By Susan Mary Malone
If so, why?
With the seismic shift in publishing these days, and the reality that virtually anyone can publish a book, one of the odd changes has of course been that the gatekeepers no longer exist. I.e., you don’t have to impress agents and publishing-house novel editors to see your book in print. Gone are the days of writers quietly honing their craft, learning the art of great fiction (and non), toiling for years in obscurity, striving for that one “yes” from someone in the industry—someone who can make their dreams come true.
Now, what I hear from a huge majority of new writers is: “I just need someone to proof my book. I’ve already spent a ton of money on the cover, the website, the PR . . .” Book development gets tossed out the window. And the books, of course, are absolutely abysmal.
Does it matter?
Those serious writers, the ones who care about their craft, the ones who still aspire to leap over publishing’s slush pile and be published by traditional houses, or just strive to put out the very best book writing they possibly can—in any format—know that quality still matters. Yes, we can all point to exceptions. Fifty Shades of them, which has spawned an entire industry (not to mention an entire industry of parody as well). Is that disheartening to serious writers? You bet. But what sells in the marketplace has to do with a plethora of factors, and often isn’t about quality.
So, why on earth does quality matter?
Another odd shift is occurring. Readers are getting fed up. In this day of a vast sea of self-published books (and most readers can’t tell from which venue a book is published), readers are downloading free books and discarding. They tell me this every single day: “I can’t find anything decent to read.” The point of a free download is to build an audience for a writer. If the reader can’t get through the first page before tossing it, that goal just fizzled to a quick death.
Last year, a half a million e-books were published. The estimate for this year is one million. And for next? Fifteen million books. Fifteen million. It boggles the mind! In that huge ocean, how will yours be seen and not drown?
Unless it takes off like a tornado straight from the sky, a book and its author must build the audience—one reader at a time. Well-written books—those from writers who still strive to learn and grow and master the art of fiction (and non)—find some traction, as time goes on. I’ve seen this happen over and over and over again. While the newbies’ books languish and die, the serious authors’ have a long life, building over time. Word of mouth is a slow process, but one that doesn’t stop.
Will you still be writing five, ten years from now? Or have become disgruntled with the whole industry (easy to do)? Those book authors who yearn to write from the depths of their souls, who want not only to publish but also to write the very best they have within them, who do quality novel development, will still be around. And their books will still be selling.