This fascinating article by Carl Purdon is worth a read. The Crib Notes version is his assertion that, although the market is awash in a sea of poorly written books by well-intentioned, ambitious self-pubbed authors (he used different words, but that’s the gist), the cream will rise to the top.
But is that true?
I’m not sure.
I think it could be, perhaps. Carl has several links to truly outstanding books that are fantastic reads and absolutely worthy of their success and subsequently high Amazon rankings. But there are other authors with equal success and equally high rankings that, in my opinion, aren’t very good.
In fact, in some cases, they’re embarrassingly bad.
So was their success because of their talent for writing? Were these books the cream that rose? Or was it more a matter of marketing prowess and the proclivity of people to follow the herd and buy what their friends are buying.
Well, in a world of Present Tense, dialogue tags, and one-dimensional characters, I’d say yeah, I think so.
If that is the case, where does that leave those with very, very good books, but little to no publicity, the absence of a platform, and very little blog support?
Dog paddling in a sea of drivel, I suppose.
But Carl makes another point in this article which I think could be the Unknown Author’s Saving Grace.
You see, the Big 6 are driven by marketing data. They know what’s selling, they track what’s selling, they’re obsessed with what’s selling and, being all about the Bottom Line, they focus exclusively on that. So, if you’re a huge fan of paranormal romance novels where a teenage girl is probably caught in some sort of love triangle with, I don’t know, a hottie Vampire and maybe a hunky Werewolf or something, well, you’ll find mountains of joy waiting for you at the New Release shelf in your local brick-and-mortar.
Or, as I call it, the Land of Interchangeable Voices Retelling Familiar Tales Already Told.
If you’re searching for writing with a strong unique voice and, oh, let’s say a story centered around a tortured Immortal seeking redemption and release, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Maybe here? (forgive the plug, but it is my blog)
In any case, it’s a good point to make. Self-pubbed authors — and I can only speak for myself, really — don’t follow the Flavor of the Month because oftentimes we’re so busy writing we don’t have time to track what the Flavor of the Month IS. We just write. We tell our stories, we create our worlds, and we put it out there trusting someone will share our passion and hear our voice.
And our voices ARE unique. They’re not tamed by marketing concerns, reined in by Projected Sales Goals, or shaped by Editors insisting we follow Rules. Our voices aren’t afraid of offending or gun-shy at the prospect of disappointing sales and a lifetime spent bundled in the bargain bin or paranoid by the loss of readers.
More often than not, there aren’t any readers to lose!
So we just write what drives us, allowing the characters to speak and live and stumble and sometimes die. We edit it, we shape it, we polish and package and format it. And then we publish it.
Circling back to the beginning, does the cream rise to the top? If you’re farmland milk fresh out of an udder, yeah. Given time.
If you’re a great story well told, I’m gonna roll the dice and say yes, too.