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Missed Opportunities for Self-Publishers?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Graylorne likes this.
  2. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

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    I agree that there is a great opportunity here to push the boundaries, but you have to keep in mind that the indie faces many of the same hurdles as a traditionally published writer. A writer (trad or indie) needs to build a fan base with "traditional" writings if they want that groundbreaking story to reach an audience anytime soon.
    Certainly, one could start off writing off the beaten path, but it would take much longer to make a splash. For the most part, people don't have the patience to grind it out till luck hits and that special someone "discovers" that book. Most indies give it all up after a couple books when sales don't meet unrealistic expectations.
    And where do you list it? What section of the bookstore does it go on display? Fiction>Fantasy>Epic>Weird? If you are established, well, it goes with your other books, but there are few "established" indies.

    Actually, the more I ramble nonsensically about this topic, one thing comes to mind: I would argue these books do exist, they are just hidden under the blanket of obscurity.
     
  3. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    Very timely indeed :)

    And obviously I agree with the article.
     
  4. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

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    ^this

    Gah. There was something else that grabbed my attention but can't find it. Good article.
     
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Indie writers don't need to distinguish themselves from traditional publishers. Most readers don't care and don't even notice who publishes a book. Indie writers, like all writers no matter how they publish, only need to distinguish themselves. And by that I mean every author is their own brand and their work is their brand. And if it's good no one cares how it's published, except people steeped in the "traditional publishing means quality" myth.

    Not all authors write a "default epic fantasy" every time. That's just such a sweeping generalization. There are writers everywhere writing all sorts of work. And what the heck is the "default" epic fantasy anyway? No offense, but I'm guessing it's probably whatever you personally happen to be tired of at the moment.

    Perhaps I'm being too argumentative but I'm getting a definite "writers should write what I think would be good for them to write" vibe from your post and indie writers are already sick and tired of that attitude from traditional publishers. I'm sick and tired of that attitude. Self-publishing is the perfect opportunity for writers to finally be able to write whatever they want to write instead of what other people tell them to write and that's as it should be. There will no doubt be lots of writers who write more traditional stories and as long as they're good stories and readers like them, who cares? There will also be plenty of writers who write new, quirky, bold and experimental things and as long as they're good stories and readers like them, good for them.

    But let's all stop telling writers what's good for them and let them do their own thing, ok?
     
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Sounds like you're reading past what I'm saying. Where did I tell authors they should do a certain thing? I'm just suggesting ways that might be possible. You're putting words in my mouth. I don't believe what I'm saying is a negative thing, it's just food for thought. You're taking it to be negative because you're viewing me as someone making sweeping generalizations when I'm not.

    I've already said:

    a. I read epic fantasy.
    b. I write epic fantasy.
    c. Would it be nice if indie writers tried different kinds of fantasy instead of just following what traditional publishers are already doing? Where did I say "write what I want!"?

    Nowhere have I said epic fantasy is bad. Not once. I didn't create this thread for people to argue with me about how I'm outmoded in my way of thoughts or something. If anything, I'm just trying to suggest ways for writers to delve further into the genre. Indie writers are in a unique position is all I'm saying. They could change the way everyone reads fantasy. While I don't want the next great epic fantasy to go unwritten, I also want the next great other kinds of fantasy to BE written.

    Default isn't necessarily a bad word, by the way.

    So yeah, my attitude is not what you think it is. I just think you're ignoring the root of what I'm suggesting (key word suggesting) in order to make some kind of argument against me of "writers should do what they want." Yeah, I agree. I'm just thinking, it could be nice if some indie authors tried to bring newer and newer ideas to the table.

    This is the best argument I've seen so far and makes a lot of sense. Maybe someone has mentioned this, but I missed it. Also psychotick's points about his epic fantasy doing better than his "weirder" fiction is telling.

    I do think buyjupiter's thoughts about making a group of indie writers who sort of write similar kinds of fantasy fiction could be a way that smaller movements or pockets of different kinds of indie writers could stick together. I'm not sure one single author could break the genre open, but I suppose it's possible.

    I recently read an article about how the movie Her might single-handedly change the SF genre. It was pretty interesting to read. It was saying how every SF doesn't have to have action or angry robots or anything. While I do like varied forms of fiction, all I'm hoping for is people to spread their wings a bit more and be riskier.

    If people are getting the sense that I'm saying, "indie writers must change because I want them to" then I think you're getting the wrong idea. I just think there is an opportunity that may be wasted here is all.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Mythopoet,

    I didn't say that there weren't any out there. I said that there were few, and I make that statement based on, from my experience, the percentage of ones doing a good job versus the ones who produce complete crap.

    I'd say that I only purchase maybe 1 in 25 of every indie book I look at and that the primary drive behind the decision not to buy is my perception of the quality. Of the ones I buy, somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 and 10 would I judge to be "good."

    When you say the words "self published" does it conjure the image of quality in the minds of the reading public?

    I think the answer to that is definitely, "No!"

    One reason for the perception that self published = low quality is because the vast majority of people self publishing are putting out low quality work.
     
  8. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I'll grant that my standards as to what constitutes "good" tend to be higher than most readers. Fact is, I find certain writing traits highly annoying, and, if a book contains such traits and those aren't overwhelmed by positive factors, I'm quick to call the writing poor.

    In defense of my viewpoint, however, I simply don't find those "poor" writing traits present when I read traditionally published material.

    Again, even when getting recommendations for the "best" indie books, I'm finding what I consider to be poor quality.
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Phil,

    I gotta say that I disagree pretty strongly with the guy's last point.

    I can see this happening a lot: author who hasn't spent nearly long enough developing his craft puts out book. The response of the world is mostly crickets. The author's reaction is, "Why didn't people buy my book."

    How is that person ever going to improve if no one ever tells him what he did wrong?
     
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    BW,

    I don't think he's saying "don't criticize people," he's just saying try to be more constructive when you can. Everyone's a critic nowadays and everyone has different tastes. I think it's safe to say that technical aspects bother you more than they do me or maybe some others on this site. And that's fine if that's your expectation. My interest in certain aesthetics is obviously different as well. I enjoy darker fantasy, you don't. So my impression is that we have different tastes and that's cool. So for me, if you say, "This writing is boring and I don't like it," I can't really say I should follow your opinion because you have wildly different tastes than me. I think that's also something we can learn about self-publishers in general. What one person may think is disorganized, badly written crap, may be something that has a lot of potential and is still entertaining for another person.

    I do believe that every voice is helpful to get writers to think more about what they're putting out there, but sometimes the negative voice is going to drown out the more constructive, helpful ones. Just something I always keep in mind.

    I think the point he's trying to make is there are more tactful ways to help someone improve.
     
  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Whoa, ok. So the rest of us can't distinguish good literature from crap? What about people just liking what they like? Why does that have anything to do with a book's quality? Look, so you have a harsher opinion on this topic. Fine. But no need to be disrespectful about it. We're all in the same boat here trying to sell books. One of my bffs is a fantasy artist. She's been at this for years and is now doing good for herself after much persistence and hard work. I have never heard her say anything negative about the other artists who share the gallery spotlight with her. She's respectful and friendly. That's how I think our writing community would be best served. The negativity surrounding this topic lately is disappointing. How about being professional? Who is going to buy our books if we're jerks? I'm done ranting now.
     
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  12. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I do think a more supportive approach to writers just starting out is better than a "you're doing it wrong" approach. I hope that's not what people are getting from my OP. This topic wasn't supposed to be about the quality of self-published books, but more about what self-publishers could do to organize themselves to stand out amongst a crowded market. I just feel that if everyone is writing epic fantasy stories, it may be harder to find those diamonds in the rough. Chuck Wendig's approach to fantasy where he wrote what he called "cornpunk" (a kind of tongue-in-cheek description I think) got me interested in his book. I don't think it was self-published, but he does follow a more hybrid approach. I'm just curious why more writers don't try riskier ventures when it comes to fantasy when there are such limitless possibilities.

    Again, I'm not saying people should stop writing epic fantasy. Please, keep writing it, but there might be other avenues the market is missing out is all.
     
  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Let's imagine the average reader and I both draw lines and say, "A book has to have meet this level of quality to be considered good." If fewer books meet the required criteria for my line than the average reader's line, I'd consider my standards to be higher.

    The way I'm reading your post, you seem to take offense at this concept. It is not meant to be disrespectful; it's simply a statement that my tendency is to consider a smaller quantity of books to be good quality than the average reader does.

    I really don't get how that is disrespectful or offensive.

    When I started writing, I thought that I did a pretty good job. Until I got feedback.

    I discovered what I had been producing was complete crap, and, you know what, if they hadn't have told me that I was producing complete crap, I'd still be doing it. If I think writing is substandard, is it better to:

    a) remain silent
    b) lie
    c) tell the truth

    I get that some people out there prefer a or b. As for me and a lot of others, I'd rather know.
     
  14. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I think the point, BWFoster, is that you are making an absolute value judgement about books. You are saying certain books ARE crap. But quality in literature is subjective. One person's crap is another person's treasure. Millions of people love Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. Enough people to make those book runaway bestsellers. To huge numbers of other people those books are crap. Which people are right? Both and neither. Because the fact of the matter is that books can't be judged like that. You can't make absolute declarations about their quality. (Unless you're that arrogant.) The best you can truthfully say is "I dislike this book for reasons a, b and c..."

    But your assessment of a book or my assessment of a book is insignificant and should have no bearing on whether or not that book is published. Publishing companies are allowed to make such judgements about what should be published because they are investing lots of money in the publication. But when the author is the publisher and the only one investing in the publication, no one has the right to tell him or her whether the book should be published. It's between the author and the readers to determine how well the book will succeed. The author puts in the work and the readers decide whether or not to buy, simple as that.

    There are a few logical answers:

    1. Riskier stories aren't what they like.
    2. They don't feel they have the skill to pull it off.
    3. They want more experience with the traditional stuff before trying their hand at the risky stuff.
    4. They are trying to make a living with their writing and don't feel that the financial risk of writing material without a sure audience is worthwhile.

    Oh, forgot one.

    5. They think they are writing riskier ventures but what they think of risky material isn't what you think of as risky material.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
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  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    See, and I think it's the kind of attitude that you are expressing that will help maintain the stigma associated with self publishing. What you seem to be saying is, "We have no right to judge a the quality of a book's writing."

    I think that's BS.

    I believe that bad writing does exist and that most reasonably competent authors can probably spot it (at least when it's not their own.). What I find interesting/funny is that we keep having this kind of conversation on this site for writers. Should you use the rules? What makes the writing good? Do I have any right to judge? I don't think that editors and publishers are sitting around saying, "I wonder what makes writing good."

    Take your work and find an editor. That person will tell you quickly in no uncertain terms exactly what you screwed up. In my experience, the advice from the person greatly enhances the work, so I'm inclined to agree with them.

    EDIT: Let's try a different argument.

    Mythopoet, has your writing improved since you started writing? If you're anything like me, you began at a newb level, learned a lot, and applied what you learned and saw huge advances in quality. If that is the case, it proves that different quality levels reagarding the craft of writing do exist.

    You existed at one quality level at Point A and now you exist at a different one at Point B.

    If different quality levels exist, it makes sense that different authors put out work while they are at different points on the scale. Therefore, it is certainly reasonable to say, "Hey, author A, your work isn't quite up to snuff yet. Go back and perfect your craft a while before you foist yourself on the public."
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  16. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    You seem to be assuming there's some sort of linear scale for quality, calibrated (somehow) from 'crap' to 'awesome'. Life's not like that. Writing isn't like that. I've read books that were technically less than brilliant but sizzled with creativity and imagery. I've read books that were beautifully written but the plot and characters were close to incomprehensible. I've read books (OK, one book) that was unbelievably badly edited but I loved the premise. I have no idea where they'd rate on your scale, but I enjoyed all of them.

    I honestly don't believe there is any way to objectively measure the 'quality' of a book, beyond the rock-bottom basics like spelling, punctuation and grammar. Beyond that, it's simply a matter of whether readers like it or not. A lot of what passes for the 'rules' of writing these days is designed simply to make the book more readable so that more readers will like it. Most of the editing I'm doing on my own work involves clarifying, simplifying, breaking up long paragraphs, removing infodumps, adding spots of colour for highlight. Where does it fall on the 'crap' to 'awesome' scale? Dunno. <shrugs> I don't judge it that way.
     
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  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Pauline,

    Really, really I don't want to offend you here, but what the crap?

    Don't you do reviews for Fantasy Review Barn? Are not those reviews done on a star rating system? Isn't a star rating system essentially saying 1 is crap and 5 is awesome (or whatever your scale is)?

    How in the world can you say that you don't do judge books that way?

    EDIT: In fact, I just went and found a 1-star review that you did. How are you on the other side of this topic than I am? What I've tried to say is this:

    1. A lot of self published stuff is crap (I get that you disagree with me on the relative quantity. You, I think, feel a lot more of it is decent than I do. But, from your 1-star ratings, you've obviously found some that is crap. I would also think that that is not an uncommon occurrence considering I read one of your open letters to fantasy authors telling them stuff they've done wrong.)

    2. It's possible for a book's quality to be crap. (Again, It's hard for me to see how you can disagree given that you've rated books 1-star.)

    3. It's okay to call crap, crap. (See above.)

    4. Telling the author that he's writing crap is actually a service. How can he improve if he doesn't know that he needs to. (As a reviewer, again, who give 1-star rating, how can you disagree with this?)
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  18. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Phil,

    Sorry, I missed your post earlier. Hate those ones that end up at the end of the page...

    That's not the way I read it at all. It seems to me like there is a sizeable contingent out there who seem to think that it's not okay to criticize any writer at any time for anything. Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but that's the vibe I'm getting.

    There is a big difference between different tastes and being able to discern what does and doesn't work.

    Look, I hated Game of Thrones, but I don't think that writing was crap. In fact, it worked quite well; the story itself just didn't fit my tastes. It's not hard to recognize that I didn't like it because of the content of the story, not the skill displayed in the writing technique or in telling the story. I would think, and, again, maybe I'm wrong, most authors have similar abilities.

    Again, just not the way I read it. Maybe Mythopoet can weigh in here. I got the vibe that he supported the whole "don't criticize because who are you to judge because somebody, somewhere might like it" argument.

    EDIT: I went back and reread that last point on the blog post. I really think his meaning is open to interpretation.

    To be clear: when I offer criticism to someone, my purpose is to help them improve their writing because I feel the better writing improves their chances of success.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  19. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    BW: I get that you want to help people, and I admire that, but there as just other ways to criticize someone than to be so blunt. If your criticism is falling on deaf ears, it's not because your advice is bad, it's just maybe the way your present it. You know the whole catching flies with honey instead of vinegar deal.

    I think sometimes our tastes as readers can interfere with what we think is good or bad though. I may read a self-published story and find it very interesting despite it's flaws, while you may not be able to look past its flaws to enjoy it. It sounds like you read as a writer a lot of the times, and that may sap a lot of fun out of reading in my opinion. While I do note what some authors do good and bad in my opinion, I mostly read for enjoyment, not an excuse to pick something apart.

    That said, this thread isn't about the quality of self-publishing. Not sure why posts about self-publishing always go to this. Perhaps starting a new thread to discuss the quality of self-publishing would be a good place to continue this discussion. For this particular thread, I'm more interested in why self-published authors aren't trying to write more daring fantasy when the shackles are off.

    To address Mythpoet:

    Fair enough. Safe fiction is sometimes better fiction.

    So if this is the case, they have the skill to write epic fantasy? It's not like that is easy to write either.

    A good point, but again I don't mean experimental, weird stuff when I say risky. I just mean trying to write fantasy that is harder to define by a genre. A vast majority of fantasy I see on the market is either epic or urban fantasy. While I like those, I just would like to see more is all.

    That makes sense, but it goes back to my original argument that if self-publishers are just doing what traditional publishers are doing, what makes them different? If there is such a flooded market of epic fantasy it becomes harder and harder to pick out the good ones when it comes to self-publishers. Traditional publishing has the advantage of having a promotional machine behind it in most cases. So if an awesome new epic fantasy comes out, I'll most likely hear about it from advance reviews and social media. But the next great self-published epic fantasy is going to be harder and harder to find, unless the writer is a wizard at marketing. The next great fantasy yarn that bucks the preconceived notions of what fantasy has to be might just garner more attention is all I'm saying.

    This could be true as well. I guess everyone defines these kind of topics differently. I'm sure there are hundreds of authors out there that are probably doing exactly what I'm discussing here, I just haven't found them yet. I'd say of my limited exposure to self-published authors, I run into more epic fantasy than anything else. The thing is for me, if I'm already reading a dozen epic fantasy books (which I am at the moment) then it makes it harder for me, as a reader, to take a risk on another epic fantasy by an unknown author. A fantasy story about a lonely wizard suffering depression that uses spells to entertain himself and to charm people into being his friends? Well, that might just interest me more from a self-published writer. Maybe that doesn't interest a wide fan base, but to me it would stand out more than another "in the kingdom of Shalad a war is brewing, etc. etc."

    In any case, this topic intrigues me so I'll be writing an article about it on the main page after the discussions we've had here.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  20. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    If you "strongly disagree" with the point "Don't be an asshole" then we have nothing further to discuss. You and I will never see eye to eye.

    Well, that point has nothing to do with "better" or "worse". It has everything to do with what makes the writer happy.


    Writing within established genre tropes is not easier than exploring new ground? What?

    Then I guess I'm thoroughly confused by what you are actually trying to suggest writers should do.


    Self-published writers DO NOT need to differentiate themselves from traditionally published writers. All writers enter the market place on equal terms now. Most readers don't care about how an author is published, many don't even notice. Readers understand that authors all stand out from each other because of their unique voice and storytelling skill, not because of how they are published.

    No, very few authors receive the benefit of marketing from traditional publishers. Only reliable bestsellers get it these days. Everyone else is basically like a lottery ticket to the publishers. They hope new authors will become a surprise bestseller so that they can rake in the cash with practically no effort. If you don't then you'll end up getting dropped because your book didn't "perform".

    If you pay attention to that sort of thing. Most people hear about books from natural word of mouth.

    It might garner more attention, in certain circles. There no reason to think that will lead to significantly more sales though. There are certain types of readers who care about critical acclaim and challenging preconceived notions and pretentious things like that. Most only care about a good story.
     
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