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. 🙂
Every few paces a different speaker blared the cheerful daytime music that made the hairs in her inner ear quake. She tried to resist putting her hands over her ears to stop the intrusion of the bright melodies as she made her way back to her apartment building from the doctor’s office. He had completely dismissed her complaints about the headaches caused by the noise. She couldn’t think, and he didn’t seem to care.
She had wanted to really press him about it. Her hope was that she could possibly qualify for some noise cancelling headphones that had become so incredibly expensive since all the changes. The tech used to create them was in such high demand to keep the city covered in music that to get a pair would cost an entire year of her salary. She would never be able to afford them on her own.
But the doctor had his own music piped into his office. Each examination room had a speaker that played classical music meant to soothe. To her, it only had the effect of covering up the doctors deep voice. When she’d asked about how it was that he could play a different tune from that on the street, he answered without looking from her charts. She thoughts he said, “I have special permission to play something different for the benefit of my patients. Don’t worry, it’s still regulation and will keep the nasties away.”
Then he’d given her a smile too wide. One laced with barely contained condescension. She was sure he took her for one of those hyper sensitive and paranoid ladies who feared what would come without the music and could never have it loud enough.
She rubbed her head to relieve the pounding. At her building, she practically dived into the lobby to strip away the additional layer of noise from the people and cars on the street. The speaker near the elevators of her apartment had always been wonky and they’d never been able to properly fix it although she’d seen them try. It still worked within the regulation frequencies; it just played the music slightly muffled which fired a feeling of nostalgia in her brain that actually hurt. Oh the memories of sitting quietly and reading a book or just staring into space. God, how she missed it!
The same music played in her hall as that in the elevator. She entered her apartment to the exact same playing inside her living room. There was no escape from it. Not even in her bathroom.
As she always did upon first entering her apartment, she slammed her hands over her ears and pressed them together as if she were attempting to crush her own skull. She rubbed at her face as she considered doing something she knew she shouldn’t. If her neighbors found out, they could report her.
Sharp objects such as knives and forks, and even pointy things like screwdrivers, had been banned after several of the incidents. The only tool she possessed happened to be a plastic spoon. She took it to one of the screws of the speaker. She needed to be able to put it back together after she was done, so some care was needed though being so close to the infernal noise she wanted to do nothing more than rip it out of the wall. Slowly, she worked until the screw came out, and then, she pulled the speaker right off the wall. The noise stopped.
She shut the doors to the bathroom and the bedroom and sat on the couch. It was not the perfect silence of the old days, but it was enough to allow her to sit back, shut her eyes, and remember. Inhaled air traveled through her nasal passages, and she listened to it pass under her eyes. All the tension drifted out of her body.
They are lying to you.
She bolted upwards.
There is no danger. They want to control you.
It had been so long since she was alone with her thoughts. Had the thoughts always come on their own like this, unbidden? The thoughts continued, whispering, warning her of disaster if she didn’t act. She had been thinking it for so long, but she just hadn’t been able to focus enough to gather her thoughts this way. They had built up, and now, in a moment of complete relaxed quiet, they came.
You must tell others. You must make the music stop. There are no nasties in the quiet. There is no one here but your own thoughts.
She stood up and walked into the hall. There had to be others who felt the same as her. She had to find them.
NaNoWriMo IS OVER! Did you make it all the way through the month? Even if you didn’t hit 50,000 words, if you tried consistently that’s something. Starting a new story is something. Adding new words is something. Don’t think about NaNo as something you win or lose. Just keep going until you complete your story.
With that said, here is what I’ve been working on this month. This meme has finally made it to every dark corner of the internet. It’s on my blog! I was tagged by Annie Neugebaur (check hers out!) and Ashlee Scheuerman (watch for hers). I would like to tag some other writers, but I think it has made its way to all the blogs I follow.
What is the working title of your book?
I am horrible at titles. I haven’t got one yet. The file is called “Destruction.” Out in public, I just call it “Kay’s story.”
Where did the idea come from for this book?
This idea came up when I wrote the rough draft of Paula’s story. Originally, I just wondered about what happened to Paula’s mom who was in prison for political crimes, and I wondered if someone wouldn’t want to save her just because of all the work she’s done and what she actually does mean to the leader of the Southlands. But how would that be done?
What genre does your book fall under?
I’m horrible with genres. It’s science fiction, but because the youth of at least two characters in this story, it’ll probably be borderline YA.
How long did it take to write the first draft?
Still working on it. I did the rough draft for NaNoWriMo. A passable first draft will probably take another month.
What actors would you use for a movie rendition of your book?
This was a tough one for me. I don’t
know much about actors. I did a search. It turned out to actually be kinda fun.
Kay- Sydney Park. She was funny in Spork. (Which I didn’t make it through.) But she has just the right look in this shot. I think Park manages to catch that look of wariness and yet also an innocence from someone on the verge of growing up.
Teresa- Madison Davenport. Based on that picture. I know nothing about the girl, but she has the right look and a range of interesting acting credits and she’s only 16. Teresa is 12 – 14 in the story.
Aaron – Alex Pettyfer for that pic from Beastly alone. Wow. He’s cute. And he looks close to how I picture Aaron including the hair and body.
What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Kay, an ordinary human living among children of powerful experiments, will go on a mission that will prove her worth to the tribe.
Will it be self published or represented by an agency?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I enjoy looking at how people handle situations that are out of their control. This particular character was fun to see in action, especially early on when she felt she was in her element, yet didn’t quite fit in.
I have also been inspired recently by stories of injustice. People who are in power abusing that power just to keep it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The book isn’t really complete yet, so it’s hard to say. I’ve had two separate stories compared to Margaret Atwood (for the substance, I’m sure, not the style). It’s science fiction, but I want to focus on the people.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
We see the Neutral side finally. This story is also told from the point of view of a girl who grew up in the Southlands. And we learn a little more in this story about the experiments and possible theories for what was going on.
It’s not a good thing for a writer to brag. Or at least not good for this writer to brag because fate aims to keep me humble. But I feel as if I’ve made great strides recently and actually gotten a lot done. It’s too good a feeling not to share.
Since I’ve managed to come back, I’ve finished one short story and today I’m going to say I’ve finished another novella. I’m going to say I’ve finished, because it’s about as done a rough draft can be. Now it’s a matter of cleaning it up, tying things together, and making it all make sense. There were a lot of things in the rough draft I didn’t plan for but worked out perfectly. I may not know what’s always going on, but my subconscious seems to have a plan at least.
It’s been nearly a year since I put out my last book, one which hardly counts because it was a novella companion to Ruin, meant to offer an alternate view point of the world. I have to admit that I feel like I have failed in some way. I’d definitely planned to have more than just one book out this year.
I can’t completely blame real life. I can’t blame writer’s block either. I can’t really blame any one factor. The truth is that I’m still getting a hang of everything– not just the self-publishing, but the whole act of writing something and then working hard to make it polished. I’m not just writing straightforward stories. I’m always trying to push myself in small ways.
I’m still learning what I can get away with in book format. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a real writer, doing writerly things and experimenting with ways to tell my stories. Most of the time though, I feel like a sham. That’s what I let stop me cold. I’ve always suffered with self-esteem issues. (I know many people do.) And sometimes I let them get the best of me.
I think I stopped writing in April. I just didn’t feel I could. So I took a week off. Then two. Then a month. Then bad stuff happened that had no relation to my writing.
Here’s what I’m learning: Even when I don’t want to write, I need to write or else I let the dark part of me triumph. I haven’t quite learned how to make myself do it other than sitting down in front of the computer or on my notepad and just doing it. I have all sorts of simple ways to trick myself into writing. Ultimately, it always comes down to just taking the time to face my fears and get to work.
Yesterday, my boyfriend, who was reading through the new version of that story I keep whining about, said to me: “I’m on the dirty part. Even in a short story you managed to work in a dirty part.”
To be fair, it’s not all that short. It’s over 20,000 words and nearly 60 pages printed! That’s enough for a dirty part, right?
Still, I did go a little red in the face and tried to explain how I anticipated hearing something about the dirty bit. I’m pretty sure I just ended up blaming my writing partner in crime. (Sorry, Laura. You know how it goes. Blame the one not present and all that.)
The sex scene is an interesting beast. It sort of gets a lot of baggage piled up on it. Most writers say they have trouble with the sex scene. In fact, when I mention anything about including sex in any of my stories, I sometimes seem to face this unconscious attitude that a sex scene suddenly turns a book into erotica or something. I can’t really explain it, but I’ve hit on it more than once and the person speaking never seemed aware of the assumption, so maybe it was just me reading into things. But there does seem to be some sort of bias against the sex scene in regular fiction that is not romance or erotica.
Sex scenes are fun for me to write. I’ll confess, sometimes, as one of my exercises, I’ll write a sex scene between two characters who may or may not be involved. Some surprising things about a character can come to light from these experimental romps. Either about their character (Do they lead in bed or are they led? Are they pushy? How far do they push?) or about the situation.
I do have a couple of tips when it comes to the sex scene.
1. Assume the reader has basic knowledge about sex. I never write about organs or how they fit together. I don’t talk about positions. The focus is instead on the physical details of the scene as the characters are feeling it. I consider these anchor details that will help elicit a memory or a fantasy from the reader.
2. It’s not really about the sex. Okay, so maybe it is, but I find that boring. I prefer to get a deeper glimpse into the character. (Wow, no pun intended there, but feel free to snicker away at that!) Sex is a moment where the character may let down their guard or even pull their guard up more. How they behave in bed can speak volumes.
I’m not a pro, but I do enjoy an interesting sex scene. (Again with the snickering.) It’s sort of a strange topic and a little embarrassing. The next story I’m working on might also have a sex scene. Oh man, I don’t want to hear what my boyfriend will say when he reads that one.