page and not thinking about how it all fits together. You have individual scenes and chapters that really shine! This is a good sign. But seeing everything as a complete package is not there. I recently passed on a project where it was clear the author in the last half of the book was simply trying to get to the end (and to increase word count). The story become repetitive!  
  4. Do your market research In simple terms, you have to see what is out there. If everybody and their brother are writing a particular type of book, you cannot simply go out and write another one just like it. Find that unique twist (and no, changing setting is not it). Be unique!
Right now, there are some great gems out there in terms of writers. When I think of this situation, it is similar to a great old house that is covered with a lot of weeds and garbage. Once we get all of the "stuff" out of the way - the bad stuff - the weak writers - we can finally see the beauty in the house that was hidden by the over-growth. This change is not going to happen overnight. We will need patience, but I am confident we will get there!


  1. I agree that quality is critical...and yet...Twilight.

    Though I'm a Potterhead, I must admit that JK Rowling's work isn't stellar, either.

    I'm not knocking people flippantly, but one must admit that quality is not always the deciding factor, especially as I gaze over at Amazon and see great authors (such as Michael White) languishing at approx. #200K on Amazon's list.

    As you eluded to in #4, I think the deciding factor might be marketability instead of quality. This is equally difficult to attain it seems, especially for writers who rarely have a thumb placed on the heartbeat of America's buying habits (or care about such, for that matter). Finding a balance between the market and one's muse is often a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation, but difficult or no, it's one we writers must all grapple with.

  2. I so agree about the ridiculousness (if that's not a word) of giving books away - after all that effort, to suggest one's work is worth nothing! And it's all done just to get up the Amazon charts - which are fickle things anyway. Rather than spending hours playing around with prices, writers are better served going away and writing another book - even better than the first.