So a couple of writing groups, a senior editor at Tor, and a bunch of writing enthusiasts go to a con…
No, that isn't the start of a really poor joke, that's what happened at Diversicon last weekend. The Scribblerati were there, as were some of the Wyrdsmiths and several others. We, The Scribblerati, hosted a panel on writing groups and then we attended several other of the sessions. It was our first con and we’re all glad we went, but now that we have dipped our toes into the great pool of con-dom (get your mind out of the gutter) we’re ready for more. I think Wiscon or Convergence might be in our future. Stay tuned!
Among the many things I heard at Diversicon, one offhand comment really caught my attention. The comment was made about self-publishing and was made in a rather disdainful in tone. It went something like this, “there's a clear difference in quality of self published books.”
The Diversicon comment wasn't the first time I've heard that opinion about the quality of self published books. I've done a lot of research on self-publishing because, as longtime readers of this blog know, I have been thinking long and hard about self-publishing my WIP, To Kill the Goddess. But one thing I hadn't done (until recently) is actually buy a self published book and read it. So, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to check out some of the competition. Who better to start with then someone who has turned themselves into a millionaire by self-publishing?
I chose Switched (Tryelle Trilogy, book 1) by Amanda Hocking.
So maybe the person at Diversicon who made that comment was somewhat right, at least in this case, but I think they are missing the point. Amanda Hocking may not have written the best book I've ever read, but neither was it the worst and, if you ask me, I think Amanda Hocking is brilliant. She has made a boatload of money off the Tryelle Trilogy and I don't care how you slice it, that is nothing if not brilliant.
It's also, in my opinion, not terribly surprising.
One thing I think that we writers are is perfectionists. I mean, we are artists and artists tend to be highly critical of their own work. I'm no different. We tend to look at our art and say we need to make it the absolute best it can be and while that's great, the lesson that Amanda Hocking's success is giving us is that it's not necessary to be great.
I think this is something that people in the movie and music business have known for a long time. You and I both know a lot of money has been made off less than perfect songs and movies. Similarly, Amanda Hocking is telling us that we writers don't need to write War and Peace in order to be hugely successful. We just need to write something that's “good enough.”
If you stop and think about it, this notion of “good enough,” combined with our ability to self-publish something that falls into that category, is actually quite a revelation. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not advocating a new world order where books are full of spelling errors, poor grammar, and disconnected plot threads. But maybe we writers should take a look at Amanda Hocking’s success and think about “good enough” the next time we’re staring down the face of a contract that pays a fraction of what we could earn by self-publishing.
After all, I imagine that after Amanda Hocking reads reviews that call into question the quality of her work, she laughs all the way to the bank.
I like to maintain a positive attitude toward self-publishing, which can be challenging given how many people out there bagging on it. But today I am bummed out because just had a brief yet interesting twitter exchange with @jane_l regarding a HORRIBLE self-pubbed book (you can find the review here, but I don't recommend it because of the subject matter involved).
I think it's one thing to self-pub a novel with a few grammatical errors, or one that may not be as polished as it could be, but it's another thing entirely to self-pub something that's just awful.
As someone who would like to self-pub someday, that makes me mad. What is the likelihood that someone would take a chance on my self published novel after reading something as horrible as the book mentioned above?
Clearly, self-publishing, should I choose to go that route, will be challenging.