I am really tired. Not only because of what’s been going on in writing circles, but because my cat won’t let me sleep, and I’ve been approved for surgery at the end of March, which is good news because I need to keep trying to find some relief from what’s going on with me, yet it will cause a lot more work for the next little while. I was really hoping to launch the first book in my duet in April…we’ll see how that goes.
But what I’ve been seeing in the writing community makes me tired, too. Namely, tweets like this: (And no, I don’t feel bad for showcasing them here. If you’re putting something out on social media, expect for it to be shared. Period.)
I wrote my own blog post about that a long time ago, once upon a time believing that indies who didn’t care about what they published brought us all down. But the fact is, it’s not true, and it will never be true. Because I’ve realized this: Instead of looking at Amazon as a retailer, look at Amazon as a distribution center. You still have to create and store a good product, you still have to drive traffic to your book’s product page, you still have to keep the promise you made to your reader and satisfy your customer with the content. All that is on you.
So, why do indies take quality, or lack thereof, so hard? So personally?
I would guess it’s fear. Fear that they are going to put so much money, time, and effort into a book that will sell a handful on launch day and then sink in the charts. There is nothing more disheartening. Nothing. While a book that (and this is subjective, anyway) isn’t written as well, will sell like gangbusters for months, maybe years after its release. This happens. Of course it happens. Why do we still talk about Fifty Shades even though that book is 10 years old? Or Twilight? People hated Twilight so much that they ran Stephenie Meyer from social media. Writing and being on social media in a writing community capacity wasn’t on my radar back then, but I saw in real-time what the writing community is capable of doing when they bullied a poor agent after she tweeted her preferred book lengths guideline. It was atrocious, to say the least. Fifty Shades of Grey was fine; it still is fine. Ask Erika how her sales are of the books written in Christian’s POV. She’s not crying in her tea. So is the Twilight saga–it’s fine. Midnight Sun has sold over a million copies. The authors who are bitter may never find that level of success, but that isn’t something that you should shove onto other authors in your community. Your, ummm, peers?
Will poorly written books sell? Of course they will, and this fact is what drives splinters under people’s fingernails.
Now, I can get crabby at authors the same as everyone else. When I hear the, “I’m an indie author and I can do what what” mantra, and then in the same breath, “Why aren’t I selling any books?” Yes, I get crabby at those people. Very rarely can you have it both ways.
I just don’t understand why anyone needs to put that kind of negativity out there in public. There are bad indie books. Books full of telling, head-hopping, plot holes, poorly edited because let’s face it, editing is expensive, but no one is forcing anyone to read those books. Like Nicole says further in that tweet thread, maybe those authors shouldn’t expect to sell books. Maybe they shouldn’t, but it’s none of my business. I learned a long time ago not to buy a book because it has a nice cover on it–anyone can make one in Canva. I have to read the blurb, make sure it’s properly formatted, and I have to read all of the look inside Amazon makes available before I buy a book. And listen, if you buy a book and you don’t like it after the first couple of chapters, return it. Why keep it? You wouldn’t keep any other product that’s broken after you bring it home from the store. Maybe that advice won’t go over well, but I view books as products, and I don’t keep things that are broken. I’m too poor for that. Yes, I’ve had my books returned. No, it didn’t hurt my feelings. I simply didn’t care.
This topic is near and dear to my heart, because when authors like these decide to spew censure all over Twitter, I am one of those authors they hit. I have never, ever, been afraid to tell you that I do most of the work on my books alone before I publish. All alone. And the fact is, I’m not in the minority here. When everything, and I mean, EVERY SINGLE THING in this industry is pay to play, and you are broke, what in the heck can you do? You can still be a real author and not pay for a developmental edit, a copy edit, and a proofer, and a beta reader after the fact. That’s ridiculous and will cost you thousands of dollars. Do beginning authors need more help than an author who has written twenty books? Maybe. Probably. But I also know authors who have an extensive back list and their books are boring and/or have other technical issues, either because they haven’t gotten the feedback they needed earlier in their career, or they think they are good writers and aren’t open to feedback.
No one can predict what will hit and what won’t. What book will fill a need at the right time, what will hit with a trope or a feeling or a theme. That’s why there are sleeper hits. Any book at any time can explode. Do you have a better chance if that book is properly edited, has an exciting look inside, with a great (and legal) cover and fantastic story? Sure, but it’s not like authors intentionally publish books without those things. We all launch to the best of our ability, and my best won’t be the same as someone else’s best. There are are people who will always be better or worse than you. I have a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. Someone else could have an MFA. Someone else could have flunked high school English. Those things are not indicative of success. And to be honest, it’s none of my business what degrees you have or not. Maybe you have 100,000 newsletter subscribers like Lucy Score, or maybe you have a little money and can run some Amazon ads and buy a newsletter promo and hope Amazon’s algos help you out. Maybe your book gets picked up by popular TikTokers. Colleen Hoover’s books are having a moment because of TikTok.
The point is, tweets like the ones up above aren’t necessary. If you’ve been burned by an author, indie or otherwise, tuck their name in the back of your mind, don’t buy from them again, and move on. While I was reading Billionaire when I decided to pivot, I read a lot of books. Some were really really good, and some were not that great. And I understand the frustration. A lot of those not-so-great books? They were outselling the books I enjoyed. By a lot. A lot has to do with who the author publishes with. Some are full-fledged indie authors, some were published by Montlake–an Amazon imprint. But that just makes it even clearer that there is so much that goes into a bestseller that trying to hit it is futile.
So stop ragging on other authors. Do your best, and hopefully one day it will pay off.