Nancy: The Value of Good Writing

Write a Good OneIn the years since indie publishing has gotten a toe-hold, there has been a debate raging in the industry about the quality, viability, and even the right of this form of publishing to survive. Traditional publishing has trumpeted the importance of selectivity, of professional gatekeepers who  keep unskilled or ‘not-ready-for-primetime’ writers from taking up readers’ valuable time and physical bookstores’ coveted shelf space.

Indie publishers, who are themselves authors, have decried a system that depends on just the right story in just the right genre crossing the desk of just the right gatekeeper on a day when said gatekeeper hasn’t had a fight with his/her spouse or child or family pet…you can see where this is going. The odds of getting struck by lightning often seem higher than those of being plucked out of writing obscurity and dropped into a publishing contract. It is not only poor writing keeping writers out of the market, indie supporters argue; it’s also publishers with myopic vision who tend to chase one trend to death, then drop it like a hot potato for the next must-have trend.

And even for writers who’ve made it past the gatekeepers once, what are the odds of getting struck by lightning twice, in the form of a decent marketing budget and time to build a name and a following? Not great, and getting worse by the day, along with the onerous terms and conditions of publishing contracts.

And among all this hub-bub and hallabaloo are the readers, who have taken a firm stand in the traditional versus indie…Hold on. Wait. Something’s not right about…Oh, yes. *Has quick conversation with a non-writing/publishing reader.* Turns out, readers aren’t taking sides. They’re in bookstores and online and on Goodreads and Facebook looking for good books! The audacity of those saucy readers.

You can test this theory for yourself. Next time you see a friend who is not a writer/editor/somehow involved in the writing/marketing/selling of books (you still have one or two of those, right?), ask them about the last great traditionally-published book they read, and how it compares to the last indie they read. Wait five seconds. See confusion turn to questions turn to boredom as you try to explain it to them.

In the end, readers want to talk about the good books they’ve read, and they want to hear about the good ones you’ve read. That’s not to say that trad and indie publishing are the same in the end, at least not from the writer’s perspective. Each is fraught with its own difficulties and its own joys. You can read Chuck Wendig’s take on those here and here. But of course that leads to the next question, which is, what makes a good book? The bad news is, there’s no one answer. The great news is, there’s no one answer! Genres and tropes and characters and settings can run amuck in this crazy, terrifying, new publishing world order. Even the questions of what makes great storytelling or solid craft are up for debate.

While there is nothing that is truly universal in all of this, one thing comes awfully close. As writers, we can get better. We can be lifelong students of storytelling and craft. It’s probably why you read this blog. You might also take online workshops, attend conferences, buy writing how-to books, or  do something crazy like the thing that brought the 8 ladies together – complete a writing program/certificate/degree.

Last week, I read this article about traditional publishers reducing their e-book prices to compete with indie-published books. It remains to be seen how this will affect book sales and writers and income on either end of the spectrum. But we’ll be here, in our little corner of the internet universe, working on making our own books the best they can be.

What are you currently doing to improve your storytelling or craft in your quest to write ‘good books’? And is there a ‘good book’ (IYHO) that you’ve read lately, trad- or indie-published, that you would tell your non-industry friends to read?

 

On a non-writing-related note, our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones of the weekend massacre in Orlando, FL. It’s an important time to remember that the antidote to hatred and bigotry isn’t more of the same; it’s love and acceptance. Be good to each other, and hug someone you love.

 

8 thoughts on “Nancy: The Value of Good Writing

  1. I checked out the article about the Big 5 lowering their e-book prices, and here’s what I see: I can either pay $8.55 for the newest work by an author I already know and love, or I can gamble $9.81 on an unknown. They’re asking me to pay an average premium of $1.26 to buy from a new author. When you go to recent backlists, the delta is even larger–$3.23.

    In nature, this is referred to as “eating your young.”

    It’s nice to be able to so clearly quantify their shortsightedness.

    • There was another article I was going to reference, but it’s behind a paywall. It focused a lot more on the Big 6 (I thought it was down to 4 or 5, but the article was recent and called out 6) trying to move closer to indie pricing. But the way they are ‘promoting’ new authors in some cases really does seem to be setting them up to fail. At least indie-publishing authors can adjust their own price points to see what works better and try to raise their visibility, but trad-pubs are stuck with the decisions of their house.

  2. The big problem that I see with indie publishing, especially for people just starting that route, is discoverability. That’s one reason indie prices are low—authors are hoping that readers will take a chance on someone if the price isn’t too high. Discoverability is hard with the traditionally published, too, but I think not as hard, because even if the publishing houses don’t put any bucks into marketing, those books get into bookstores and libraries. So a traditionally published author has a toehold on the ladder that an idie has to struggle to find.

    The best marketing and sales tool is still the best book you can write, so that means practice, practice, practice, and read, read, read.

    • Agreed, the ‘best book’ is king, and it means different things to different people. I do hear horror stories from new trad-pubbed authors, though, about the ‘discoverability’ their publishers provide. Far too often, the authors are expected to develop and run their own marketing campaigns, yet have little leverage to try some tried-and-true marketing techniques like discounts, sales, bundling, etc. In many cases, publishers are putting out so much less in advances, they don’t have much to lose if they do the bare minimum, then park the authors’ books on a website forever and ever and get the occasional sale because, oh yeah, they try to own all the rights in perpetuity. It’s all about the Ts and Cs of the contract, and new authors often don’t have enough clout to negotiate better ones.

      I think the Big 6 acknowledging that indies are indeed the competition could work in favor of authors, as publishers might be inclined to provide better contracts and advances to lure authors away from the siren’s call of the indie world. While it can, at times, be depressing, it’s also fascinating to watch the way this once staid industry is moving and shaking these days.

  3. I’m watching my friend go through newly published bliss (or not). She’s with a small publishing house, definitely not the Big 6 (or however many), but while she’s had to provide a lot of stuff to her publisher (in the form of marketing blurbs, back cover copy, and the like), she had a lot of input on her cover, which she appreciated, and her editor is doing a decent job getting the word out that her book is releasing in a few weeks. She did NOT get an advance for any of this, and her initial release is e-book only, but most libraries these days have an e-lending library, which means even non-traditionally published books, if they’re good, can get into a library if the librarian is worth his or her salt (in a quick search, it seems ours isn’t. I’m going to have a chat with them about that).

    In terms of my book, I’m basically starting over. Re-outlining it. Then rewriting it. This is after multiple classes/courses, which have been extremely beneficial. But they’ve made me realize what junk my book is in its current state.

  4. I’ve come to believe that if it doesn’t take a village, it still takes a bunch of people to make a great book. The days are gone of the lone artist in a garret producing masterpieces (if indeed, such a golden age ever existed! I seem to remember that Jane Austen and Charles Dickens read their stories to their families and friends before submitting them to publishers).

    Other people just see into the spots where I am blind. If I pay attention and really think about what they are telling me, I’m going to come out with a better book. Or short story, as the case may be.

    I am lousy at marketing things, so I would really prefer not to do that. But then again, people who enjoy my quirky approach to pitching will probably really enjoy my stories as well . . . .

    I think one thing the gatekeepers are good at doing is that if they take the risk to publish something that’s quirky or doesn’t quite fit into genre, it’s going to be absolutely amazing.

    But on the other hand, I’ve read some really good stuff that was free, on writing sites, self-published, and of course, by our ladies! Absolutely amazing stuff, really.

    Oh, I don’t know. Matching books to readers is an art all by itself. What’s great to me can be sniffed at by my friends, and vice versa. I hope they figure out a way to make it easier to connect readers with good reading. Some sort of Book Tinder, maybe. “MWF, looking for exotic romance on this and other worlds. Humor a must. Dragons or cats a definite plus. Am allergic to orphans.”

  5. Pingback: Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Introduction – Eight Ladies Writing

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