Quality of Work?

This is a subject that has been rolling around in my head for a while now and I’ve gone back and forth debating with myself over whether I wanted to post about it or not. Are we diluting the quality of our literature with the advent of self-publishing? Yes, I’m actually asking that as a self-published, indie author.

I’d like to think that what I wrote and published was worth that effort. That I created something that someone would read and really enjoy or make them think or make them feel. I’d also like to think my editor (or anyone else that read for me prior to publishing) would have said something if that wasn’t the case. The little bit of feedback I’ve gotten since publishing makes me think I just might have done okay. I say that with the mindset of having read thousands of books over the years and using that as a basis for comparison, but I’m by no means any kind of an expert in writing or literature. That and I’m obviously going to be biased a little bit. But…

Just because someone writes something they think should be published, does that automatically mean they should?

There have absolutely been some amazing books written and self-published over the years. Books that traditional publishing houses wouldn’t look at because they didn’t fit their perceived model of a successful book, but were able to gain some pretty incredible notoriety without that kind of backing. For that reason alone, I think the ability to self-publish has been a phenomenal tool in helping to change the publishing industry as a whole, giving people a whole lot more options and opening doors that maybe wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

Sadly, I also wonder if it is just way too easy for someone to write something and hit publish. At least with a book coming from a traditional publishing house, or even some of your smaller publishers, you have a level of certainty that the basic quality of a book is going to be good. You may not like the subject, or the characters or all kinds of things that are creative judgements, but you aren’t normally going to be driven up the wall with a poorly put together story with a broken timeline or plot line, terrible sentence structure, punctuation (or lack thereof) and grammar, or all the million other little things any editor worth their pay is going to call you on. Yes, you will almost always find mistakes in even a professionally published book, but for the most part, it is going to be relatively clean. When it comes to self-published, you have zero guarantees of any kind of quality.

As I said, there have been some great books that have been self-published. There has also been a glut of really not great books. I cannot tell you how many books I’ve had to DNF because I don’t think a single person other than the writer laid eyes on it before they hit that publish button. I actually saw someone in the indie community ask other writers if research was necessary when writing a book. Really?! I’ve also seen people bragging about doing their own editing and cover designs (not artists of any stripe). Some of the conversations I’ve seen have absolutely floored me.

I am so torn on this subject because, obviously, I’ve done the self-publish thing. I know where I think I fall in the scale of things, but doesn’t every person that hits publish feel the same? This whole thing makes me feel like I’m being an insufferable snob with a giant ego, but that is so far from the reality it isn’t funny. It actually makes me really worried that I’m somehow too blind and biased and missing the obvious, kicking self-doubt into high gear.

It frustrates me to no end as a reader, but also as a writer. I completely understand why some authors don’t even want to be associated with the self-published label because it doesn’t exactly have a gleaming reputation. I think quality is hugely important. In anything, not just writing and books. I’d rather spend more on something of high quality than something cheap or free that ended up being crap.

With the exception of my favorite authors releasing new books and maybe one or two others here and there, I really haven’t felt like much of what I’ve been reading lately has been all that great. 9 times out of 10, when I go to look more closely at a book I had major non-creative issues with, they were self-published. I also have a tendency anymore to pick out all the things that my editor would have had a field day with and often kind of have his voice running commentary alongside what I’m reading if it is bad enough. Again, something that happens way too often and leaves me to wonder what made the person think it was time to click publish.

I know that part of this is just a kind of reading slump, but I also have to wonder about the overall quality of the books that are out there right now and how the self-publishing side of things play into that lack.

Author: TJ Fox

I am a slightly sane artist, amateur photographer, book addict, wife, mom and raging introvert. I have more hobbies than I can count, so it is beyond shocking that I manage to find time to do any of them, let alone most of them and still have time to do anything else. Of all the talents I claim, writing wasn’t one of them until my muse dropped the idea for a book on my head.

20 thoughts on “Quality of Work?”

  1. After my last reply to your response, I took a look at your book on Amazon. To be honest, I have no idea what the book is about from the description. Consider finding a good blurb template and following that template. The description should be about the character and the central problem facing that character. The very distant musing about life and love that you present aren’t likely to sell a lot of books.

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  2. In my experience, the cream tends to rise to the top. When I find indie books by searching the best selling books in a particular genre, the books, generally, are just as good as anything I ever read that was traditionally published. When I could across and indie writer randomly on the internet and check out his work, though, it’s generally horrid.

    (Big Note: That last comment was not directed at you at all. I don’t know anything about your work and made no effort to find out. I was just sharing past experience.)

    Overall, there are a ton of benefits to me as a reader from self publishing. Here are two:

    1) Book prices are lower. I can buy two of three good ebooks for the price of one traditionally published one. More reading = better!
    2) I love LitRPG. Sure, the writing is mostly terrible, done by complete newbs, but no one else if writing it. And even though the writing stinks, I still, overall, gain entertainment from the books. Without self publishing, none of these books would be there for me to enjoy.

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    1. I absolutely agree that the self-publishing industry opened the doors to some of those sub-genres that wouldn’t be there or as prominent otherwise.

      Lower pricing is one of those things that I’ve seen many sides of. Yes, it can be great for readers, but it has also created this expectation from them of the industry as a whole that is completely unrealistic and has even sparked all kinds of other issues with regards to click farms and plagiarism. So, that is also a double-edged sword.

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      1. I’m not so sure regarding unrealistic expectations. In the days before ebooks, many prolific readers, like me, bought most of their novels at used bookstores, bypassing the author completely. Nowadays, at least the author is getting some kind of a cut. That’s not even going into the fact that an indie author is getting more for a $2.99 sale that a traditionally published author is getting on a per book sold basis. If authors want to make money, they have to move volume. This has always been true.

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      2. The advent of the ebook opened the door for the ease of both plagiarism and pirating, both have become major issues recently. People get used to things being free or for very low pricing and they expect it from all areas. It is why you have seen game and app makers have to change their business model because people expect to be able to play for free.

        The likelihood that I will ever make enough selling my book to even pay for what I put into it is almost zilch. When people expect to get something at no to low cost, it makes that possibility even lower. This is a peeve of mine I’ve encountered in all kinds of different areas, not just in books. This demand for more and more for less and less.

        I am also a prolific reader, but I do my damnedest to ensure that I read in such a way that the authors benefit from my reading. Even getting a book from the library counts as they do get paid for those (different amounts depending on the library’s model). Most traditionally published authors would agree that even the used book sales help them because it gets them read and will potentially prompt readers to buy future books.

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      3. To be honest, I’d have to say that, if the likelihood that you’ll ever make back what you put into your book is really that low, you’re probably doing something wrong. You’ve either spent too much or you’re not meeting market expectations.

        My three novels average about $2,500 in revenue versus a production cost of around a grand. Obviously, I’m not going to live on that $1,500 bucks, but it’s a nice bonus to get that much back from something I see as a hobby.

        Just from what I’ve seen from any reasonably competent author who has learned the publishing side of the business and seeks to write books that have an audience, my returns are probably on the low side. I would be doing a lot better if I wrote more, published regularly, and took more of an interest in marketing.

        I’m not trying to be harsh, here, but are you possibly blaming the market for failings that might be based a lot closer to home?

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      4. I don’t actually intend on writing more. This was kind of a one off for me creatively. If it happens it happens, but it isn’t the plan. I knew that when I chose to publish. I knew it would be an obstacle for me, but I also chose to make sure that what I put out there would be the absolute best it could be, so I invested in a good editor and designer. I’m fully aware that I’m fighting an uphill battle. I am also aware that I’ve got several other issues fighting against me (very small number of connections and a lower interest genre). All of those are known issues and I’m working on them. That said, my point stands with regards to quality of work in the self-published industry and having to battle against the masses just to be seen makes all of those hurdles even more difficult.

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      5. I get your point.

        I have to say, though, that I’ve been pretty darn happy with how mine have performed, and it’s not like I’ve done a ton of marketing.

        Part of it is expectations. Almost no one can make any kind of real money off a single book or even a single series.

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      6. When I made my original post, it was about the overall quality of work available more so than how my own book was performing. I’m not concerned at this point with the performance of my book as it has barely been out long enough to form an opinion either way. I was mostly expressing frustration with the fact that there are an awful lot of truly poorly written and edited works getting published and whether or not that is diluting the overall quality of literature as a whole. As a reader, quality is a major component of whether or not I enjoy a book.

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  3. I’ve had the same doubts as a self-published author. The only remedy I can think of is to advise independent authors not to go it alone. Bring in as many beta readers, editors, and cover designers as you need to produce quality books.

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    1. I’ve seen a lot of that advice from the “experts” in the field, but you still see people talking about not actually doing that. It is something that I will never understand. I cannot imagine putting in all that work to write something and then not give it every single chance to be its absolute best by having others help. Yes, it absolutely is an expense, but so is pretty much every single other thing that is worth doing.

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  4. My writing group and I ponder this question endlessly. One member is a total no self publish ever, one is a total pro self publish, and I’m undecided. I see the pros and cons of both sides of the issue, and there’s no clear right or wrong. Good thought provoking post!

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    1. I didn’t feel like I had many options in my situation. Not really thinking I’d ever do this again, I didn’t see the point in doing the whole agent/publisher querying route as it seems (at least from my research) no one is interested in a single book author. They are looking for quantity as much as anything.

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      1. No, there really isn’t. Everyone has to just do what they feel is best for them. Sadly, I think that some really great books and works get lost in that mess.

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      2. The most recent book I attempted to read, I went and looked at the reviews and they were all raving and glowing. The two negative reviews I found (one on Goodreads, one on Amazon) had comments on them absolutely blasting the hell out of the reviewer (not by the author that I could tell). I was kind of stunned.

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      3. The whole review thing is getting out of hand. We should be able to write a bad review if something is warranted without getting grief. As long as the reasons behind the review are sound, why would anyone bash them? I. D.o.n.t understand!

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      4. The personal attacks associated with these were utterly childish and ugly. I would welcome an honest, negative review. Hell, I’d probably be thanking the person. Sure, it would absolutely suck if it felt like someone was being so critical of something I was really proud of, but that is part of the deal when you publish. It is the same for me for the unwarranted, glowingly positive reviews. I don’t want that. If you didn’t actually like it, please don’t blow smoke. It makes it look like I’ve arranged for those.

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