The poor quality of many self-published books comes up with some regularity. The most discussion has been started by Chuck Wendig who makes a point that self-publishing isn’t “amateur hour.” You should always put your best foot forward when you’re making a thing you’re going to charge money for.
Interestingly, a lot of people are either attacking him (I’ve read comments calling him a bad writer) or outright dismissing him (because he’s such a “bad writer”). People do seem to get defensive when self-publishing is called out for poor quality works. And it isn’t because they’re arguing that self-publishing books aren’t bad, more like they’re arguing for being “bad” because readers will suss out what’s bad and what is good which will then, hopefully, teach an author what doesn’t work and what does. Their next book will be better, and the book after that will be better.
Some thoughts I always have:
The people often talked about are not reading these discussions. There are plenty of people who write crap or have written crap and just throw it up online because why the hell not? Some people hope to make a little money. Some think they are honestly good and won’t hear talk that they aren’t. The people who don’t give a shit exist. But see, they don’t give a shit, so do you think they’re going to care about the call to stop publishing crap? (No. The answer is no.)
The beauty of self-publishing is that it’s open and anyone can do it. This is also the ugly side. I always say that our greatest strength are often our greatest weaknesses. The same goes for self-publishing. I can post whatever I want for whatever reasons I want. But so can the previously mentioned non-shit giving author.
Readers are not “gatekeepers.” They are customers. And customers make decisions. They can download samples of stories that sound interesting, and they can read it before purchasing. If they are not aware of this, then I don’t know what to think because the preview button is right next to the purchase button. Amazon also gives you seven days to get your money back, so if you pick up a book with a good preview that falls apart after you’ve read it, you can get money back. (At least you could last year. I feel like I’ve been gone forever. You can still do that, right?)
There are shitty publishing house books too. Sometimes a shit book is a shit book. It happens. I don’t think I’ve ever really read a crappy book– because, you know, previews– but I’ve read some books where I got to the end and I just said, “What the crap?”
These discussion are going to continue of course. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m going to keep on not caring what my neighbor is doing (unless they’re my friend and they’ve asked for my opinion). I don’t really believe it matters. Readers will find what they like, they’ll call out what they don’t like. If they swear off self-published books because of one book they read that was really terrible, well then, they are probably not your audience. There are plenty of other readers to go around, just like there are now plenty of writers.
I suck at marketing: I’d like to tell anyone happening across this blog who might be curious about how terrible or not terrible I am that I’ve placed Ruin free on Smashwords. Okay, not exactly free. It’s set to, pay what you want which means you can get it without paying anything or you can use it as a chance to tip an author. 🙂
When I was younger, writing was something I did with my weekends. (Honestly, I had no social life.) It was basically something I did when inspiration hit. That is not to say it’s something I regret. I learned a lot from play writing. I used to say I wanted to be a writer, but I eventually learned that at that point in my life, I just wanted to write.
It shows in the stuff I worked on. They meander. There’s no beginning or end. I never finished a story because I never had one to finish. But I was laying the groundwork for the stuff I’m writing today.
Recently, I’ve made more of a push to write daily on a focused project. This is something I was doing before, kind of, only now I’m more conscious of it. I can write whatever I’d like but unless I write some words on my intended project, it doesn’t count. It means that at some point, I’m going to have to seek quiet time and add some words.
You know, I’ve discovered that I don’t like first drafting! At least not when I have a goal in mind. It’s not the plotting things out that’s the problem. It’s just the act of getting this shaped story out of my head. Often it sounds so good in there and then so good on paper when I write out my plan. Then I get to actually writing the thing, and I hate it. Problems crop up, and I have to find a way to push on through until I can get to the end.
I’ll be honest, I do some editing as I go. That might be part of the problem. I’m not a great planner, so sometimes ideas occur to me while I’m writing and then I have to fix it to carry on. It doesn’t always mean abandoning whole bits of story, but sometimes things will require a realigning which is dangerous work itself.
I still love play writing. Those are the stories that crop up out of nowhere and probably have nowhere to go. They’re still fun. I don’t consider those first drafts because I rarely intend to get anywhere with them. I think they just serve as a nice break from focused writing.
As for writing daily, whether inspired or not, I have to say it’s working. If I miss a day, there is no catch up day. I need to seize each day for the precious commodity it is. I do try to ease into the writing daily by working on blog posts or play stories. I make a deal that at some particular point (usually 4pm for me), I will sit down and write on the project. It’s been a little bit of a fight lately. That’s why this post is late and I haven’t spent too much time online. But it’s been getting done. Last night, I sat down and wrote before bed, adding something like 1,000 crappy words which may help me get past a difficult part.
My intent is to have a first draft soon. I’m almost there. I have a lot of work ahead.
Inspiration is actually something that my tumblr is supposed to focus around, and yet I can’t help mentioning this. You see, I think that one of my weakness is setting. Well, I know it’s setting. And the one way I am working on it is by looking at pictures from various communities of abandoned buildings.
I credit these communities for showing me the power of setting. A picture often times tells its own story (though it helps when the poster knows something about the place they’re taking pictures of).
But if truth be told, I don’t just get the power of setting from pictures on these online communities. The best inspiration comes from my own home.
I live very close to what used to be Fort Ord. It was closed down in the early 90’s. What is fascinating to me, and what I think has seeped into my brain, is the re-purposing of the entire site by the local community. In place now there is a university which is slowly growing. I went there, taking classes out of old military buildings made of concrete. Building has started as the school has grown which means older buildings are starting to get torn down. Not all though. Students living in the new North Quad, I believe it’s called, have abandoned buildings with broken windows just across the street from their new, state of the art buildings.
My goal right now is to try and preserve pictures of these locations. It’s easy to drive through old Fort Ord and suddenly go from new buildings and well maintained roads to suddenly overgrown roads and creepy abandoned buildings just by turning up the wrong street. This is the setting and inspiration for the world in Ruin.
Clicking on the picture will take you to the Flikr set of the pictures I took yesterday. Fog was creeping in, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get some memorable pictures.