Does that question make your blood pressure rise, even a little bit?
Of course my book is well written! I wrote it! Who are you to even ask such a thing?
That voice of the ego is always the first to respond. And the loudest. Works that way every time.
But when its response rises first up, ask it: “Sez who?”
Man, has this industry changed at the speed of light. Not so long ago, your book was vetted by a host of gatekeepers, before you got in the proverbial door. You had to get an agent’s attention—no small feat. That agent had to believe he could sell the book and take you on—an even bigger feat. Then said agent had to cajole, force, bribe—okay, that’s a bit much!—but rather, find the exact right editor at the exact right house to offer a contract (after said editor pushed it through, hopefully, the editorial and sales committees).
Along the way, you garnered up tens, maybe hundreds of rejections. You joined writers’ workshops and went to conferences, took classes, got individual feedback, etc., etc. And throughout that time, you were continually honing your craft, making this book better, and the next, and the . . .
Today, you can just go onto the litany of sites and self-publish your book tomorrow. Okay, maybe not exactly tomorrow, but pretty darn quick.
And the sad fact is, most folks do.
Now, if you’re reading thing, I know you aren’t one of those! But I can’t tell you how many queries I get where the person says a version of: “This is my first novel. I need an editor right now! How quick can you do this? I’ve already gotten the cover and the marketing people and contracted with x company and have to have this to them next month.”
In fact, I get at least one of these a week. At least. I received one this very morning! And I respond with: “I’m not the editor for you. I work with serious writers only.”
Which garners lots of counter-responses, as you can imagine.
But the sad fact is, writers jumping into this game have no clue as to how difficult writing well really is. And think they already do so.
Gone are the years of study and honing the craft. Gone are the blood, sweat, and tears. Viola! I’m an author. Just like that.
With the sea of schlock out there these days, does it matter? Do readers know the difference?
You bet they do.
Fifty Shades of Elephant Wings not withstanding (and I’ve yet to meet even the fan of it who didn’t know the writing was simply terribly. But the titillation made up for it. LOL. The non-fans, oh, my! Dave Barry’s take on this still makes tears of laughter stream down my face).
But readers, even though it’s tough for them these days to sift the wheat from the chaff when purchasing, quit books at alarming rates. Did you know Amazon actually tracks this on your kindle? Last year the company released some of this data to the Atlantic. The results were startling. Let’s talk about that at a later date, but . . . .
A percentage of people start books they’ve bought.
A percentage don’t read a third of it.
Of mystery readers, the national average is only 62% finish the book. This is significant because, well, that’s what a mystery is—getting to the end to find out whodunit. And almost half of readers don’t care?
Give me a well-written book about even the Yellow Pages, and I’ll finish it no matter what. Give me a badly written one, and I won’t get past the first page (reference the Elephant above. Titillation alone doesn’t do it for me :). And once you dig down a bit to almost all readers, although they can’t put exactly into words what was wrong, you see their eyes glaze a bit.
And the old truism from publishing’s ancient times holds true today: If someone bought your first book and didn’t like it, they won’t buy the second.
Horrors! This is the entire point of creating an author platform, no? To build readership. Not cut it down with each book. Especially in this age of 15 million e-books a year. Readers have lots of options.
Enter the world of self-publishing with as much hesitancy as you possibly can. Learn this craft. Good authors know this. Great ones take it to heart.
What has been your journey through publishing?