Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are You the Cream That Rises to Catch a Publisher's Eye?

I call my editor "Sam." That's not her real name, but it's what I call her. Long story there, but it's not relevant, so I won't go into that now. At any rate, Sam reads a lot of indie work as part of her job, and she also does market research and reads what's out there in the indie world, but recently, she re-read Interview with a Vampire by Ann Rice, as well as one other book that was well-written, a YA called If I Stay by Gayle Foreman. Basically, reading two books back-to-back that were well-written and grammatically correct was so refreshing that she made a decision tonight, and she filled me in as we were texting earlier. I won't use her exact words, but she more-or-less said she was going to go through her Kindle and archive all the junk and start reading only quality books from now on, even if that means spending $7.99 per book. She suggested that there's got to be a better way to weed through all the cheap and free reads on Amazon to find the quality material, because she was tired of reading crap that didn't entertain her and prevented her from learning and seeing how authors are supposed to write. In other words, she was done with books that were poorly written and were full of errors. They're frustrating for her to read, do nothing to teach her how an author should write, and they're keeping her from being a better editor.

This gave me pause, and I replied back to her that I wondered if we're heading for a general reader backlash against indie published books because there are so many books that get published that are nowhere near publish ready. They're full of errors, poorly crafted and structured, and break all sorts of author/reader trusts. And I'm beginning to see a lot of reviews where readers complain about poor editing, poor writing, and overall poor workmanship, and it makes me wonder if it's only a matter of time before readers get fed up and stop spending their hard-earned dollars even on cheap books for fear that even $.99 is too much money to spend on a book they'll only mark as DNF (did not finish).

This backlash would be unfortunate, because I'm an indie author, and I know a lot of indie authors who work hard on their books and publish good, quality material. Would those of us who strive to produce quality, error-free novels fall victim if such a backlash occurs? Would we be lumped into the generalization that "indie authors can't write"? [Don't get mad at me. That's what I hear and read in publishing circles, in reviews etc., so I'm simply emphasizing that this is what is being said. It's up to indie authors, as a whole, to change this perception and stereotype by putting out better quality books.]

Months ago, I read an article where a big six representative talked about the changes in the writing world and the perception that self-publishing was tearing down the big business of publishing. He said that while self-publishing is where the future is heading, print publishing will still continue, because too many people still want print books. And, like it or not, being picked up by a big six publisher is still highly prestigious. The rep said that big six publishers pay attention to the self-publishing world, and that e-publishing and print publishing can work hand-in-hand to provide win-win scenarios for all parties. When it came time to talk about the quality of work and the fear that poor quality books would saturate the indie market and overshadow those who have true talent, the representative made a comment that stood out above all others. He said that cream will always rise to the top. People will take notice of those who have talent and write well, and those authors will be rewarded.

More recently, I read statistics that showed that most indie authors only stick around in the business for two years, if that. They get in, publish a book or two, figure out it's not for them, and get out of Dodge. Those who stick with it generally find more success as their back lists grow. However, just because a writer passes the two-year test does not mean they are cream. These authors typically do make more money and have a fan following, though, but the point is that the problem of authors with poor workmanship partially takes care of itself by these authors leaving the business anyway, so there is a natural weeding process that does take place. Logically, authors who stick with their writing should see their writing naturally improve.

That said, big six publishers scout the ranks of indie authors, looking for new authors to pull out and push into the ranks of the elite. I just saw this happen to an author two months ago. I bought her book weeks before a publisher picked her up, made over the cover of her book, and re-published the book with their big marketing machine behind her. She's doing quite well now. And we've all heard the stories of the authors who have been discovered and pulled from the self-publishing ranks to be offered contracts with the big six machines.

More and more talented indie authors will be picked up by publishers who will make them literary stars much in the way American Idol and other reality shows have created stars from relative unknowns. Chris Daughtry worked at a shipping office, performing his music in small venues, before his talent was discovered on the large scale. And look at him today. He's one of the most popular Idols to ever perform on the stage, and he didn't even win. And his success naturally causes those around him to take him seriously. Whereas before people might have looked at him and said, "Eh, if he had talent, he would have been discovered by now," those same people can't say that anymore. He has been discovered. The man has talent. This is what a big six publisher can do for an author with talent: Take them from obscurity to stardom, as well as cause people to stand up and take notice.

So, I guess the answer to the question is, no, I don't think talented authors will get lost in the mire of writers who are publishing less-than-top-quality books. Those with talent will be the cream that rises to the top. They'll be the next Chris Daughtrys of the fiction world. And even if it takes years, they'll be noticed one way or another.

Happy Writing and Reading.

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