Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fed Up

I give up. The integrity of publishing is gone (as I feared it would be when self-publishing became a viable option for everyone).

The final straw? A book entitled "The Vampire With The Dragon Tattoo". I have nothing against the author, Kerrelyn Sparks, and I wish her much success (she is obviously more successful than I am already, so...good on ya, Kerrelyn). I did not read the book (#14 in a series, if I understand correctly) nor do I plan to. My complaint is with the mashing up of popular topics, just to get a book to come up on a search engine. Vampires, of course, are still disgustingly popular, so it makes sense an author would want to jump on the band wagon before the fad dies. Also popular (though not so much now as a year or so ago) is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, an excellent story by the late Steig Larsson. (It was turned into a great movie in Switzerland...then turned into an overblown Hollywood rip-off later.)

You see this a lot with self-pubbed authors (Kerrelyn Sparks is not self-pubbed, just fyi, so blame her marketing team, not her). The reasoning behind it is that you will get more visibility because your book will show up in searches when people are looking for those popular phrases. My problem is this...why not write the book that you really want to write instead of what you think the public wants to read? You can't force creativity like that. You'll just end up with a book full of words that you don't really even care about. And if you don't care about it...the audience most certainly won't either. However, there are some people that have done exactly that. They've written the book exactly the way they imagined it since they were wee little writers. Then...they find some popular words to use as a title and some sexy cover art and kick the book out into the world...to join the millions of other books written by authors doing the exact same thing.

So, how do you know where to find a good book? Well, Good Reads and Amazon used to be reliable sources of such information. Alas, recently there have been allegations of authors "buying" reviews in bulk batches. I'm sure that is true to some extent, but it doesn't really matter, does it? The thought is out there now and judging from a couple books I read recently that had decent reviews, I'm liable to believe there were at least several "friend" reviews on there.

Okay, what about the old faithful authors? Well, I've been a fan of Dean Koontz since I read Phantoms (which was also turned into a horrible movie by Hollywood. Even Ben Affleck couldn't save that one.) So, I thought pretty much anything I picked up would be good. Enter: The Darkest Evening of the Year. It was available to borrow at my local library (via the OverDrive app that I listen to audio books at work with). Keep in mind that I have absolutely loved most of the books Mr. Koontz has written. Darkest Evening is a horrible book. I love animals. I prefer cats over dags, but the fact that Koontz decided to use this book as a platform for his...obsession...with golden retrievers is beyond insane. On top of that, it is classified as a horror book, which is laughable at best. So, how did this book get published? Easy...the publisher knew it would sell because Koontz wrote it. Again...I'm very sad...because my favorite author seems to have sold out. Again, I can't really blame Koontz, though. It should have been the publisher's job to send the manuscript back with a note reading simply: "Thank you, no."

(Don't get me started on The Dark Tower series...I'm not even a King fan, but I got sucked into that debacle.)

My hat off to J.K. Rowling, though, for trying to publish her post-Potter book under a pseudonym. It is too bad that she got illegally outed by her own lawyers. I do wonder, though, how she felt when the book was lying dormant and not selling very much. If you ever wanted to know how important marketing and celebrity is to book sales...take a look at that case. Her novel "The Cuckoo's Calling" sold less than 1,500 copies. After the reveal...it was sold out and hit the top charts. To show what a great person she is...she donated the undisclosed settlement money from those who leaked her identity to charity.

So, if J.K. Rowling can't make it based on quality alone what hope do the rest of us have? I'm not rich, so I can't buy reviews and I can't purchase a marketing package to get my book out there to the public. I'm not a well-known author, so I can't just let my fame do the work for me. What should I do?

Some people say that the cream will rise to the top. Some people are naive. The world doesn't work that way. Money talks and if you don't have it, then you won't be heard and your book will drown in the ever-rising tide of crap. It isn't a theory. I've seen it. Some of my favorite authors never hit the top 100 or probably even top 1000. Meanwhile, books that have no substance except a fleeting reference to a passing fad skyrocket into the top sellers lists.

So, I've been asking myself lately...why bother doing it at all? On the off-chance that a book hits the public's ADD at the right moment? Those aren't good odds. So, what then? Quit? Just hang up the quill and find another hobby? Sure, I could, but the problem is that I enjoy writing...or at least, I did. I was spitting out a couple books a year...until I started looking at self-publishing. Now I question everything I write and I try to think about what kind of marketing campaign I can put together. My output has dropped to 0.

So, I have to ask myself the hardest question of all...what do I hope to gain from writing? Do I want to make money? Do I want to become famous? Or do I just want to entertain people? If my hope is money...well, I think I've covered that already. Become famous? Not likely. I gave away A Faerie Tale to WattPad members. Of the 800+ people who sampled the book, 3 took the time (what? maybe a second?) to click the Like button on it. So if you're hoping that merely circulating your book out there for free will bring you recognition (or...dare I say it...reviews?)...I have my doubts. So that just leaves entertaining people. Is that what I really want? To put months of work into writing a novel and then just give it away to people? That would be nice for people that liked my books, but as my WattPad experiment revealed...I'm probably not going to know if anyone likes it or not. So it will probably get pretty depressing to send my beloved stories out into the world and never hear back from them.

So, I'd like to make an announcement...are you sitting down? (Yeah, Matt, I'm talking to you...I think you're the only one that ever comments on these blog posts...)

I'm halting all attempts to publish/self-publish my novels. In fact, after I attempt this year's NaNo event, I'm not even planning to write another novel. I will, of course, but I'm changing my focus. About two months ago, I started a list of short stories that I'd like to write. I think I'm going to work through that list. Spending a few weeks or a month on a short story to give away for free is way more acceptable to me than a novel. I can only hope that by doing this, I will be able to reach an audience that will appreciate and enjoy the stories and characters that I create. Who knows, I might even stumble across a fan or two along the way.

After all, you don't paint a masterpiece with huge brush strokes...it takes lots of little ones in just the right places...with just the right color...over a long period of time. I might as well get started.


  1. I think you've hit on the essential question every writer has to ask themselves. Do I do it for love or money. It's a very, very hard road to find any kind of success so it really needs to be for the former reason!

  2. You know Doug, self-pub isn't the only game in town. What about publishing short stories in online magazines? They pay you money for them, a living to a lot of authors. They take a day, maybe a week to write. They go out to a collective readership of a certain style, and you gain a following from them if they like your work. But even if they don't, you get a cheque for it and it goes out to them all the same.

    Dean Wesley Smith did a great article called 'The Magic Bakery' about it. He made $10,000 off a short story that took him 5 hours to write. The small press is actually seeming more lucrative for indie authors than the large press these days.

    It might be something you want to explore. The publishing world is a hard one, but it doesn't mean there's only one place to explore in it. You put a story in more than one place and see how it does. If it's not a winner, just write another one and keep going.

    I mean, I'm no expert. For all my work, I'm still not a well-paid author, but everyone I've seen who made a success of it, didn't stick to one thing or one book. If one isn't working, move on to a new one. It one place isn't working, move on to a new one. (Remind me to tell myself this advice soon too).

    Anyway, I hope this helps :)