Now that I’ve got your attention and you’re already irritated, let’s have a little real talk, shall we?
The fact of the matter is that most authors won’t succeed because they’re not good enough. Boom. I said it. They’re not good enough. For some reason, this seems to be the 600-pound gorilla in the corner that no one’s willing to talk about.
Close to a half-million self published books will go up on Amazon this year, and the reality is that most of them aren’t good enough to garner fans who would buy another book from that writer. You would think everyone knows that to be the truth, but I’m amazed and appalled by the number of writers I encounter who agree that it applies to the other guy, but NOT to them.
If you’re not selling ANY books except those you’ve coerced your family, friends, and a few co-workers into buying, it’s time to ask yourself the question of whether or not you’re one of those writers who’s not good enough yet to succeed.
I am the very first person to agree that a FEW excellent writers will just have bad luck or bad packaging or bad marketing that kills a great book, and it sells for crap. But MOST writers who claim to be one of these writers…I did say real talk…are delusional.
In the good old days of print publishing way back, say, ten years ago, writers had to submit their stories to publishers and have their story purchased before it saw the light of publishing day. Something like one in 5000 books made it out of the slush pile and onto book store shelves.
Was this always a fair filter? Certainly not. Great books didn’t get bought because the publisher didn’t know how to market them, or the author’s voice just wasn’t right for that particular editor, or other reasons. But I daresay that at least 4900 or so of those rejected manuscripts were rightfully rejected. Frankly, I think the number is closer to 4990, but I’m willing to give my fellow writers the benefit of the doubt.
In today’s publishing environment, every last one of those 4900 books is now being self-published.
It worries me that writers don’t understand the disservice they’re doing to themselves by publishing their works before they’ve become good enough to earn fans and build a career. Once you’ve put a book out, particularly in ebook format, it’s out there forever. In years to come, anyone can go back and read that sub-par book and have a chance to be turned off by it and decide not to read any more of your books.
Everything you do contributes to building your brand. When you put out bad books, the brand you’re building is “WRITER OF BAD BOOKS”.
Let’s say you write a dozen novels, and six or eight books in, you figure out what the hell you’re doing and start writing pretty decent stories. Readers who like your new stuff and going to go back and buy the crap from the early days, assuming it will hold up to the new stuff. Their enthusiasm evaporates, and now they won’t recommend you to a friend over the water cooler at work. It’s hard to give a recommendation that says, “Read this author, except only read this title and not that title, because some of Author X’s stuff is great, but the rest is drek.” The other guy at the water cooler won’t remember all of that. He hears, “Author X. Writes drek.”
I know everyone’s shouting about how great it is to get to self-publish while you learn the craft and how cool it is that writing can pay for itself while you learn how to do it. I just heard someone crowing about what a great gig it was for these very reasons. To that person, I say, a) I doubt you’ll make a decent living writing crap en route to writing something decent, b) if being a good writer were that easy, everyone would actually BE good writers, c) you’re wrecking your brand, and on a purely personal note, d) you’re clogging up the marketplace with crap that’s preventing the decent books out there from being found.
I know it’s going to be a wildly unpopular point of view, but I really think most authors would be better off writing their bad learning books and storing them in the safety of their own closets forever, rather than sharing them with the rest of us.
And yes, I have four manuscripts under my bed that will never see the light of day.
Author’s Note: After I first posted this blog, it took under a minute for someone to post that I hate indy publishing and am a slave to NY print publishing. Impressive. I’ll say it again. I think some of the BEST books being published today are being indy published and I wish them massive success. They’re helping break the strangle hold that print publishing has held over publishing for far too long. But I stand by what I said. MOST self-published books aren’t good enough to build a working career on. We’re talking a half million books a year, here. 15 million total or something insane on Amazon right now. MOST of those are not selling and most of those writers are NOT making a living at it. Why is that? We all know the answer. Everyone’s too afraid of being that author to answer the question truthfully. I’m just the moron who dared to say it out loud.