At last, someone has had the courage to say it: the so-called indie publishing revolution is built on books that usually haven’t been edited and are mostly, well, really bad. I’ve written about this before, as you know. Now British thriller author Stephen Leather—he’s sold more than two million books, according to Wikipedia, the first published by HarperCollins—is speaking out. Interestingly, he’s speaking in the form of a guest post on the blog of one of the more successful indie authors, J. A. Konrath.
Leather, bless him, comes right out and says what I’ve been saying:
There is one cold hard fact that I don’t seem to see anywhere on the blogs and forums devoted to ePublishing. You probably won’t like hearing it, especially if you are one of the new wave of ‘Indie’ writers. But I’m going to say it anyway. Here goes. The vast majority of self-published eBooks are bad. Worse than bad. Awful. There, I’ve said it.
Leather goes on to say, “I get emails all the time from ‘Indie’ writers asking me what the secret is to selling a lot of eBooks. I don’t get any asking how they can become better writers.”
That last statement makes me sad, but it doesn’t surprise me. This is a good article; you should read the whole thing. Leather mentions the Rule of Ten Thousand (cited often by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers), which is, simply, this: the way to master a skill (say, playing a piano, speaking French, or … novel writing) is to spend ten thousand hours practicing it. Leather says you need to expect to follow this rule; at two hours a day, that’s thirteen years, friends, before you’ve written a publishable novel.
And then, as I’ve told you before, you work with your substantive editor and really polish it up. :)
Konrath pops in at the end to add his two cents’ worth. He says writers are too close to their own material to know if it’s any good or not. “In the past,” he says, “the gatekeepers (agents, editors) vetted manuscripts and screened out the majority of the crap [Konrath uses a different word here that I’ve edited out for my audience—my apologies, Joe].” I agree with him. So does Leather.
But Konrath goes on to say, “Then I realized that the self-publishing revolution has gatekeepers in place. They’re called readers. Most readers don’t have the experience of industry pros, and may not be very helpful in their critiques. But they do vote with their dollars, and a wise author should pay attention to reviews that say similar things (I hated the hero, the writing is repetitive, this needs an editor, etc.).”
Hm. I don’t think it’s fair to ask the first readers to pay for the privilege of discovering a book is bad. And as Konrath notes, readers aren’t usually publishing pros. So in this model the book still isn’t getting the editing it needs. Leather says, “Just because you’ve written a book doesn’t mean it’s good enough to be published. … EPublishing has removed that learning curve. Now any book can be published, no matter how awful. And I think that’s bad for writers.”
I couldn’t agree more.
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