An Open Letter to Militant Self-Publishers

Dear Militant Self-publishers:

It’s time to lay down your swords. The war has been won. Very few people care any more if the books they read are self-published or not. There are probably more self-published authors making a living by writing than traditionally published knightwriters, which mean you sell a whole lot of books.

If someone accidentally or even purposely impugns all self-published writers, let it go. Stop brandishing your swords as if this is some sort of war or civil rights movement. People have a right to their opinion. Some readers have been burned by buying poorly edited self-published books, and it is their prerogative to stay away from self-published books if they wish. There are way too many books on the market for anyone to read them all, so each person has a right to set their own parameters. It is also their prerogative to say so publicly.

And oh, while I’m at it, please stop comparing yourself to Dickens and John Grisham and other iconoclasts. These self-published authors from previous eras went against the flow of publishing, arranging to have the books printed and selling copies by hand. Being self-published today is about going with the flow. There are millions of you. You are an army with no enemy.

So just lay down your swords, take off your armor, and enjoy what you have accomplished.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

How Long Does it Take to Edit a Novel?

If you have an editor, the editor pretty much decides how long it takes to edit a novel, but if you’re self-editing, it takes as long as it takes for you to get it right, But more than that, it depends on what you’re editing for. Are you editing it for content, to make sure that every scene, every character, every bit of dialogue is the ablsolute best you can do? Are you editing for story flow? Or are you simply copyediting to remove typos? Each of my books took a year to write, then I set it aside for several months. When I went back to the book, I could read it as if I hadn’t written it and so could find many areas where the story bogged down. Then I re-edited it again in another few months, and then another few months later, and ended up spending as much time editing as writing. This was especially true of my first novel, More Deaths Than One because I had to learn to write as I went along. Each deskediting session was more of a rewrite session — the published novel is completely different from the first draft, and yet it’s exactly what I was aiming for. In the end, it took about four years from first draft to finished manuscript. (In the interim periods, I wrote other books, so More Deaths Than One was the first novel I wrote, also the third, fifth, and seventh.)

I start out editing my books for content and flow, making sure that every scene, every character, every bit of dialog is the best I can do, and that every word, paragraph, chapter flows seamlessy one into the other without taking the reader out of the story, then I edit for individual words. Each of us has pet words and phrases, and the overuse of these constructions echo in readers ears, so I search for such duplication, and rewrite the appropriate passages. I also look for wishy-washy words and qualifiers that take the authority from my writing such as “I guess,” “a little,” “quite.” (In case you’re interested, here is the list of words I seek and destroy: Self-Editing — The List From Hell.) I do one final copy-editing session, then send the book to my editor, and finally my publisher.

The problem with most books on the market is that people rush to publish without giving themselves time to let the book rest before editing it with fresh eyes. Of course, this is a different market from the one I was writing for. Even as early as ten or twelve years ago, there were only a certain number of books on the market, and each had to be as good as possible to compete with the demands of the profession. Things have changed radically since then. With millions of people self-publishing, the key is quantity, not quality. Many authors publish three to four books a year just to keep their names fresh, and in such a disposable book world, editing is the first casualty.

I was appalled the first time I heard that someone had spent a week or so polishing the book they wrote during November’s National Novel Writing Month — how can anything written so fast have any depth? Such writers do find massive followings, though, so perhaps my way of “thinking” my books into reality (I spend way more time thinking about what to write than I do writing) is more out of step with today’s book world than those who simply dash off a book, do a slapdash job of editing, and then foist it on the reading public.

So, in the end, how long it takes to edit a novel depends on what you are looking for — quantity or quality. And before you start arguing that you can have both — the truth is you can’t have both unless you have a good editor on call who will do the editing for you. Writing is like driving. Everyone thinks they are a good driver, but all the bad drivers on the road show that a lot of those “good drivers” are mistaken.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

You Finished Writing Your Book. Now What?

I recieved an email yesterday from a friend telling me she finished writing her book, and then she asked for advice about how to proceed in getting her book published. She said she is open to all venues — self-publishing, independent presses, agents and major publishers.

If you are in the same situation, the first thing you do is make sure you’ve edited the book, copyedited it, found people to read it to see if there are any obvious lacks, and made it the best book you possibly can.

What you do next depends on your goal. If you want to try to do it on your own without going through agents or  publishers, there are plenty of self-publishing platforms to choose from such as Create Space, Amazon/Kindle, Lulu, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble/Nook. Do a bit of research to find the platform(s) that suits your needs. You don’t need an ISBN number for Amazon/Kindle or Barnes & Noble/Nook, though you do need one for most other venues.

If you want to try for a major publisher, research agents. You can find them at places like Preditors and Editors and Association of Authors’ Representatives. Look for agents who are interested in your genre. Once you have names, check out their websites to find submission requirements, and follow those requirements. If they say query letter only, don’t send samples of the manuscript. If they ask for the first three chapters, don’t send the whole manuscript.

If you decide to go with a small publisher, you can find a listing at Preditors and Editors and similar sites. Generally, you don’t need an agent for such publishers. Follow the same instructions as for agents, checking out their submission requirements and following them.

The query letter is your most important tool. Try to fit your letter to the particular agent or publisher. Always send to a particular person. Never use “Dear Sir” or “To Whom it May Concern.” Send a few letters out at a time (start with agents and publishers who will accept email submissions to save time and money). By doing only a few at a time, you can rewrite your query letter and synopsis as you get rejections. (Keep in mind a rejection at this stage only means they rejected your letter, not your manuscript.) The better your letter is, the better chance you have of getting someone interested in looking at your manuscript.

Click here to find out How to Write a Query Letter.

This is the query letter I wrote for More Deaths Than One. It got me an agent, but the agent couldn’t find a publisher. I found a publisher on my own when the agent’s contract expired.

Dear (Name):

The painting is of a pond with no ripples, surrounded by forest. Very serene. As Bob studies the painting, however, disquiet begins to creep over him, and he can almost see the monstrous thing that lives in the slime deep down at the bottom of the pool.

“I was trying to paint what’s in here,” he says, tapping his chest with a fist. Then he gestures to the painting. “I don’t know how that happened.”

When Bob Stark returns to Denver after almost two decades in Southeast Asia, he finds that, like his painting, nothing is as it seems. Not only does the city of his birth seem alien; the mother he buried years before has died again. Even worse, two men who appear to be government agents are hunting him for no reason that he can fathom.

Set in 1988, this novel, More Deaths Than One, explores what it is that makes us who we are. Is it our memories? Our experiences? Our natures?

Enclosed please find a synopsis and the first three chapters of this suspense novel. The finished manuscript of 80,000 words is available upon request.


Pat Bertram


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Should You Spend More Time Writing or More Time Promoting?

A few month ago, The Taleist Survey of 1007, a survey of 1007 self-published authors made the rounds. That survey tried to explain why some self-publishers make a living by writing and how they do it, but the survey only complicates matters.

The survey says that 2/3 of the top earners (those who make a living by writing, which, incidentally, was less than 10% of the total), are women, leaving the impression that women were better at self-publishing than men, but the truth is, women write romance more than men do, and romance sells more than mystery and science fiction and way more than literary fiction.

It also says that “respondents who’d had their work rejected by traditional publishing and then opted to self-publish it were among the lowest earners,” but that “32% of the top Earners tried and failed to get a traditional publishing deal before self-publishing, but now make a living from selling their work.” Huh? What’s the difference between being rejected and failing to get a traditional publishing deal? Even more confusing, 29% of the top earners had an agent. Why? I thought the point of self-publishing was to bypass the traditional route. Or maybe they hope the agent will get them a traditional publishing contract? If so, then apparently, the top earners still aren’t earning enough.

The report also said that the average top earner spent 69% more time writing than the average author outside of the top earners group. The top earners group spent more time writing than they did marketing, and those in the group who spent the least time marketing were making the most money. Out of all respondents, those who spent the most time marketing earned the least.

Bewildering, isn’t it? The survey leaves out a lot of important information, such as: did the top earners promote at the beginning, and once their careers took off, stop promoting in favor of writing? And if they never promoted, how did they sell books without marketing? The only self-publishers I have met who managed to get on the bestsellers lists without doing any promotion at all (they just posted their ebooks on Amazon and waited for sales) were romance writers and some mystery series writers. Romance readers seem to be voracious consumers of books, and the more they buy, the more Amazon will recommend. And it stands to reason that the more books you write the more you will sell.

Once you get in the Amazon loop, you can spend your time writing and let Amazon take care of your marketing, but those writers who don’t hit that particular jackpot have no other option but to promote. Some writers who eschew marketing in favor of writing are publishing more books but still not making money.

So yes, the top earners spend more time writing, but that does not mean that if you spend more time writing you will earn more.

The survey also says that those who get reviews from top reviewers on Amazon make more money than those who don’t get such reviews, but the top reviewers seldom review newly self-published books from unknowns, so again, the question is, which came first — the financial success or the reviews?

Although I am not a self-published writer, such matters interest me. Those of us who are published by small presses have many of the same concerns as the self-published since for the most part neither group has a has a publicity departments helping us get better known. But this survey has no answers for us, just more questions.

Should we spend more time writing and less time promoting? Or do we need to spend more time promoting and less time writing? Or maybe we should simply spend less time reading such surveys.

Who Decides What Books are Worthwhile?

I watched Incognito the other day, a story about an art forger. One of the most interesting bits of dialogue was when a gallery owner says (screams it, actually) that whatever he says is art, that is art. The comment caught my attention because lately I’ve been blogging about the publishing industry, the writing community, and where (or how) I fit into this modern world of books. And a big part of that equation is the meaning of art as it applies to writing.

I have no fondness for the corporate publishers. For the most part, the books they’ve been publishing for a long time now seem boring and trivial, and hold no real truth for me. I am not one who can read the zillionth book in a series and still maintain my interest in the characters. The writers I have always liked are non-literary authors, such as David Westheimer and Nevil Shute, who wrote stand-alone books that did not fit into any particular genre. (To me a literary author is one who is more focused on how something is said than on what is said, and who is more focused on what is said than on the story itself.) In fact, the very reason I decided to write my own books was that I could no longer find the sort of novels I liked to read.

On the other hand, I have no special fondness for self-publishers. Many write the same sort of drivel that the major publishers put out — trivial books that lack individuality and truth. Even worse, many are badly written, and the plethora of errors shows a complete disregard for readers. Originally, I assumed these writers who go it alone were better than those published by the corporations, since the major publishers seem to specialize in a high degree of mediocrity, but unfortunately, the reverse is too often the case. Worst of all, in an effort to get noticed and make a living, many authors write a book every three or four months. Without time to think, without the grueling months of rewriting, editing and copyediting, authors will be foisting increasing numbers of less than stellar books on the market.

In this avalanche of books, what distinguishes one from another? Who decides what is worth reading? Who decides what books will succeed? The critics? Just because they say a book is worthwhile doesn’t mean that it is. Some of the books that have won major awards stun me with their ghastliness. The corporate publishers? The books they choose aren’t picked for worth; they are chosen for salability. The masses who self-publish? The masses who read? (I hate using the word “masses,” because really, who among us ever considers themselves one of the masses? But I can’t think of a better one to describe huge numbers of people who do the same thing as everyone else.) Look at the self-published books that have achieved icon-hood — few have little value as literature or art, few have a modicum of “truth.”

So who is to decide what is art or literature? My books are published by a small press, and so are the books by many writers I have met online. Someday, maybe, these small presses will provide a literary haven between the two extremes of self-publishing and corporate publishing, but the truth is, no one has to decide what books are art, which books have merit. It doesn’t matter.

In the beginning, stories were told wherever humans gathered. It is one of the very few things that separate us from any other species — our ability to tell stories. It is what makes us human. Perhaps even what makes us divine. We are a species of mythmakers, telling ourselves the story of our lives, telling each other the stories of other lives, both real and imagined.

The pen was the first great technological advance in story telling, followed by the printing press. The printing press allowed certain businesses to control what stories were told, and that control held true for centuries. Now, in this electronic age, the control is gone, and anyone can publish anything, no matter how terrible. This puts a burden on readers since often they get stuck buying something that is poorly written and badly edited, if edited at all, but this is the way things are going to be for a long time to come.

And perhaps the situation is not such a bad thing. We could be moving away from literature as art (as defined by self-styled critics) and returning to our very beginnings . . .


All Books Are Not Created Equal

This anything-goes publishing world has been perplexing me for quite some time now, both as an author who is trying to find a place in the wild book frontier of throw-everything-out-there-and-see-what-sticks and as a reader who is trying to find sanity and good-editing and great story-telling among the millions of books being offered for sale.

People think that good books will rise to the top, that such books will automatically find a readership, but that is not always the case. Wonderful books are being overlooked, and dreadful books with no redeeming value are filling millions of Kindles. Shrugging off the conundrum as “survival of the fittest” doesn’t help matters, because in this case, it seems to be matter of devolution, of having to accept typos, poor grammar, ridiculous errors of fact, and an appallingly low standard of literacy. Compounding the problem is that many good writers, who have to watch their books stagnate, no longer see the point in writing, which lowers standards even more.

I used to think this was a matter of a breakdown in the filtering process. If authors have to submit their books to publishers, if they have to go through an editing and copyediting process, then books have a minimum of errors and at least a modicum of good storytelling. Or at least they used to. Even the major publishers are lowering their quality control. If their aim has always been to sell the lowest common denominator, and if those people don’t care about quality, then there is no point in adding to the expense by doing the work. Nowadays, when the fastest selling self-published authors are those with an ever growing stream of books, quantity and not quality are the key.

The real problem as I have come to see is not one of filtering, but of strata. There used to be definite strata when it came to readers. People stuck to their own genres, though even within a genre there were definite layers of quality. Some romance writers, such as Colleen McCullough, rose to iconic status. Others, such as Danielle Steele, were firmly entrenched in the lower middle. And still others churned out myriad books for lowest of the low, Harlequin and Silhouette and the other subscription publishers.

And never, except for perhaps the iconic writers, did anyone consider these books to be great writing. (Most could not even fall under the heading of good writing.) And never did the best writers have to compete or be compared to these writers. Yet that is what is happening today. With Amazon taking hold of the book business and running away with it, demarcations between utter trash and high quality books have completely disappeared. All books are thrown into the slush pile, all are ranked by the same classification system, all are treated equally.

But the truth is, all books are not created equal. Just because a book is uploaded to Amazon, just because it sells, it does not mean the book is worthwhile. A badly written book with no redeeming value is still trash, but few people seem to notice, and fewer seem to care.


See also:

Perplexed by the Anything-Goes Publishing World (Part II)

Yesterday I wrote about how this new wild frontier, this stampede to publish and be damned (or not) of the new publishing world and how it could be lowering literacy standards because of the almost blythe acceptance of errors in books. The prevailing attitude is that as long as the writer is satisfied with the book, that’s all that matters. Neither they nor their readers seem to care if their story is derivative, if the editing is slipshod, if typos litter the pages.

To add to the confusion of this anything-goes publishing world, books that do well are seldom the best. Often, these successful books are the result of a very aggressive promotion campaign or the result of luck — by being chosen by Amazon for an aggressive promotion campaign or by hitting the right market at the right time.

It seems as if the world is a poorer place if good books are destined to remain undiscovered simply because the author is a wonderful writer and a mediocre promoter. Since we reward wonderful promoters who are mediocre writers with huge numbers of sales, the whole book business becomes even more skewed than it already is. People think that good books will rise to the top, that such books will automatically find a readership, but that is not always the case. And shrugging off the conundrum as “survival of the fittest” doesn’t help matters.

Some people think readers are screaming for quality, that readers are lost in the stampede, but when you consider the vast number of sales made by a few mediocre but bestselling traditionally published authors, most people are not screaming for quality. They are screaming for . . . comfort, perhaps. Predictability. A community of like-minded readers.

To make the situation even more complicated, publishers are not taking responsibility for marketing the books they publish. They want their authors to do that.

I recently read an article by a publisher who said that a publisher’s role was simply to prepare a book for market and to make it available. That’s it. Learning how to promote, navigating the insanely competitive book market, marketing one’s book, paying for book tours and conferences — all of that is the responsibility of the author. So then why does an author need a publisher at all? With Create Space, Lulu, Smashwords, and now Goodreads getting into the epublishing business, authors can prepare their own books for market. And what they can’t do, they can hire done, and keep all the profits. And authors by the millions are doing that very thing.

Maybe the problem I’m having coming to terms with this new wild frontier stems from a life-long respect for books, a sense that books are somehow sacred. Maybe it’s time for me to give up that old-fashioned attitude and treat books like any other temporary reading commodity, such as a blog post or a cereal box.

Perplexed by the Anything-Goes Publishing World (Part I)

In a recent discussion on Facebook, someone mentioned the case of a self-published story that was being offered for sale on Amazon. A woman posted a review, stating her opinion that the work was far from ready for publishing, and she gave the writer several examples of how to improve, but the writer took these comments as insults. What ensued was a protracted argument between the writer and the reviewer.

The Facebooker who brought this exchange to our attention asked who was right and who was wrong. I thought the reviewer brought up some excellent points, gave wonderful suggestions for redoing the story without getting disrespectful about it. (And the reviewer could have gotten nasty. The story really was atrocious.)

I can’t imagine arguing with a reviewer as the author did, though. A couple of times I have privately asked a reviewer to remove a spoiler that gave away the ending (and the reviewers graciously complied) but the writer in this case had a terribly unprofessional and arrogant attitude. She more or less said she could publish whatever she wanted, it didn’t have to be perfect, and too bad if people didn’t like it. Unfortunately, there are millions like her, which leaves me continually perplexed by the entire book business today.

The major publishers have had control of publishing standards for way too long. I certainly have no love for conglomerates or corporate thinking, so I don’t object to a lessening of their control. On the other hand, many writers now think they don’t need any standards at all. They say they can write whatever they wish, however they wish. The prevailing attitude is that as long as the writer is satisfied with the book, that’s all that matters. They don’t care if their story is derivative, if the editing is slipshod, if typos litter the pages.

Some of these writers even manage to sell a significant number of copies of their books.

Self-published writers seem to be a militant lot, demanding the same respect as authors whose books are published by a traditional or an independent press, yet self-published authors adhere to no one’s standards but their own, while a book that was accepted by and released by a publishing company has had to live up to at least the publisher’s standards. But some self-published writers do adhere to a high standard of literacy while some bestsellers released by the major publishers have an appallingly low standard of literacy.

Does any of this matter? With texting and twittering, leaving out letters of words to shorten them or using number for letters is standard. (AFAIK, u cn rd this. Me 2. LOL) Eek. Whole novels have been written in such shorthand.

Do kids today learn grammar in school? Do they need to know grammar? With spell check and grammar check on their computers, probably not. So, if books today have grammar mistakes, punctuation mistakes, typos, do most people even notice? Those of us who have spent a lifetime reading do notice, but do we count? We value language, but is language important? Language is an evolving organism, so perhaps those of us who quail at poorly written and poorly copy written books are running a race that has already been lost. A new generation grows into adulthood every year along with a new generation of electronic toys and tools and together they spawn a new generation of idioms. A new language.

I don’t know why this new anything-goes publishing world perplexes me. Most writers seem thrilled with the new order of doing book business. They don’t have to take the time to research the business, finding out which agents will accept their genre and which publishers they can submit to without an agent. They don’t have to learn how to write query letters or learn how to write a description and a hook. They don’t need to learn to deal with rejection. And especially, they don’t need to learn how to improve their work to make it as near perfect as possible. They simply decide to publish. That’s all it takes.

And most readers seem thrilled to find myriad books to download to their new ereaders.

So perhaps it’s just me who worries about a lessening of standards. Perhaps this new frontier, this stampede to publish and be damned (or not) is what everyone else wants. It’s certainly not the first time in my life the world didn’t act in accord with what I thought was the right direction for it to take, and it certainly won’t be the last.

See also: Perplexed by the Anything-Goes Publishing World (Part II)

Writing Is the Great “As If”

There are more opportunities for writers to get published today than ever before. Independent presses are proliferating, which gives authors many new places to send submissions (that’s what I did — chose a small independent publisher). Writers can post their work on a blog for people to read online. And of course, there is the self-publishing option. Huge numbers of writers are not even bothering to query agents or to submit their manuscripts to publishers. They opt for self-publishing as their first choice rather than the last as was once the case. Some writers have no time to query, no time to learn the most effective way of presenting a proposal. Some see no reason to share their royalties with a publisher. Others simply want to bypass publishers’ standards. I’m sure there are as many reasons for self-publishing today as there are self-publishers, but my concern are those who want to bypass publisher’s standards. (Which, admittedly, seem to be non-existent these days.)

It does sound nice — doesn’t it? — to present your novel the way you want it done. It’s your prerogative, of course, and it is your novel. But is it? What about your potential readers? Isn’t it their novel, too? Too many people who self-publish think that freedom from a publisher’s standards makes them also free from a reader’s standards. But if no one can read your writing, if readers are pulled up short by misspellings, poor writing, poor storytelling, then what’s the point?

I’ve met some self-published authors who are proud of their inability to create a coherent sentence, as if it’s more artistic that way. Artistic? I suppose. But if I have to read a sentence two or three times to make sense of it, I don’t care how artistic it is. It’s a foolish waste of my time, and perhaps even a foolish waste of the writer’s. Reading a few articles about how to write, doing an extra re-write, taking care with proofreading might turn that unreadable tract into something people will want to read and even cherish. (I am by no means suggesting that all self-published writers need to be more careful. There are some fine writers who are self-publishing.)

A friend recently told me how proud she was of her ability to write in “southern dialect.” I cringed. Page after page of dialogue that you have to mentally transcribe into something resembling readable prose makes a reader toss a book aside. Perhaps, before radio and television, phonetically spelled dialects were important, because who, besides those who had been to the American south, knew what a southern accent was? Today, everyone (or almost everyone — I can’t vouch for those living in the far reaches of the planet who have no access to modern media) knows what a southern accent sounds like.

Writing is the great “as if.” You don’t need to painstakingly write in a southern accent, using phonetic spellings and a confetti of apostrophes.. The key is to make your readers feel as if they are reading such an accent. Some suggestions:

  • You can simply say, “Delia spoke in a soft southern drawl.” Perhaps that is a bit clichéd, but it does get the point across. Afterward, you can write in normal English (or whatever language you write in) whenever Delia speaks.
  • You can do one snippet of dialogue as dialect, then say “that’s what it sounded like when Delia spoke.” Readers will remember that’s how she talks, and will be grateful for your simple spelling thereafter.
  • You can phrase your dialogue as if it were dialect, but leave off the funny spellings. “Much obliged for the lift, ma’am. My dad-blamed son drove my car a far piece down the road, and he plumb ruined it. I reckon I’ll be thumbing it a spell.” Sounds southern (of a sort) and it’s still readable.

Description is another case of “as if.” You don’t need long descriptive passages that offer nothing to the story. All you need are a couple of key details that make it seem as if you’re describing the whole. If you talk about brown stains on the ceiling or dust motes dancing in the sunlight shining through the bare spots of the maroon velvet drapes, readers will get a good idea of what that the room looks like. And if you mention the brand-new 35″ television looming large in that dreary old room, your readers will get a good idea of who your characters are.

Less isn’t always more when it comes to writing, of course, and “as if” isn’t always the answer. And you certainly don’t have to write with potential readers in mind — it’s hard enough to write a novel without that additional pressure. But once the book is written, it would be a good idea to act as if people are going to love it, and then give them something to love. Which means, rewrite it so that readers will want to read it and not throw it against the wall in frustration.

By self-publishing, you might be able to bypass publishers’ standards, but you can never bypass readers’ standards.

Authors Who Reject Publishers

There’s been a lot of talk recently about traditionally published novelists rejecting their publishers and releasing their books themselves. I can see that these novelists don’t like making a pittance on their books, but it seems churlish to dump the very people that made them a success. Without the publicity departments of those publishing houses behind them, there is little chance that these authors would have ever attained their current popularity. If you are one among millions of unknown writers trying to sell your book to an unaware reading public, it doesn’t matter if your book is stellar. It cannot shine without readers.

Many authors have the idea that wonderful books will always find a readership. Once that might have been true, but in today’s book world, where anyone with a computer and bit of time on their hands can write a novel (sometimes in only a few weeks, including editing — yikes) the sheer numbers of available books can keep even a great book from rising above the flotsam.

Interestingly enough, only a couple of these once traditionally published authors wrote truly original novels. If the rest had to make their own way in the ocean of ebooks and self-published books, they would have not have found much of a readership. The major publishers want what I call blue-jeans books — books that are made from the same fabric as all the others in a genre but with a slightly different styling. They don’t want anything too original because it is hard to sell. (I had several editors tell me they loved Light Bringer, my latest novel, which will be released by Second Wind Publishing this March, but they turned it down because they didn’t know how to sell it.) The blue jeans quality that makes books acceptable to editors of major publishing houses is the very quality that makes them unremarkable in the self-publishing or independent publishing world.

I don’t have much use for the traditional publishers, so I don’t really care that these authors are shunning them, but it does give new writers a false idea of can be accomplished by going it alone. The very fact that these authors are dumping their publishers is news. Publicity, in other words. And it’s only newsworthy because readers know their names. And readers know their names because the authors had the benefit of a big corporation’s publicity department.

I might have been unaware of the situation, but one of these authors contacted me via Goodreads, asking me to be part of a promotional effort. He wrote that he’d send me (along with hundreds of others) an ebook if I promised to write a review and post it on a given date. I turned him down. I don’t like his books, and I don’t like being told when to post a review. Not that I would — I still have not learned the art of reviewing books. And if I did do reviews, I’d post reviews of books released by small, independent publishers. The point is, he sent me the ebook anyway. A story about vampires. Sheesh. Still doing the old blue-jeans dance.

I purposely did not mention any names in this bloggery since I don’t want to help promote the authors. And anyway, it doesn’t matter who they are. I certainly don’t care, and there’s a chance in the not-too-distant future no one else will either.