Raconteurs’ Rousing Writing-Related Roundup!

A handful of great reads on the blogosphere right now if you are an aspiring writer or just care about the state of the book industry.

Let’s start with Dean Wesley Smith relating the recent report that 45 of the 300 6-figure book deals were for self-published works!

The best read of the week, however, goes to Elle Casey, who discusses the state of the publishing industry with an agent. It is one of the great reads on the subject of publishing right now. I liken it to a buggy-whip maker scratching their head and listening to Henry Ford go on and on about some strange new invention of his. The essence of a shifting tide is seen right here, folks. A must-read.

Finally, Anne R. Allen discusses the bizarre world of book reviews. Everything about this post screams the need for all of us to review the works we read. The only way to drown out the noise is with a chorus of honest voices. Making this difficult is the new policy whereby authors can’t review books. That’s a bind when more and more readers are becoming authors!

13 responses to “Raconteurs’ Rousing Writing-Related Roundup!”

  1. While I applaud your success and like all aspiring writers, I have fantasies of being a self-publishing phenomenon, I do have some reservations about the self-publishing “boom”. I can kind of see the point of the agent in the second article. While I might want to be a writer, I’m first and foremost, a reader. And as a reader, I’m not so sure that the self-publishing phenomenon is so great. The reason why I say this is, well, a lot of self-published works are of a pretty poor quality (not WOOL). I guess what an agent and a traditional publishing route does is to act as some kind of filter, some kind of determiner of what constitutes good writing. Now, I know the argument here is well, that’s all pretty subjective, you are relying on the tastes of a few, who determines what is good etc etc. Those arguments are valid but if I had to weigh up weeding through all the self-published works to find the few that are worthwhile and having someone else work out what is well written with a good narrative, I’d probably be happy for a group of agents/editors/publishers to do it for me. So its tricky, and I do kind of sit on the fence. After all, without self-publishing, we wouldn’t have WOOL. But oh God, we also would not have been subjected to endless comments/reviews/discussion about a certain erotica trilogy….which I found pretty badly written and just shudderingly awful.
    I tend to admit that as a rule, I consequently shy away from self-published works. Which brings me to the last article …. book reviews. I read A LOT of reviews and downloaded a sample before I bought the WOOL Omnibus. So reviews are important but I don’t think we need more reviews, I think we need more insightful reviews. I actually think that with the advent of epublishing, good (as in thoughtful, well constructed) reviews have declined. Often I try to find some useful reviews for books, and you just have endless reviews about how “awesome” the book was or how it “wasn’t my thing”. This tells a reader nothing. It used to be you looked to the New York Times or The Age or some other national newspaper to read the reviews written by professional reviewers. But these days, you have to troll through meaningless reviews that offer no real insights as to what you might get out of a book.
    Sorry, this is kind of long but these articles just made me think more about these thoughts that have been rattling round in my head. These are interesting times and thanks for sharing all these articles/blogs with us

    1. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Having worked in a bookstore, though, my reply to quality among self-published books is that there is a problem with quality across *all* books. If you walked into a bookstore and grabbed a random tome off a random shelf, you would most likely hate that book. The quality might be fine, and there’ll be someone out there who enjoys the read, but most likely not you.

      I would reckon that out of the tens of thousands of titles in a given bookstore, most people would enjoy a few hundred and absolutely love a few dozen. Which is why we all read the same book every year. At any given time, there are two or three books that people are discussing and reading. They change throughout the year, but the focus remains that tight.

      Which is why word of mouth and reviews are so important. Finding a great read has always been difficult. Self-publishing provides more chances, not fewer. You just have to rely on the brave samplers out there to weed them out for you!

      1. I agree….bad writing is not just the domain of self-publishing. I guess self-publishing has created this volume of work that gets quite daunting to wade through without a traditional “gatekeeper”. So, I suppose, we (as in “I”) have to shift our understanding of who these “gatekeepers” are. I am finding that I am relying less on Amazon reviews (for the reasons I have already mentioned) and sourcing some trusted reviewers such as other authors’ blogs or just other blogs written by people who seem to be able to provide insightful critiques of books. Sometimes I just despair at this digital revolution and just want to shout “enough! that’s too much information, too much choice”. I’d probably be quite happy living in the silos doing whatever job was assigned to me. Maybe. But then I’d never get to really see the sun.

    2. You have a point.
      But freedom has a price, it comes with bad things. However we prefer the good things it also carries, so much that we’re willing to suffer the bad ones.
      I think the same applies to self-publishing.
      Editing does not guarantee that the books are good, and neither it does that a good book is published.
      Take the example of “A confederacy of dunces” for a book that the editors refused to publish. Or take the example of a few of Stephen King’s books which should have never been allowed to be printed :)

  2. I posted on Dean’s blog post this morning to mention your deal and got caught in the moderation queue. Of all the indie deals I’ve seen announced lately, yours and Bella’s are the ones that I’d want myself. The others…well…maybe for life-changing money, but I don’t know how excited I’d be about the contract, honestly. Which, as I recall, was an issue you yourself might have had… ;-)

  3. Thanks so much for the shout-out, Hugh. And thanks for “getting” the point of my post. Yes, Amazon’s review system is a hot mess. But that means honest real-customer reviews are more important than ever. And authors are customers too. They can’t shut us all up. Eventually, I have no doubt the Zon will see the error of their ways and allow authors to write reviews. If we’re good enough for the New York Times, we should be good enough for them.

    And I worked in bookstores for years myself so I agree 100% about the quality of books.

  4. Authors who have websites should list their own reviews of the works of others. This way, If a reader respects and trusts the author the review will have more impact.

    1. Good point. I used to list all my reviews for other books on a Review page. Maybe I should bring that back.

  5. Thanks for bringing these good reads to our attention, Hugh. And ample applause on your alliteration!

    The challenge of discovering “good” books (which are different for every reader) and the decision about whether to self-publish versus continuing to seek a traditional deal is all part of the evolution in publishing. We’re on the cutting edge of an exciting sea change every bit as significant as when the Gutenberg printing press made monks toiling at hand-copied manuscripts a thing of the past.

    It’s very cool to be part of this brave new world! At my house, we are in the thick of it. I’m self-published, I publish others, and my husband and I (he just finished Second Shift) were discussing how impatient we are for your #8. I’m not mentioning this just to flatter you — though feel free to blush if it does — but to illustrate the wild possibilities of me, sitting at my laptop in Connecticut, talking directly to YOU, an author whose brain is even now concocting the next adventure I want to read. It’s the stuff of science fiction, is it not?

    P.S. Really enjoyed the dance videos! You must have had ballet training.

    P.P.S. Now get back to writing. I’m your reader, and I’m WAITING. ;-)

  6. i.e. Hugh’s dancing ability – Patrice, it probably comes from busting up chicken manure clumps in the field for his dad…good leg work, eh?

    1. So you’re saying his dance moves are full of sh… um… chicken manure clumps? As long as he keeps writing, that’s fine.

  7. Totally off topic, but Hugh you are my freaking hero man. It’s awesome to be able to watch your epic journey unfold. Soak it in, and continue to stay true to the craft. :-)

  8. My first time here and I’m coming late to this post (I’m coming over from Anne R. Allen’s blog) and I wanted to start off by saying how much I enjoyed WOOL (just finished Part One) – I know, I know, everyone commenting here does, but I thought I’d say it anyway…

    The comments here are all interesting and point to the difficulty we self-published authors encounter, as we face a tsunami of new titles, and this can get even harder if you try and publish a book that doesn’t fit easily into any genre (my case with my novel A Hook in the Sky – I ended up inventing a genre for it, Boomer Lit, only to discover that I wasn’t the only one writing in this genre: now we’re 300 members in the Goodreads Group I launched back in October to discuss Boomer lit – grin!)

    Because, bottom line, genres (and fitting into them) is the first available marketing tool to attract readers. The next one is to play with price and/or go free. The third one is trying to get reviews, a hopeless endeavor (in my humble view – better wait for them to come and thank the reviewers if you can, but sometimes you don’t know who they are).

    While it is true that the Internet gives us writers an unparalleled chance to link up to readers, it’s still very, very tough and the explosive number of new books hitting the market (7,000 titles/week, I’m told) doesn’t help.one.bit! All of this only serves to underline how remarkable your success is…and well-deserved!

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