Some Thoughts on Writing and Publishing

by Janis Patterson

It is the best of times to be a self-published author.

We can put our own books out without having to deal with the ‘writing by committee’ mentality that infects the world of traditional publishing. We can reach directly to the reader without having to bow to the whims, prejudices and rules of the traditional publishing gatekeepers. And, as an added benefit, the reader can choose from a vast array of books instead of being held down to the narrow pigeonholes of traditional publishing. Plus, as a self-published author, you get the largest slice of the monetary pie, as opposed to  the minuscule percentages offered by traditional publishing.

It is the worst of times to be a self-published author.

We not only have to handle the necessary quality controls of creating good books – great writing, good editing, great covers, proofing and printing standards – but we also have to deal with publicity, marketing techniques and legal issues. Some writers make enough money to hire all these things done – most don’t, and every minute spent on publishing/publicizing/whatever is a minute not spent on writing.

Moving beyond the personal, there is also the wider world of self-publishing that seems to become more surreal every day. There are always pirates who take books and them put them up for free on the internet without the author’s consent. Their rallying cries are “If it’s on the internet it should be free!” (Wrong!) and “Writers should just be happy that their words are being read!” (Even wronger! Try that twisted logic with your doctor or plumber or just about any professional…) Other pirates take your book and sell it, but without the author’s consent – and without ever sending the author any of the proceeds.

Then there are what I call the literary pirates – the singularly untalented ones who want to be thought of as an author so badly that they take someone else’s book, change the title, the main characters’ names, probably the name of the town and maybe even the occupations, and then publish it as an original book under their own name. Sadly, this criminality is hard to detect, as most of the retailers simply accept books and don’t run any sort of comparison software to make sure it is an original work. Most examples of it are never caught, and the few that have been were brought to the author’s attention by dedicated fans who saw the similarity to one of the author’s books.

Even worse, there is a growing corruption in the self-publishing world. Book stuffing is a big problem at the moment in Amazon’s KU. Some Book Stuffers have used book stuffing to game the system for fantastic amounts of money and driving legitimate authors off bestseller lists, all the while delivering little more than a badly written short story and lots of garbage. Lots of them also use clickfarms to up their pages read count into the realm of KU bonuses, which is what gets them most of the page reads – and the money. What’s sad is that Amazon doesn’t seem to care. They’re getting the money customers pay for these bloated nothings. Although – I have heard that they are meeting with some concerned authors and writers’ organizations – and I hope that is true – so maybe something positive and good for real writers is being done.

Another thing is that even if a book meets the criteria for a real book (actually written by the person claiming it, page count not inflated by rubbish and repeated short stories) it’s really just a bad book. The internet is simply swamped with ‘books’ that are terribly written, worse plotted and which have never seen either an editor or even spellcheck. Some people are so stupid – or who want to be ‘an author’ so badly – that that they think merely stringing X number of words together with a rough semblance of a storyline equates a book. They buy a cheap cover (I don’t care how much it costs, most of them are definitely cheap), stick up the resultant product and wait impatiently for fame and fortune to come flooding in.

Add to that that the market is waaaay down now. Sales are bad. My sales are so low at the moment that if they get any worse I’ll have to start paying people to not read my books!

So perhaps the pertinent question should be, under these conditions, why would anyone become a writer?

The answer is simple – because we can’t do anything else. If we never sell another book, we will still write. If the publishing world turns upside down, we will still write. No matter what happens, we will still write. We’re writers.

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8 Responses to Some Thoughts on Writing and Publishing

  1. Amber Foxx says:

    Pirate book sites don’t always even have the books. They can be great places to pick up malware, though. Some people who use them don’t know the risk they run. The same thing happens with pirated movie downloads. My neighbor who loves movies and hoped to get free ones ended up having some expensive problems with his computer. Living on a fixed income, he felt it was sort of okay to get pirated works, but I explained to him that actors and screenwriters earn a little something from the sale or rebroadcast of their older works, just like authors earn royalties. Indie books are usually so reasonably priced, and there are so many good ones out there, no one should need to go to pirate sites. (Which can cost more in the long run, with an experience like my neighbor had.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gamers and pirates have always been on the scene, but the ease of self publishing is a change I really embrace for all the reasons you talked about. Nice post, Janis! My best sales still come from face-to face opportunities with readers. This past weekend at a regional arts festival, I sold out of every book I’d taken and met a lot of terrific people. Exhausting but well worth it! I’m really fortunate to have a couple of writer buddies who like doing this kind of gig together. — kate, writing as CT Collier

    Like

  3. This is an honest assessment of publishing today. I don’t self-publish but understand why many other writers do so.

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  4. But we do it because we have the calling!! (LOL) It’s kind of sad to have the calling when you see crapola on its way up those ol’ best-seller lists. People don’t seem to know or care that there is a difference between the great writers and the ones who just slapped something together. But then you have to remember that if you are a reader, you are among the few who read ANYTHING. Pew Research Center (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/) reports that most people don’t read books at all. The toughest part for me is finding my audience. My audience is not Vince Flynn’s audience. It is not that Twilight writer’s audience. It is made up of people who like to question authority, who like to be asked to think for themselves, who love a skewed look at the world. And it’s durn tootin’ hard to find!

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  5. marilynlevinson says:

    Great post, Janis. Everything you say is true. I’ve published traditionally and have self-published a few books. It’s good to have a choice.

    Like

  6. franmcnabb says:

    Janis, enjoyed the post and agree with all you said. I have both self and traditionally published books and I go back and forth with which I like best. I’m in the process of publishing one myself again and so hope it does well, but whether it does or not, I’ll follow it with another and another, because as you said, we’re writers and we write.

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  7. Carole Price says:

    Interesting post. I haven’t self published yet but am thinking about it and gathering information. So far I’ve been with small publishers.

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  8. patyjag says:

    Great post, Janis!

    Like

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