Who is to blame?

Last night, I started my usual prowling through the internet, looking for a topic for today’s post. Nothing resonated with me until I came across a discussion about indie authors. Even though the discussion remained civil, the disdain and condemnation was obvious. I’ll admit, I had a knee-jerk reaction where I wanted to go wading into the discussion to give the indie side of the argument. I didn’t because it would have gained nothing. The people taking part in the discussion are so entrenched in their beliefs, they wouldn’t have listened, no matter how convincing my arguments might have been.

You see, like so many who have been traditionally published, this group simply can’t fathom the speed with which a number of indie authors write. More than that, they can’t accept you can write, edit and publish a book in a month or two. They can’t wrap their minds around the fact that the year or more between books most authors experienced by traditionally publishing was an artificial delay in the production line. But, because this is the system they are used to, it is the only one they feel is valid.

Yes, that is a bit of an oversimplification. They understand that authors write at different paces. It is the rest of it that blows their minds. They have a hard time realizing it doesn’t take months to get edits back and have them finalized. They forget that indies don’t have to wait for publication slots to come open for release dates. Even so, when they start saying they fear for our industry, they point to the speed with which indie writers are putting out their product and assume the product must be inferior because it didn’t go through the same process their work did.

One of the authors pointed out that they had published something like 10 books in a little more than that many years. The author’s view was no one should be able to put out a quality product quicker than that. After all, there’s all that research that must be done, the careful selection of words, the crafting of the story, etc. No one should be able to put out multiple books a year, much less a book every month or so. Mind you, she had no idea how long the books were the indie author who published monthly put out. She simply assumed, just like she assumed they were poorly written.

That particular author’s attitude isn’t new. It’s something indies have had to deal with since Amazon first opened their KDP platform to us eight or so years ago. They’ve complained that we aren’t “real” writers because we didn’t go through traditional gatekeepers. They’ve decried the quality of our writing and editing. They do so, more often than not, without reading our work. They simply join their voices to the cries of outrage coming from the rest of the flock.

What did catch my attention in the discussion, however, was a comment that basically said that instead of focusing on the “bad writing” of indies, they needed to ask why the public is reading such crap. They pointed to 50 Shades of Grey as their examples, pointing out it had sold many more copies than the “classics”.

What that comment failed to note, possibly because it wouldn’t fit the narrative, was that 50 Shades did start out as an indie novel and then it was picked up by a traditional publisher. That traditional publisher put mega bucks behind the push for that book and its sequels. It even contracted for a new book in the series, this one from Christian Grey’s point of view.

The answer to that person’s question is simple. There are those who appreciate the classics and literary fiction but they are not the majority of the reading public. The majority of those who buy books or borrow them from the library read to be entertained. They want a story they can escape into. They want to be able to forget their worries for a few minutes or a few hours at a time. It really is that simple.

A look at this week’s New York Times best seller list tells the tale. Of the combined print and e-book list, four of the first five entries on the list are genre fiction. They are written by authors like Dan Brown, Stephen King (2 entries) and Nelson DeMille. The 5th book is a book of poetry. Looking at the hard cover list, none of the titles are what you might call “literary” fiction. Considering the fact this particular best seller list is determined by push and pre-orders (not completely, but to a large extent), it is obvious even publishers understand readers want something that has entertainment value to it.

Does all this mean indie writers don’t have challenges we need to meet headlong and overcome? Absolutely not. To start, we need to understand we have to put out the best product we can. That means our writing has to be good and it needs to be edited. We need to be prepared to take the slings and arrows of criticism leveled at us by those who have yet to realize there are more paths to success than traditional publishing. We need to develop a thick skin and be prepared with facts and figures when people come at us, telling us we aren’t “real writers” because we didn’t go through the gatekeepers. What those critics don’t understand is that our gatekeepers are our readers. If we don’t do our job well, readers won’t buy our product.

Now go forth and read — and write. If you read a book by an indie author, do them a favor and leave a review. Those help more than you realize. I’m off to find another cup of coffee now and then it is a day of writing. I can’t afford to wait a year or more between books coming out. Guess I’m not a “real writer”.

113 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: CRAFT

113 responses to “Who is to blame?

  1. paladin3001

    Write, write like the wind! It’s getting to the point where I laugh at writers looking at the big name publishers. I look forward to publishing my stuff and having CONTROL over my stuff.
    Later…

    • I laugh at those who still think there is only one way to be a successful writer. Those who usually do so don’t recognize the irony of what they say. They are, at best mid-listers who have been writing for years and have yet to be able to quit their day jobs. But people like Christopher Nuttall who make a living off their indie work aren’t “real” writers.

      • While I consider perl essentially a “write-only” language, the motto of “There’s more than one way to do it.” is worth remembering.

        And as long as the money is real, who cares about the opinions of fake people?

  2. Pingback: On Bergdahl and writing and other things - Nocturnal Lives

  3. I’ve been kicking myself because I only have 25K words done on the quasi-Chinese novel. But I’ve also gone back, gutted and re-done a different novel, and am proofing the edits on a third book. And life. When I’m in the groove, I can do 8K words a day before Life and my body complain too much. But I know other people who can’t. Their minds don’t work that way. And they write great stuff.

    What do the traditional-path fans say about Dickens, I wonder? We have people today who release novels as serials and seem to do well (John C. Wright, plus the Amazon serials program.) People who write like the wind, or at least like Chris Nutall. People who write slowly. People who write a bunch in advance then do rapid releases of the entire series. people like me who space out releases. Whatever works for your style and genre is the One True Way. *hops off soapbox*

  4. Heh. I checked the USA Today Bestseller list, since it’s far less gamed than the NYT, and it’s Dan Brown, John Green, Danielle Steel, the poetry book, and Rick Riordan.

    Which makes your point even more strongly.

    (Although my brain hurts now. Not because an illustrated Harry Potter is at #10 on the USA Today bestseller list, but because I realized that the kids who discovered Harry Potter when it first came out are now buying Harry Potter for their kids. This is like the first time I heard Queensryche on an oldies station. The pain will pass.)

    • Hah … more years ago than I like to think, someone in my circle made a comment to the effect that a certain person was so young that they didn’t know Paul McCartney had been in another pop group before “Wings”. And a young baby troop listening to this conversation got very wide-eyed and incredulous, saying, “He was? I didn’t know that – what was the name of that group…”

      • Joe in PNG

        Now, you’d have to explain who “Wings” was.

        • Paul McCartney sharing a stage with Kanye West (hack, spit), with a twitterstorm that this “McCarney person”, whoever he is, was about to get a big boost to his career.

          I’m not particularly a Beetles fan, nor “Wings” for that matter (personally, I think “The Fab Foursome” were better songwriters than performers and most of their music was better as covers than the originals), but at least I knew who they were.

      • sam57l0

        Thuh Bea(glottal stop)les.

      • jsolbakken

        The “Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings” joke goes back to the late 70’s if I recall correctly. It was funnier then because you had to be pretty young and dumb to have never heard of the Beatles already at that point.

  5. Their opinion is irrelevant. All it means is they aren’t competition, and that’s a win for those they despise.

  6. Trollope was a fast writer, too, and nobody says his books are light or poorly crafted.

    Point of fact: Fifty Shades of Grey started as a fanfic novel called Master of the Universe. Several fanfic authors then banded together to found a small ebook press for filed-off-serial-number versions of romance fanfic; it was called “The Writers’ Coffee Shop”. Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels were first published by them. Its success for the small Australian press got it picked up by the big publishers.

    So teeeeechnically, Fifty Shades of Grey was never indie. But a small press run by writers is probably close enough for jazz.

  7. Poetry?
    Nobody reads poetry.
    Then, I researched. And quickly quickly quickly discovered why the book of poetry is on the list.

    • lfox328

      OK, I’ll bite – why?

      • I googled the author’s name.
        (There is no way to say this delicately, but I will try, although my mother will smack me in the head with a thimble.)
        She gained notoriety for posting a picture of herself wearing all her clothes, but evidently not one of those things girls start carrying around in their purses in the fourth grade or so.
        And then evidently, she fussed when the picture was removed, and posted it again.
        And it was removed again.
        But I guess it stayed up the third time.
        Anyway, google her name and the word ‘picture’ if you wish to view it yourself.

  8. I started off with the impression that independent works were all trash. “Refugees from a critique group.” I got that impression from the first two or three such books I attempted. You didn’t have to read more than a page or two to see why these books never should have been published. And at least one of these authors had already published five or ten books the same way.

    Reading the SFWA forums helped change my mind. No one makes a mid-six-figure income writing trash like I’d read. Also, there’s a big difference between someone who publishes as soon as he/she types “the end” vs. someone who hires an editor, enlists beta readers, commissions a cover, etc. being a serious independent writer is serious work.

    I suspect, though, that if I picked independent books from Amazon at random, most of them (maybe 99% of them) would be like the first ones I read. There’s a relatively small group of serious independent writers in the middle of a sea of people who don’t know what they’re doing and don’t even realize they don’t know what they’re doing.

    And yet somehow enough of the public finds that small group for them to account for (I believe) essentially all the independent sales. How you go about getting attention from the public and distinguishing yourself from the rest is something I still don’t completely understand, although from the accounts I’ve read, it seems to depend a lot on rapidly producing content.

    A traditional writer, as the article says, has little choice in the timing of books. An independent can publish new books as fast as he/she can write. Someone who gets into your series will very much appreciate only waiting a month or two rather than a year. And there are all kinds of strategies for promotion and pricing. (E.g. give book #1 away for free, charge $0.99 for volume #2, and full-price for the rest. Advertising can work. Mailing lists are probably the best. Different people seem to get different results, so it probably depends on how you do it. Etc.)

    A different issue is that if your goal is to make money, there’s a point beyond which you quit polishing your work. If the book was good enough after 4 weeks, you won’t get twice the money if you spend another 4 weeks on it, no matter how much better you make it. Likewise, making it longer is a mistake. “Anything over 100,000 words is money left on the table,” I’ve heard said.

    So are traditionally published books of higher quality than independently published ones? (Even limiting ourselves to the serious independents?) Probably. Successful independents are targeting the market sweet spot–the amount of quality that maximizes revenue. Traditional publishers, for whatever reason, are targeting a very high level of quality that costs a lot to achieve and which a great many readers (most, probably) don’t insist on. On the other hand, works that good may be the only kind that justify million-dollar ad campaigns.

    Likely there’s a place in the world for both.

    • Even in trad publishing, there is a limit to how much attention/editing a publisher will give a book. This is especially true when the writer is behind deadline and there is a lot of pressure to get the book out without disrupting the release schedule. So the difference in quality is narrowing down quite a bit. In some cases, it’s already nonexistent – frex, most indie publishers won’t subject their book to a sensitivity committee that makes sure they aren’t offending the protected classes du jour, watering down stories.

      Now that I’ve fallen into the habit of spotting errors while I read, I keep finding typos and such in trad books. Trying to cut costs, some publishers are relying on freelancers (often the same ones who work on indie projects), or letting go experienced but expensive editors and replacing them with cheaper products of our education system (shudder).

      • I’m not seeing that. I think you may be indulging in wishful thinking. 🙂 Trad publishers have a lot to lose if they let their quality slip.

        As for the sensitivity committee, I think that’s way overblown. I think very few authors ever run into any such thing. For example, you hear a lot of people complaining about how much rape appears in novels, and yet those novels all got published. I’m sure there are isolated cases, of course.

        Let me put it a different way: successful independent writers are not obsessed with quality. The market simply won’t pay for it.

        • And yet, I’m spotting errors – not many, granted, and a lot more mistakes slip through in indie titles. Maybe you’re not paying close enough attention 🙂

          Trad publishers have a lot to lose, but their recent behavior doesn’t seem to reflect that they appreciate the risks they are in. The diversity committees are still in their infancy. There are some bad signs of things to come, like Kirkus Reviews recent policies (not a publisher, but it shows a trend). If they were more aware of market realities, indies wouldn’t have eaten as large a share of the market as they have.

          The most successful indie writers (the ones in the high six to seven-figure range) I know of seen have a team of people (editors, proofreaders, cover designers) behind them, and they put out product that is indistinguishable from trad publishers. They manage to produce four to six books a year without quality issues.

          Below them, yes, quality is often hit and miss, and some writers value output over quality. If they don’t satisfy their audience, their books soon sink into the multi-million ranking on Amazon and they disappear. In the end, the market has the final say.

        • Greg, the discussions I’ve seen about sensitivity readers are not about sex, but about culture and race. “Is this a good representation of X cultural or ethnic group/protected minority?” seems to be the critical question, more so in literary fiction and contemporary fiction than in genre fiction. “Has a member of X cultural group/protected minority [visible minority in Canada] approved of this book? Have they recommended changes?” That sort of thing.

          • I’ve seen a little of that online (e.g. people screaming about “cultural appropriation”) but authors seem to be ignoring it. However, there’s a good rule that says “write what you know,” so trying to write about a Navajo character when you’re a white boy from Chattanooga (e.g. me) is probably not going to work very well whether there’s a committee or not.

            As you say, though, this likely isn’t an issue for most SFF publications since characters in secondary worlds or hundreds of years in the future likely won’t have much in common with anyone alive today anyway.

            • I wrote about a Navajo, and so far I haven’t gotten a single complaint from anybody. Sold a lot of copies too.

            • Greg, I suggest you spend some time of Facebook or Twitter then. At least a couple of times a week, I come across posts by traditionally published authors — and not Sad Puppy supporters — who are suffering major angst over whether or not they should include a character in their book because that character is of a culture or identity or some other something that they, the author, are not. So, yes, it is something that is impacting traditional publishing, at least the authors still tied solely to it.

              • This, apparently, has infected some woman’s magazine, where the editors rant about “cultural appropriation” in allowing kids to dress up as characters of different race for Halloween. So, let’s get this straight: the thing now is that your kids can’t dress up as certain characters or you can write about certain characters because of the color of your skin. The last time I heard that was when bigots complained about “white kids” liking “n****r” music. Guess what: It doesn’t matter if it came from the back of a fourth rate honky-tonk or a New Yawk editorial staff: claiming we are restricted by the color of our skin is racist.

                • Make that “can’t write about certain characters.” Honestly think I’ll need to get new glasses. These are maybe about six years old, anyway.

                • There was a fairly sensible article I read about it from a Polynesian woman who said, in regards to certain famous Polynesian characters, ‘don’t paint your skin, don’t mimic the tattoos, but if your kid wants to dress in a Disney costume of Moana or Maui, go for it.’

        • Greghullender said: “As for the sensitivity committee, I think that’s way overblown. I think very few authors ever run into any such thing.”

          On the contrary, Greg. Every author runs into it. It is called the submission process. Any story that offends the sensitivity du jour will not make it out of the slush pile, past the agent’s process, etc.

          People who have a non-PC worldview, or write from same, are non-represented in the NY/Chicago Big Pub world. That’s why I have nothing to read.

          “For example, you hear a lot of people complaining about how much rape appears in novels, and yet those novels all got published.”

          But we don’t hear “a lot of people” complaining about rape. We hear the -same- people complaining a lot. They have a high noise level, but are few in number.

          What we do see is publishers pushing authors to include rape in books, and then pretending to be “Feminist!!!” very loudly and publicly. See the Weinsteingate proceedings for examples of people and organizations who were utterly silent until a week after Harvey left for “rehab” who are now signalling their virtue long and loud. (You know who was the lone tall poppy standing up in front of everybody years ago? Courtney Love. She blew the whistle on Harvey on the fricking red carpet on national TV, and got dropped by her agency as punishment. In 2005. There should be statues.)

          Publishers like to have rape in stories because they think it sells. Prurient detail sells too. For those of us who won’t tolerate that kind of thing, there’s -indy-. Because that’s where the authors go who refuse to play their game. For everybody else there’s Game of Throwns.

          A cultured choice of typeface, thousand dollar cover and expensive spell/grammar check plus an advertising campaign are not enough to make me read Ancillary Spork or Fifth Seasoning. I prefer dorky covers and so-so spell/grammar editing. Story trumps spelling.

        • I think what these “Indie is trash” writers mean by quality is way beyond a mere lack of typos and into the “beautifully crafted passages” and “deeply meaningful” or “stunningly brilliant ideas” territory.

          • Oh, I’m sure. I also saw you were involved in the thread and they weren’t getting what you were trying to say.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Okay, so they want more Tom Kratman novels.

            So do I.

          • Perhaps, but what I mean when I say “trash” is that the author has any or all of the following problems:

            1) Doesn’t know when to show and when to tell. In fact, usually narrates almost the whole story, so it reads like a Wikipedia article or an outline for a real story.

            2) Doesn’t control POV (and often doesn’t control tense).

            3) Delivers enormous infodumps on subjects that don’t affect the story. Sometimes has chain infodumps where an infodump is interrupted for another infodump.

            4) Produces unnatural dialogue (including the as-you-know-Bob variety).

            5) There’s no plot at all and possibly even no protagonist. That is, it’s hard to say who the main character is, but it’s really hard to say what that person is trying to accomplish. Events just happen, and the story ends when the author gets tired of writing.

            6) The protagonist is Mary Sue. (Despite the name, most Mary Sues are male.) That is, he/she is perfect, the best in the universe at everything he/she does, and solves all problems within a page or two.

            7) If it’s an SF story, the science is howlingly bad. Gravity stops at the edge of the ionosphere, so spaceships can get trapped if they “fall into” a gravitational field. Or rockets immediately fall out of orbit if their engines stop. Ditto landing on a black hole, firing bullets at three times the speed of light, interbreeding with aliens, etc.

            8) Cardboard villains, including EvilCorp (which is so evil it does things that kill its own customers) and EvilGov (which is so evil it tracks the heroes wherever they go to harass them out of pure meanness, yet is incompetent at doing anything else).

            These are the sorts of things that make a story “trash.” One or two of these things don’t ruin a story–just like a typo or two across a 300,000-word super novel won’t–but systematic problems of this sort really do earn a work that description. And such works are definitely out there.

            Successful writers do not write trash! This is because not many readers will pay for it. There are plenty of successful independent writers, so anyone who says all indie writing is trash is mistaken. But almost no traditionally published works are trash, simply because they have an army of people trying to prevent that from happening. Lack of gatekeepers for independent works is both a curse and a blessing. It removed the tyranny of the slushpile by turning all the buyers into prospective slushpile readers.

            • I am currently 840 e-books on my Kindle. The number of ‘trash’ books in that list is about 2. (And one of those is Raptor Butthurt or whatever by Noah Award that was a protest purchase and I had no intention of reading.)
              Indeed, there is a risk of trash, but I rely on sites like this to pick up recomendations. Now, I blame John Van Stry for this, but Jan Stryvant comes up in his search, and she writes Shifter Romances… with lots of explicit detail in the romance…Now, that said, if you skim over the sex scenes, there are reasonable characters and a reasonable plot. Not great, BUT, at $2.99 I can accept the risk of unknown authors and possible trash a lot easier than $12.99 for a ‘traditionally published’ e-book. Likewise a few more then=than typos (yes traditional novels have them too) are easy to endure with the difference in prices.
              The best way to pick up new readers for your 10 volume epic, is offer the first volume for $0.99 or free! If it is any good, I will happily pay $3-4 each for the rest, and look for your other writings too.

            • OMG, your checklist could be applied to any number to “successful” traditionally published SF authors and they would fail. They might not have typos (or not many), but they will jump heads, they have major info dumps (Weber anyone?), their science is either non-existent or junk, etc. Sorry, but until you start applying that same checklist to your so-called successful trad published authors with the same fervor you apparently do to indies, your argument fails.

              • I’m a reviewer. I apply this checklist every day. Here’s a list of Tor.com novellas that I’ve rated over the past three years. (That’s all the tor novellas published in that period.)

                http://www.rocketstackrank.com/search/label/Tor.com+Novella

                Anything with one star means “trash” in the sense defined above. Two stars means I couldn’t sustain suspension of disbelief (that’s where most message fiction ends up). You’ll see that I do give one star to Tor’s products occasionally. It’s rare, though.

                I’m not shy about giving one-star reviews when I think they’re merited. Here’s a list of the last three-years’ worth:

                http://www.rocketstackrank.com/search/label/Rating%3A%201

                I’d love to review more independent work, but I have no idea how to filter it. It’s not much fun writing one-star reviews (much less reading one-star material) and I generally feel obliged to finish everything I start and to review everything I finish.

                • You filter it by what’s up in the ranks, or by how many reviews the work is getting. Also, what does Amazon recommend to you? Amazon spends a huge amount of money on algorithms designed to figure out what you like and show it to you.

                • So, you base your conclusions about indie work on 1) a few titles you read and not on a wide selection and 2) you only review novellas and apparently don’t see that your own list of “qualifiers” contain things you don’t like that Tor novel authors are famous for violating. Riiiight. And we are to take your conclusions about indie writing seriously why?

                  I’m sorry, if you haven’t figured out yet how to go out and find indie work to review, you aren’t trying hard enough. John listed a couple of good ways to do so. Another way is to simply type in your search term, read the blurb, check the preview pages and then decide if you want to download or not. It’s what readers have been doing for years.

                  • No, it appears you haven’t read what I’ve written, and you’re responding to arguments I didn’t make. I’ll stop here then.

                    • Let’s start with my last point. You said, “I’d love to review more independent work, but I have no idea how to filter it.” I made a suggestion, as did JVS. Perhaps you need to read your own comments closer.

                      You also said, upthread, ” suspect, though, that if I picked independent books from Amazon at random, most of them (maybe 99% of them) would be like the first ones I read. ” That sort of says you don’t read many, if any, indie books. You have talked to people about them.

                      Here’s the thing. You have come in here telling us all how bad most indies are and how wonderful Tor and other publishers are. You have offered nothing to prove it other than your own checklist — a checklist that I noted would throw out a number of best sellers, including Tor’s own David Weber. And I still stick to my comment that you could find (and filter, to use your own term) indie books to read and review if you did the minimal research/work other readers do. Shrug.

        • I’ve got to second C.J. on this one. I’ve seen more than a few typos, repeated words and even phrases in traditionally published works. Also, let’s be real here: there were a lot of decent authors who ended up hanging out in the slush pile because there wasn’t room for them in the publishing queue.

        • Today’s trad publishers say, “We expect authors to provide publish-ready manuscripts.” What they mean is that the company is too cheap to hire copy editors, so the author has to hire freelance editors before submitting.

          In practice, it means you see a lot of typos in the products of Big 5 Publishing.

        • I hate to say this, but you are wrong when you say you don’t think trad publishers have let quality slip. Everything from the quality of materials they use for binding to paper quality to quality of editing has declined over the years. I have a feeling that if I were to give you two books that had been stripped of author name and publishing information, you couldn’t be able to tell which was an indie and which was traditionally published.

          Your comments about the sensitivity committee are also misguided. Not every publisher has a “committee” called that but they are doing just that. Look at the calls for submissions that are limited to only certain segments of our society. Or look at posts written by editors (or agents who are the right hand of publishers) that basically say no “cultural appropriation” or that allude to the fact that you can’t write a story if you aren’t the same [insert race/creed/sex/sexual identity/whatever] as your characters.

          The problem with your argument is that you are basing your premise on books already published. This is a fairly new phenomenon in publishing and is just now really starting to show its ugly head in the books making it to the shelves.

          • Robin Munn

            If you kept the cover image, then I’d be willing to bet I could still tell the indies from the tradpubs. As I flip though the books that Amazon recommends for my next Kindle Unlimited borrow, I generally have a mental ticker going “tradpub cover, tradpub cover, indie cover, tradpub cover…”. I would be hard-pressed to explain the difference in words, but there’s a certain I-don’t-know-what to tradpub cover styles, which indies rarely manage to match. It’s not quality — many indie covers are excellent — but I’d bet that if someone put together a “tradpub or indie cover art?” quiz where you only see the cover art without any of the text visible (no title, no author’s name, etc), it would be pretty easy to score well above 50%.

            But in terms of quality of the contents — spelling, grammar, plot holes — I agree with you.

            • One of the things to try to do as an indie author is to see the current publishing trends for artwork in your genre (preferably midlist to the lower successful—because the very successful are playing by different rules) and mimic them. The closer you get, the better your chances.

        • I see boatloads of typos and formatting errors in tradpub and indie ebooks. Even Harlan Ellison — who aims high for “quality” as you use it — has numerous typos in his ebooks.

      • Grin. I’m a short-fiction critic, so a better criticism might be that although I read about 5.5 million words of short fiction per year, I only read about 2 million words of novel-length (say one novel a month), so I may not have the breadth to know for sure.

        However, I’m very attuned to typos, grammar errors, ambiguous/confusing prose, etc. and I see a good bit of it in short fiction (more in some magazines than others), but in novel-length works, it’s quite rare. It probably varies by publisher, of course. The stand-alone novellas that Tor.com publishes are consistently excellent in terms of writing quality. (I’m not always so keen on the plots, though.)

    • I don’t think Trad publishers are any better than indy. Not at all. There’s a lot of bad Trad pub out there. A LOT. Especially when they’re using the book to push politics and a narrative.
      How many Trad published books sell more than 5K copies? Apparently, not a lot.
      Yes, there are a lot of bad indy books, because the bar to entry is very low, but it’s not that hard to sift out the bad ones, the cover and the blurb alone get rid of most. Reading the first few pages sort out most of the rest.
      Again, I don’t really see a ‘high level of quality’ from most trad pubs. Unless we’re talking about the paper.

    • It’s early and I have an appointment I have to get ready for shortly, so I’ll keep this short. I know you are giving traditionally published works too much credit and many indie works too little. If traditional publishers were doing the jobs they once did to insure quality (ie, editing, copy editing and proofreading), traditionally published authors wouldn’t be hiring their own editors to edit their books before they go to the publisher. Yes, there are a number of trad. published authors who do this. Why? Because they don’t get the quality of editing they used to.

      As for publishers targeting a “very high level of quality that costs a lot”, I’m not sure I get what you’re referring to. Perhaps you’d care to give specific examples?

      • paladin3001

        I’m wondering if a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s sacred cows of publishing should be appropriate here. He targets all those view points and he wrote the first posts for the book years ago (well five at least I think).

      • yeah, considering advances are now 3 or 4k and that my indie book made ME 20k (Yeah, I get bigger advances than 3 or 4 k from Baen, but most authors are now getting those) I’d say he’s whistling Dixie.

  9. Trad authors can be as contemptuous as they want to be. Meanwhile, the indie path offers the best opportunities for writers who want to build an audience. When you adjust for slush pile submissions/indie published stuff that should have stayed in the slush pile, the odds greatly favor indies.

    • CJ, absolutely. Indie authors also offer readers something traditional publishers aren’t — books they want to read. The so-called resurgence of science fiction, especially hard sf as well as military sf and space opera, show that.

  10. Draven

    so are they going to ask the government to regulate the output of indie authors?

    Reminds me of sword production in Japan…

  11. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Guess I’m not a “real writer”.”

    You’re in good company. 🙂

  12. amiegibbons15

    I’ve found the faster I write a book, the better it usually is. If I can get into it like that, live and breathe that character so that the writing just flows, it’s usually more realistic, stronger voice, better plot, etc…

    • Zsuzsa

      From a reader’s perspective, this matches my experience as well. The longer an author takes to write the next book in the series, the more likely it is to disappoint me when it finally arrives.

      • Although the joke is that the first book (the one everyone liked best) took ten years to write. It’s the ones that had to be produced in “only a year” that suffer by comparison.

        The truth is probably that not all authors are capable of producing even one book a year. Others easily produce a novel a month. People are just different.

        • Zsuzsa

          That may be (although not in my experience; usually the authors I read get much better in their second books), but it isn’t really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the series where an author started by consistently putting out a book a year…then slowed to about two years…then three…then it took seven years to put out the latest volume, and it’s the worst one yet. Stuff happens, but there’s little in the way of coherent plot or pushing the story forward, the characters just seem to want to fulfill their tasks and get out of there, and the reader wonders why she ever started liking the series in the first place.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            If you are writing for a series, part of the trick is creating enough tension to pull the reader through each book, then decrease it at the end. If you stop right mid ‘finish the book all night’ level of tension, the reader is going to get whiplash, and feel betrayed. At the same time, you want to leave them with a certain amount of uncertainty about what happens in the next book. If they aren’t curious they aren’t going to read it, much less wait eagerly.

            Well, you have readers that want the next books, but aren’t ruining their lives over it. What’ll happen as they wait?

            1. As time increases, they will change. At some point, they may no longer be interested because they are a sufficiently different person. 2. As time goes on, they will think about the book. They may solve whatever mystery they want to see resolved, or they may get angry at the story, or whatever. Or their theory of ‘what happens next’ may diverge from what you decide to go with. 3. Or you may have time to come up with a ‘what happens next’ that is too radical for what the readers have been prepared by the last book for. The sooner you publish again, the less room you provide for such things.

          • Joe in PNG

            Some of the best series don’t really have an all encompassing over-reaching plot. PTerry’s Discworld, for instance, or John D McDonald’s Travis McGee books.
            Each book is pretty much a self contained story arc which referenced events in previous books, but one didn’t need to read all the books in the series to jump in.
            So, while “Interesting Times” did lead pretty directly into “The Lost Continent”, it did end at a pretty good place. One didn’t feel the pressure of waiting for the next book to find out what would happen next.

            “Arc Fatigue”, as the tropers call it, can be a very real thing.

            • Joe in PNG

              “The Last Continent”, not “The Lost Continent”.
              I watched that particular MST 3k ep last night.

            • A very good point. Discworld and other largely ‘arc-less’ series are beloved, I believe, because readers simply love being in that writer’s worlds, and any excuse will do. These are the ‘charming’ authors, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman and so on. I rarely find the plots in their books to be riveting, but love the characters and environment, insights and details that arise from their thoughts and discussions. Could they get away with no plot at all? No, but as a reader of those books I find myself thinking less ‘what happens next?’ and more ‘I hope this doesn’t end too soon!’

              • Terry Sanders

                That’s one of my big problems as a writer–I’m that kind of a reader. So when I write, I have a *world* in mind.

                Neither characters nor plot are of great importance to me. But you can’t skimp on them. And I froquently want to…

          • (Cough) ASOIAF! (Cough)

            • Zsuzsa

              That would be an obvious example (really? We waited 10 years to see Tyrion so he could get on a bunch of random boats!!!!!), but it’s far from the only place I’ve seen the problem.

        • I’m definitely in the former category right now, seeing as I have kids at the age where all three of them need attention right now for varying reasons. In the latter category may be one of my friends, who has put out about fifteen books in the last five years WHILE working full time AND getting her master’s degree in photography. (Plus various and sundry side projects.) She’s gotten to the point where the finances line up to quit the job… and we’re all a little interested to see where she ends up on the writing end.

      • My best selling, in terms of paying every pay period traditional book is a work for hire fictional biography of Jane Seymour, which I wrote in 3 days, for various reasons. The one on Kathryn Howard took me much longer, because it was going to come out under my name and I care more. Yeah, not nearly selling so well. I need to take a month and write all the six wives under a pen name 😉

    • Amie, same here. I realized over the weekend why I was struggling with the current work-in-progress. I pretty much scrapped everything I did and started over. Since then, the book is flying and it is a better book for it, imo.

    • Same here. Optimum time for a book is two weeks, because I’m truly immersed.
      Now, if my stupid health stopped interrupting books…
      Also, you’re not alone and I’m not alone, with us stand people like Rex Stout, and oh, yeah, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Kevin J. Anderson and and and….

  13. I’ve just had the great good pleasure of reading a beta version of a book that was several months in the making, and a LOT of that time was devoted to researching the development, manufacture and use of multi-shot rifles, assuming gunpowder and muskets. It was a TON of research, I KNOW, because I sort of hung out at the fringe of the author’s camp, sniffing, much in the way my cat stalks my lunch.

    And ya wanna know how much of that made it into the book? Practically NOTHING. But the knowledge showed up, and it was necessary for her to do that in order to make the innovation (rate of fire = a win against a bigger army) work for the story.
    And it will cut WAY down on the research for subsequent novels.

    But I’d have to say, that if EVERY book takes 10 years to research, you REALLY need to consider sequels more seriously.

  14. amiegibbons15

    When I was looking into publishing, I was asked, “Do you want to be famous or do you want to make money?”
    The person then said either path doesn’t mean you’ll get that one, or that you won’t get both, but one is more likely than the other with the different paths.
    I said I wanted to make money.
    They told me to go indie then.

  15. mrsizer

    Michael Anderle. The first three books were very rough when published. The first eight or so had ugly covers. They’ve since all been cleaned up. Now, he’s leading a stable of authors and has a team of beta-readers and an editing team. A Kurtherian book comes out about every week. I have about 30 of them (if it makes y’all feel better, my Mad Genius Kindle collection has about 100 books in it).

  16. I occasionally give in and join these sorts of conversations. I try to explain that just because someone is writing a book a month and publishing a book a month–it’s usually not the same book. That writers tend to develop a process, where they’re writing something new, have something out for editing, and doing covers, and formatting . . . And the book they published this month was probably written a minimum of 3 months earlier.

    In one ear and out the other. Two posts later they’re back to exclaiming about how no one could possibly write, edit, polish format and publish a book in thirty days.

    So I have to walk away before I start comparing Amazon ranks with any of the darlings.

    • You are a better woman than I. I’m not sure I could have walked away — which is why I didn’t join the discussion.

      • Nice lady, but thin skinned, a bit of a whiner, liberal. But it’s like kicking a helpless puppy. It doesn’t do any good, and you just feel bad for doing it, and making them whine twice as long.

        • I’m happy I don’t have the time to go to where ever it is these people are. Too busy trying to get the next story done in my series. All of which are being done in less that 30 days :-p

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      So they can’t comprehend basic concepts of industrial engineering as applied to creative writing, such as takt time? Why do they hate science? XP

    • Andrew

      How to win that argument everytime?

      Invoke James Patterson.

      13 books published in 2016, 16 so far in 2017. I beleive he’s averaged slighly more than a book a month for several years now.

      Of course you can start a new argument by saying he didn’t really write all of those books, just parts of some of them, but I’d have the popcorn ready for that.

  17. Quoting Lois McMaster Bujold

    “This e-publication thing is getting frighteningly fast, in part because a lot of little things which were baffling decisions or upward learning curves first round are now set templates which only need replicated.”

  18. An old mantra from the time when trad publishing ruled the world: “Never let your editor find out how fast you can really write.”

    I cannot begin to express how refreshing it is not to bother with that any more.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Could you explain the reasoning behind concealing that?

      • George

        I would say there is a difference between maximum writing speed under optimal conditions and sustainable writing output. Editor’s may assume the optimal conditions always apply. Unfortunately, life happens.

        • No. It’s because if they know you wrote it fast, they’re going to go looking for problems. There are ALWAYS problems in a book. If you know how fast it was written, you look to find them. Well, if you’re trad pub.

    • I’l fangirl here, Margaret, and say I’m thrilled you’ve joined the indie ranks. Now, go write more and write fast! VBG

  19. Fiction has always been genre fiction, the “classics” were simply the genre fiction that stood the test of time.

  20. — I can’t afford to wait a year or more between books coming out. Guess I’m not a “real writer”. —

    Amanda, while I sympathize with your argument, I think it’s unwise to say you “can’t afford” some particular time interval between books. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true. Yes, there are readers who would prefer to have a high rate of output from their favorite writers and are willing to overlook the compromises that might arise from that rate of production. However, the anti-indie forces are quite ready to jump on a “can’t afford” statement with their favorite term of condemnation for us: “They’re hacks.”

    Let’s be candid: To promote speed of output over other considerations will, for most of us, result in a compromised level of quality, especially as regards low-level details. If you’re one of the blessed few to whom that doesn’t apply, I envy you, as I’m not favored thus. But let’s not hand our enemies a weapon they can use against us — and to say baldly that you “can’t afford” to take some arbitrary amount of time over a book-under-development does exactly that. Far better to point to the quality of your work, smile, and say “That took me only X weeks. Got a problem with that?”

    • While I understand your concern, let’s be real here: the anti-indy crowd will jump on any statement that even hints at writing for anything but writing’s sake as evidence of hackery, and regards not spending months or even years on a single work as evidence that one is not writing for writing’s sake.

    • Francis, first of all, I don’t hold back when it comes to the truth. I can’t afford to wait that long between books. For one, the voices in my head of all those unwritten books would drive me crazy. For another, readers will forget. I write to make a living. If I don’t write, I don’t get paid. Finally, most folks who look at writers with high output and say they are hacks aren’t the ones who are buying the books.

      All that aside, at nowhere have I said anyone has to write as fast as I do or, more daunting, as fast as Christopher Nuttall does. What I have said is that no one should tell me, or anyone else, that the fact we write fast means we don’t put out quality products.

      • That’s better phrased than “I can’t afford.” I have no problem with people who write swiftly, or with people who need money, or with people going borderline insane from the character voices in their heads. I just want to avoid handing the anti-indie crowd any more weapons — and to reply “they’d jump on anything we say” is not a defense; it’s an excuse for not saying what you really mean. “But I didn’t mean it that way” is especially unfortunate from the mouth of one who writes and sells the results. Consider this snippet from The Left Hand of Darkness:

        In dothe one does not worry much, and what anxiety I had was for the Envoy, who should have waked long ago from the light does of sonic I had given him….When the wheel turns under your hand, you must watch your words: and I had twice called him dead and carried him as the dead are carried. The thought would come that this was then a dead man that I had hauled across the hills, and that my luck and his life had gone to waste after all.

        The “wheel turns under our hand:” the indie-fiction movement is moving ever faster, and the gatekeepers are in retreat. Let’s not set our own cause back unnecessarily.

  21. There’s nothing new about any of this.

    After Anthony Trollope’s death, his autobiography was published, in which he revealed that he wrote to a clock every day. A certain number of words, according to his watch, and if he finished a novel and there was time remaining, he would start another novel.

    This revelation killed the respect the reviewers had for his works, even though the words had not changed. It took a long time for his reputation to recover.

    Then there’s the notion that you need an MFA or other accreditation to be taken seriously as a writer. But this is a very recent development, once you look at the careers of notable writers. Hemingway never took a writing course. Nor did Fitzgerald, Faulkner, or Woolf, etc.

    Readers will forgive a host of faults if you give them a compelling story. Conan Doyle was regularly slated for his inattention to facts, but it didn’t hurt Sherlock Holmes.

    I liken the indie writing scene with indie filmmaking of the ’70s. Films made under the studio system had a certain level of quality that was consistent. You had great movies, you had duds, but the duds were not terrible on a par with the ’70s films (MST3K provides a fine sample of that).

  22. Quote: Now go forth and read — and write. If you read a book by an indie author, do them a favor and leave a review.

    Having done both, I will add to that. If you read and enjoy a book by any writer, do them a favor and write a review.

  23. Kristina

    My kindle has an embarrassingly good amount of books on it, over 1200 now, but out of all of those….the only trad pub people on it at the moment are Weber, Gini Koch,D. Nolan Clark, A. Reynolds, F. Herbert and Jean Johnson (Her Ia series.) Everyone else is either trad pub that got their rights back and now publish indie or many titles offered thru KU. I don’t have KU but I darned well put my money to what entertains me. I rented A. Justice from the library. It cured my insomnia. I also tried out 3 Body Problem from Tor’s freebie newsletter. It was alright but I am getting more bang for my buck with the likes of Cole/Anspach, Fox , Nuttall, Weber, DiPietro, M.R Forbes, M.D Cooper, Schall/Green or Carella. I don’t care what the writer’s politics are, if you write something entertaining to me, I will throw down hard earned money for it.

    I find it kinda sad that Orbit doesn’t promo N. Clark’s “The Silence” series much. It pretty interesting. He wrote some horror novels under another name a while back and I liked the narrative style so I got these when they hit. I only have the first book for now because it just hit 6.99, but I am patient so ill wait for the other two to hit a reasonable ebook price.

    Sometimes I still read older S. King novels. Even with his loopy pov on politics some of his older stuff entertains me quite well.

    • Kristina

      PS: I don’t usually mind the speed of the writer’s output, esp with indies, since I have so many more authors to follow now. 😀 That’s one of the things that irks me with trad publishing. Sometimes your lucky to get 1-3 books a year from someone.