There are a lot of people writing out there. A lot. And it’s great. There are so many stories to tell. Now with technology catching up to ideas, there are also lots of ways to get your story into the hands of readers, quickly, and affordably. But there are two things I keep hearing from both sides of the equation: the readers, and the authors.
The readers: I can’t find anything good to read. Or more blatantly: Everything I download is crap.
The authors: You can’t even convince people to buy a book for 99 cents! And: How hard is it to download a free book?
So there are two things going on here. Readers want to find something of value, even at free or 99 cents, because they’re not just paying with their cash, they’re also paying with their time. I’m sure we’ve all spent time on a book that we wish we hadn’t, because it’s time we can’t get back. It’s one of the reasons I won’t do any more reviews for ebooks unless I know the author. I spent a good chunk of last year reading crap. I had cancer. That was bad enough. But bad writing on top of it? No.
The second thing that’s going on, is that the authors are frustrated because they’re doing everything they can to promote their work, and don’t understand how much more these readers need. Blood? Writing is suffering enough! But there is one thing that the authors aren’t taking into consideration. Is it really good enough?
Consider this W. Somerset Maugham quote: “I have never met an author who admitted that people did not buy his book because it was dull.”
It’s a painful concept, that maybe what you wrote just isn’t good enough, but it is a reality, and it’s one that we have to consider as artists. If we’re asking people to read our work, we have to be prepared to find out that what we’ve put out there just doesn’t measure up. Not everything that comes out of our fingertips is going to be best-seller quality. But there are ways to stave off totally bombing when the book hits the shelves.
1) Read everything you can in your genre, and everything you can outside of your genre. I don’t think I need to tell any of you how important it is to read, read, read. It teaches you.
2) Use your beta readers wisely. While not everything they say is going to really work for you, everything they feel is a gold mine waiting to be plumbed.
3) Hire an editor. A good one. For one thing, an editor will save your readers the headache of trying to get through that tangled grammar. But more importantly, a good editor can point out plot holes, places where the pacing sags, inconsistencies in your character, or their speech, and the myriad other little things that slip by you when you’re the writer. I may be an editor, but I don’t edit my own work. I don’t even try.
It’s impossible to know how your work is going to be received. And taste is everything. One person’s crap is another person’s favorite book. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw who gets their hands on it, and what they think of it, and word of mouth, and the momentum from that becomes everything. Still, it’s important to stay humble and think hard about your work. Even though it may be painful to admit, sometimes, it’s just not good enough.