I was reading a Writer’s Digest blog post recently about 3 Surprising Lessons about Publishing Today. The third “surprising” lesson?
Quality rules in the marketplace.
I put surprising in quotes because as readers don’t we already know this one? How many times have you picked up a book, jazzed by the cover or the blurb or the testimonials only to find yourself on page fifty wondering if a plot will emerge in your lifetime or if the author will continue to write passively or if you can take another chapter riddled with that, was, or some favorite word ? I know I have set down many books in my life because I was having to force myself on, rather than the story and the writing pulling me forward. You know the feeling of being lost in a story, of time slipping away, of not being able to put the book down because the story won’t let you? That’s quality. Life is short. As readers, we don’t have time to read along, hoping against hope the story will somehow magically get better.
In the Writer’s Digest blog quoted a February 2013 Writer’s Digest article entitled “Failure to Launch” by Donald Maas and I’m going to do the same.
“I’m not saying that the industry is perfect, or that authors can’t help their sales with smart self-promotion. (Although my experience has been that the boost is typically smaller than evangelists would like you to believe.) If you want to distract yourself with those issues, go ahead. I won’t stop you. But you’ll be missing a critical point.
“As a literary agent who’s helped guide fiction careers for more than 30 years, here’s what I’ve learned: Runaway success comes from great fiction, period. The publishing industry may help or hinder but cannot stop a powerful story from being powerful. Conversely, the book business cannot magically transform an adequate novel into a great one.
“You may not like every bestseller (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?), but if a book is selling well then it’s doing things right for many readers. By the same token, less commercially successful novels are not doing enough of those things, even if they were good enough to get into print.”
As an author and someone who knows lots of other authors trying to do the same thing, quality is not an easy thing to achieve. The more I write, the more I get that a really good novel takes time, years to evolve and develop and be honed. It’s hard work. And oddly enough, it’s a team sport. I used to think writing was me in a room alone with my imagination. I’m in the room still, but I have a support team of people who critique and edit and tell me things I don’t want to hear and push me to push myself. All for the goal of quality. To write a story a reader simply cannot put down.