The New Slush Pile? It’s On Our Kindles

Last week’s post seemed to hit a nerve. There are few experiences more joyous to me than hitting nerves, so this made me very happy. Unfortunately, hitting nerves can also result in unpleasant occurrences, like readers having their own opinions.

Seeing as I’m a hard-hitting kind of news hound, I decided to tackle this head on, and bring some commenters’ shamelessly good points to you, rather than follow my first instinct, which was to ignore them (and permanently ban all sensible and erudite commenters from this blog).

The New Slush Pile? It's On Our Kindles

One such opinion which came my way last week was that too many books were being published, putting the whole industry in a sorry mess. They meant through traditional publishing, in this instance, so let’s just stick with that for a moment and take up indie books at a later date.

I don’t believe that I agree with that statement, however. The idea of a quantum of stories being either too many or too few doesn’t make any sense to me, particularly if we’re talking about a large number of genres and authors in the mix. However, another commenter made the point on this blog a few weeks back in response to my post on books I’m struggling with which are slowing down my reading, and I quote – “The slush has moved from an intern’s desk somewhere to our kindles”.

Whichever method of publishing we’re talking about, these are statements on quality. And from what I’ve been hearing from people over the past few weeks, quality appears to be a problem now more than ever before. Whether this is as a result of book pricing, market uncertainty, the speed at which popular self-published authors are releasing titles, or just a panicked reaction to self-publishing in general, it just doesn’t look like as much work/effort/pain/love/determination is going into the production of books as was once the case. Marketing, yes: production, no.

Background On Finger Pointing

As I pointed out in my last post, nobody is happy these days. Not the authors, publishers, wholesalers, book retailers, nor, on an increasingly frequent basis, me. But while I can see an obvious benefit to readers from book discounting, I’m also wondering if my inability to source proper book heroin right now is a direct result of the mess that is book discounting and the subsequent rushed promotion of homogenous, easy-to-pigeon-hole novels.

A noticeable quantum of the books I’ve read in the past three years could have benefited from at least three more hard edits, and/or a less piercing marketing campaign.

The New Slush Pile? It's On Our Kindles

In quite a few cases, the thing that sold me the book, namely some fascinating and attractive concept or plot point included in the blurb on the back, turned out to be barely relevant to the book at all. This is shocking, because this indicates to me that the Marketing Department may have actually known what should have been in the book, but somehow neglected to tell anybody else before it was too late.

In another case, a book which seemed obviously written in one genre had been shoehorned into another more popular genre by what appeared to me to be the hasty insertion of three or four ill-fitting chapters. On several occasions, fascinating plot threads were dropped entirely, as though the author never knew they were there. And in a couple of other cases, books I read appeared to be two halves of two different books, which with a bit more consideration and time, could have been expanded into two excellent books instead of one puzzlingly poor one.

Books Are The New Slush Pile

We are now sitting with rushed books on our shelves and on our e-readers, unable to put our fingers on exactly what went wrong with the book we’re struggling to finish. But that’s not our fault. After all, knowing what’s wrong is not our job. We’re not the professionals here. It’s the job of the publishers, the editors and the editorial directors, in partnership with authors, to sort this out before the book ever gets to us.

I don’t know what’s happening behind those closed and hallowed doors: I suspect that the workload of editors in particular has increased to unmanageable levels (and is also far from adequately compensated). The more rushed the market becomes – and the more the authors are being shaped to fit market fads and fashion, rather than books being shaped to be the best version of that story they can be – the worse it’s going to get.

The New Slush Pile? It's On Our Kindles

In the meantime, we’re losing potentially excellent stories. We’re losing them because the seeds are still out there, but it’s like someone having an idea for a new colour, and then being given six minutes to make it with charcoal and water.

I’m not absolving authors of all blame. I write. I’ve had stuff pointed out by beta readers that made me feel about as intelligent as a small square of puff pastry. I’ve been made aware that I am guilty of misdirection, the coddling of darlings and tangential flights of fancy which are blindingly obvious, and yet I did not see them. This is why it takes a whole village to make a book. It’s certainly why a whole village is being paid to make a book, because the authors are getting feck all these days.

I just believe that if an author is paying so very dearly for professional services during the publishing process, these services should be fully and comprehensively delivered. And then, the two ends of the publishing chain – indeed the only ones visible to the naked eye, i.e. the authors and the readers – might actually end up happy. And what a shocking state of affairs that would be.

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  81 comments for “The New Slush Pile? It’s On Our Kindles

  1. February 28, 2017 at 9:20 am

    “A noticeable quantum of the books I’ve read in the past three years could have benefited from at least three more hard edits, and/or a less piercing marketing campaign.”

    You said it! I think what we really lack are good editors. It’s not that there aren’t good editors, but there simply aren’t enough. From what I can tell, at least in India, a good editor may commission a work but won’t have the time to work on it, because she is too busy with administrative tasks, networking and policy level decisions. This is partly because all publishers are feeling the pinch, and everything depends on marketing and sales. As a consequence, no importance is given to the role of editing in getting a book from so-so to good, or from good to great. As a writer, this is all I want when I send out a manuscript: A editor who is an attentive reader, who doesn’t let her biases or preferences intrude, who isn’t thinking of what will sell and what won’t, but only about what works and what doesn’t, and why.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2017 at 11:27 am

      I never thought about the admin side, and that’s a very good point. Along with the fact that many in-house editors are simply being given too many books to do, it’s a recipe for disaster. I feel a real sense of loss that books which could have been stunning and brought me to tears are instead bringing me to sleep.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 28, 2017 at 10:19 pm

        The trouble I see with a completely unbiased editor, however, is that if they don’t have skin in the game, then they tend not to treat the wrk as harshly as they should. I see this in self-published novels a lot, because even if they have been professionally edited, the editor diesn’t gain anything from the success of the book. He’s already been paid and is out of the loop. So what motivation do they have to fight with an author over developmental issues? I think we do need editors to be involved on the administrative side of the industry and to be thinking about marketing as much as they are about editing. We just need more of them so they can do that more effectively. Of course, we can’t have that because the industry is changing too rapidly and the big houses can’t make that kind of investment. Or are unwilling to? I don’t know. I’m just an author. But I would pretty much kill for a brilliant editor that was both dedicated to my work and willing to stand up to me when I’m clearly wrong and obviously have no idea where to shelve my book.

        Liked by 1 person

        • February 28, 2017 at 10:45 pm

          There are plenty of those brilliant editors out there, Sarah, because I’ve spoken to authors who have them. I’m sure there are more who would love to be brilliant, but can’t because they’ve been forced to edit three books in the time it takes to edit one.

          I’m uncomfortable with editors thinking as much about marketing as editing, though, especially with regard to in-house editors, because that’s how we end up with books being shoehorned into the wrong genre and beauty being excised in favour of fashion. After all, good sculptor can make what they want out of a piece of marble. A great sculptor can see what the marble always wanted to be by bringing out the core of it. I think you make a great point about editing in self-publishing. It’s depressingly true.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. February 28, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Great series of posts Tara, and I think as writers we need to ask these questions. We should organise a Public Accounts Committee-type grilling of publishers, to find out exactly what they’re doing! People keep saying that there’s no money in writing, but someone’s earning and it ain’t the writers. I’ve noticed a shocking lack of editing in trad. books too, especially for newbie authors. There seems to be a two tier system in place where publishers skimp on the editing for ‘unproven’ authors, yet they’ll still help themselves to the lion’s share of your royalties. As a self-publisher, I will always be a bit biased, but when you realise that you can achieve similar results through outsourcing, without signing over your book to a company who doesn’t really care enough to bring their expertise to the project, why not? You don’t have to compromise on your vision in order to fit the latest trend and being your own publisher makes you work harder, which is no bad thing. No one will ever care about your book as much as you. Totally agree about those misleading blurbs – I read a good tip once that said to write your blurb first 😉

    Liked by 6 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Seems like the editorial input in traditional publishing is directly related to the size of your advance and therefore projected sales, Evie, which in turn become a self-fulfilling prophecy due to the marketing input. A sorrowful cycle.

      Liked by 2 people

    • March 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Darn it, I wanted to leave a smart, erudite comment, but Evie said everything I had in mind. So, you’ll have to do with this one instead: Great post, Tara.

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 3, 2017 at 12:05 pm

        I’ve given up on trying to get in first, Nick. Nobody gives me any credit when I do anyway 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. February 28, 2017 at 10:25 am

    I don’t have your depth of knowledge on the publishing world but certainly have come across books which I felt needed greater editorial scrutiny before publication. I wonder if part of the issue is that the publishers are in a hurry to find ‘the next big thing’ and the marketing department gets the mandate to ‘big it up’ when they think they’ve found the one

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 11:37 am

      I think publishers are definitely in a hurry, you’re right there. And in literature we can definitely see the results of more haste, less speed.

      By the way, that’s the first time I’ve ever been accused of having a depth of knowledge about anything. I think I’m going to have to re-examine my entire belief system. Back in 3 minutes. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. February 28, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I’m fascinated by your observation a good blurb on a bad book suggests that the marketing department knew what was needed. Then I was obliged to think harder on this topic by the example of the book that had extra chapters shoehorned in to make it what it wasn’t. The latter was probably an attempt to move in a good marketing direction that failed. The trick for any editor looking at a messy manuscript is to find the gold in the grit, and inspire the writer to put in long hours at that part of the creek. I’m afraid most authors would look at the tiny shining grains remaining from their tons of silt and retire to the saloon. Only a handful of us are drawn to the icy water, crazy with gold fever, unable to give up and go home. We are the lucky ones.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 11:43 am

      It might just be a personal thing, Timothy, but the marketing people definitely knew in those cases what I needed or wanted. These were books which had a plotline or character in the blurb that made me salivate. Then I started reading and got pulled in directions I didn’t want to go, with the original teaser never resolved or barely relevant to the plot.

      Your description of the gold in the grit is just perfect. It gets it just right about what’s wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. solsdottir
    February 28, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I’m not surprised at books getting little or no editing – I’ve been rereading Agatha Christie on my Kindle lately, and it’s pretty obvious no one looked at them before releasing them. If they’re not editing their cash cows, how likely is it that unknown authors are getting the scrutiny they need?

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2017 at 11:49 am

      I always assume with old books that tastes and procedures have changed, and what’s edited in or out now would have been different 80 years ago. I suppose if Charles Dickens was writing today he’d be told to cut the number of characters by a quarter, his plotlines by a third and his word count by half. But now, with all the data out there and the number crunching and the writing-by-numbers, what I’d really like to know is – how much time is an editor spending on a book in comparison with 80 years ago?

      Liked by 1 person

      • solsdottir
        February 28, 2017 at 9:07 pm

        You’re probably right about that, but what I was complaining about was extremely lazy/nonexistent editing. The spell-checker mistakes were bad enough but when one book had “&nbsp”, which is HTML, littered through it then the editors really aren’t bothering or don’t exist.
        Having said that, the thought of Charles Dickens confronted with modern editors will amuse me for some time to come.

        Liked by 1 person

        • February 28, 2017 at 10:49 pm

          Oh yes, those. I agree. I’ve seen that HTML code too. In fact the vast majority of the classics or pre-electronic era books I’ve read on Kindle have had unforgiveable typos and formatting errors in them. Proofreading of e-book versions seems to be non-existent.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. February 28, 2017 at 11:41 am

    OK, so first off, you referred to your writing and that reminded me to look (again) (and fail (again)) for what you’ve written. A friend opined you hadn’t published yet, but you clearly have, just not on this side of the pond I guess.

    This is the kind of discussion that people with a lot more money than us need to be having. I’m inspired that you can see it so well, and depressed to believe that the Powers are probably avoiding taking a look. And I say that without any particular reference to my own career (if I might flatter myself with such a word). I don’t write quickly enough to pass the qualifying rounds in this race. And it IS, in the end, a race.

    I’ve often dreamed that the thing to do is insert a level of entrepreneurship into the process. We know there are avid readers in all the genres. They could brute together as a group and highlight books that “make the cut”, provide a one-click channel for readers to order them, and take a slice (instead of letting the Zon have it) for their services. I also loved the idea behind Bookvetter (http://www.bookvetter.com/) that tried to line up authors-as-reviewers to vet their own works and produce reliably recommended winners to the public.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      I haven’t published yet, Will, but I am currently in what I like to call Heavy Prep. As in, I’m lining up work to inflict upon the world at a time which will become clear to me within the next 6 months. (This is my attempt to create tension and drama surrounding my writing. How am I doing? I can get more threatening if you think it’ll work). In the meantime, a short story of mine is being published in an online literary journal very soon, so I’ll be sure to shout and roar about that here ad nauseum when it’s out. You have been warned.

      I like the idea of Bookvetter, or anything which makes more use of good, helpful reviews. I read reviews of books very carefully to get a feeling for whether or not I’d agree with the reviewer’s opinion, but it takes forever and I invariably end up with 5 so-so books for every 1 that hits the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 28, 2017 at 3:25 pm

        Yay! Sorry for hijacking someone else’s comment, but that’s brilliant news! Look forward to reading it 😉 See? People are just falling over themselves to find a way to remunerate you for your talent. I just worry about what blog I’m going to read when you’re famous *slightly worried face* OH and another thing – yes publishers are rushing to get titles out, but jeez there’s still no rush on them to get through their slush pile, is there? It’s like that waltz; slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. They take about six months to get back to you and if you do sign with them, they’ll put you on next year’s list and you’re like ‘I wrote this book two years ago’. Oy vey!

        Liked by 3 people

        • February 28, 2017 at 5:23 pm

          When I’m famous, Evie, I think the world will have enough to worry about, and publishing woes will be the least of it 😉

          Like

  7. February 28, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Well said. We need to debate the relevant intelligence of pre and post baked puff. Or, get the publishing house to put a team on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      I think the latter, Conor. There’s no better way to get a rise in puff than to put a team on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. February 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head… no trad publisher is going to waste time, effort and money on a new author they have no idea will sell. Prediction’s just not an exact science. So at best that new author gets a half hearted service while the maximum profit to the publisher is extracted from their sales. Meanwhile in the bookseller, they get a spine only slot on the bottom shelf at the back somewhere. Next to the hoover and the waste paper bin. Then they have a limited number of weeks to shine before booksellers start returning them to the publisher so they can give more shelf space to the latest teen celebrity memoir, which they know will sell. Hardly surprising so many of them fail, is it? They just get branded, and not in a positive way. Imagine starting to pitch again after that… no one’s gonna touch you. Meanwhile, theres no need to edit or promote the celeb memoir… it’ll sell like hotcakes anyway with minimum investment. Hence all the poorly crafted books you keep coming across. What’s that? Me, cynical? Surely not!

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      I’ve been contemplating a post lately, Ali, called A Dozen Ways For Writers To Fail At Publishing Through No Fault Of Their Own. It’s a bit cheerful for me though so I’ve put it on the back burner for now.

      I might wait until after I’ve ghost-written five teenage Z-list celebrity books. That’s sure to get me in the mood.

      Like

  9. February 28, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    ” it just doesn’t look like as much work/effort/pain/love/determination is going into the production of books as was once the case. Marketing, yes: production, no.”
    Brilliant observation. Yes, we are now the slush pile readers.
    My personal beef is how few truly original plots I see out there, in the mystery genre (which is my genre.) Mid-list authors are pumping out cozies while they still have a publisher, sometimes three a year. And the plots are banal. I think it’s panic. It takes time to craft a truly satisfying and original mystery plot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      I can’t imagine a worse genre for lazy cliché than mystery, Melodie. Surely the clue to success in that genre is in the name of the genre?!

      Like

  10. February 28, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Yep – keeping your commentary geared solely to the ‘trad route’ publishing side of the gate, someone, somewhere is being badly shafted big-time here. And yes, it’s the author and the readers on the receiving end from the shortcomings of the so-called professionals. The author, because without her/him there would be no book at all in the first place, but also because the editorial and production phase is supposed to be the polishing of the uncut jewel process – and it’s not being done adequately in far too many cases, even with well-known and lauded writers.
    The readers’ fate is also lamentable in that they’re shelling out too much for paper-based books and bombarded with a bewilderment of pricing options for e-books that are out there far too soon. Usually for lack of cash, but also because of criminal inexperience or downright fraud from editorial services that just ain’t even trying to deliver! 😦

    Interested in hearing your commentary on the indie side of the fence soon! 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      The indie side is obvious, Jan, and not really worth a whole post – in that there are authors who aren’t paying for a proper edit, authors who are paying for a proper edit but not getting it, and authors not bothering to get their books edited at all; but at least in 2 out of those 3 cases, the power and thus blame rests solely with the author.

      My current issues are really only with traditional publishing, because it’s supposed to be a kitemark of quality, but is becoming increasingly less so from what I can see, even though authors are getting paid less and therefore effectively paying more for the production process.

      Like

      • February 28, 2017 at 6:56 pm

        I know several indies who’ve paid much more than a pretty penny/dollar/pound for editorial services and they may as well have given it to the cat for all the good it did. There are real and nasty sharks out there offering bugger all… 😦
        As for the trad publishing side – like I said, even for top selling geniuses like Terry Pratchett (GNU) and JK Rowling the standard can only be called sketchy at best.

        Liked by 2 people

        • February 28, 2017 at 9:28 pm

          Agreed. In every step of publishing there are sharks ready to pounce. I imagine too that even with accredited service providers it’s an exercise in management which is tricky. I can’t say I ever had a problem with Pratchett or JK Rowling’s books, though!

          Like

  11. February 28, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    So many things about your post are true I’m swimming in the truthiness of it all!

    Though, to be honest, I see this raft of problems — insufficient editing, wrong marketing angle, enforced squeeze into a non-applicable genre — as more endemic to the self-publishing industry than the traditional, but perhaps I’m not paying as much attention to which books are, indeed, bereft of bona fide publishers these days… there are lots of “publisher” names affixed to books that I suspect are just “Toby down the street who helped me write the blurb”! 🙂

    I think it boils down to this: the self-publishing industry removed gatekeepers from the equation, which means anything and everything can be sold to eager readers regardless of appropriate editing, formatting, design, or marketing plans, and at prices SO LOW that traditional publishers can’t compete. Can’t go lower than “free” unless you start paying people to read the damn things, and God know that’s probably on the docket as the “next marketing craze.”

    And readers, now years into being fed and happily accepting free/uber-low priced books regardless of quality, are not necessarily demanding of those heretofore required steps. Not if their reading habits are being amply fed for little financial output. I’ve seen readers state that, given how cheap books are these days, “so what if they’re lousy? I just delete them from my Kindle cuz, hey, they were free/only a dollar/!” So with that as a foundation, I suspect traditional publishers, desperate to grab that eager and non-discerning reading audience, have become less concerned about the “heretofore required steps” for their own, particularly newbie, authors.

    Though, again, my experience finds the bulk of undercooked, improperly seasoned books coming from the self-pubbed marketplace. A marketplace that insanely advises writers to put out “4+ books a year” and then attacks the living daylights out of anyone who dare suggest that’s a really bad idea (we can talk later about my scars from that saga!).

    All I know is, as I query literary agents with my latest novel, which I’ve decided to publish traditionally, I AM finding them to be exceedingly selective (a nice way to say I’ve gotten lots of rejections!), all based on how selective publishers are. So it’s hard to fathom those same publishers being carefree and lackadaisical about the authors they DO choose to put money behind. Unless, given the signals from the indie-reading readers who’ve shown they will read anything, they allot for a contingent of new authors who they relegate to the less-supervised table, where less-supervised work is thrown against a wall to see what sticks.

    I dunno. I’m flummoxed. But I’m sure finding a lot of unmasterful work out there, so your “slush pile on a Kindle” theory hits the nail… however one might decide that nail got there in the first damn place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      I suppose all publishers are not created equally, Lorraine, just like all books. There are plenty of them – small presses especially – who are still putting a huge amount into every book they put out there. Unfortunately the larger the conglomerate the more the bottom line matters and that’s where it becomes publishing by numbers. You won’t see a small press releasing what is essentially a hard copy Instagram feed from a talentless reality star, or commandeering 90% of their entire production budget to support an expensive title which was a bad business decision.

      Liked by 2 people

      • March 6, 2017 at 9:05 am

        I’m going to stick my oar in here (have to stick it somewhere) and say I tend to agree with Lorraine. There are small publishers who care about each and every book they publish and do their best to market and promote it. But there are also a hell of a lot of small publishers who sling any old dross out there with a lurid cover, minimal editing, little or no marketing (bin there, done that), and just hope one of them sticks. They usually have one or two authors who sell and put the money behind the safe bets (bin there, done that). Agents don’t want what’s good, or even literate, they want what already sells, or what they are trying to make the next big seller (Muslim diversity own voice whatever that’s supposed to be). The publishing industry is in crisis with a handful of big sellers keeping it afloat and we little people don’t get a look in. There is too much free or almost free utter crap around and too many people content to read it, or grumble about the time they’ve wasted reading the free utter crap.

        Liked by 1 person

        • March 6, 2017 at 10:27 am

          I think that’s true, Jane. After all, you don’t need to be a big publisher to realise that quality doesn’t necessarily pay anymore.

          Like

          • March 6, 2017 at 10:28 am

            I’m teaching myself to write shite. Between gardening and doing useful things.

            Liked by 1 person

            • March 6, 2017 at 10:35 am

              Bet you can’t! I reckon it’s like trying to fall flat on your face. At the last moment, your instinct for self-preservation will take over and sneak in some beautiful language.

              Like

  12. February 28, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    The challenge doesn’t apply only to indie books, sadly. I’ve seen poorly edited books from traditional houses too. On top of that, not all editors are created equal. I have a feeling that there will be a solution with time, Tara. Perhaps, a book vetting mechanism (independent or part of Amazon) that authors can submit to and get a “seal of approval” or something. It’s an interesting problem. I’m glad the publishing doors have opened to writers, but I agree that there are a lot of awful books out there because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      I’m beginning to think that book vetting is an answer, Diana. Except, isn’t that what book reviews used to be – at least the ones in the newspapers, anyway? And then we need to look at how they select the titles to vet, and we’re right back where we started, with the marketing people. And that’s when I sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 28, 2017 at 8:10 pm

        I would pay to have my work vetted assuming that if it made the grade it would get more looks by readers 🙂 I think there’s a business opportunity here that some bright entrepreneurs are going to pick up on.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. February 28, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Genre pigeonholes have grown to the size of aircraft hangars. Rows of them crammed with crossover factory themes. I guess one dream doesn’t cover all the bases of a riveting read as it once did.

    Ms. Austen published ‘Sense and Sensibility’ under the genre-less tagline: ‘a novel’. No author’s name other than: ‘by a lady’. Talk about understated. And yet, the crowd went wild. Some nonspecific pseudonyms have all the luck.

    Times have changed. Readers are spoiled for choice. And we’re largely overstimulated. There was a time when an exposed ankle caused palpitations. Scandalous. Pass the smelling salts. It’s hard to imagine what substance of choice could match the sensibility of a story told well.

    The ‘classics’ served the bestseller lists of the day. It’s not that Jane Austen’s stories gain excitement or readability over time, even free on a Kindle. Readers have gone to the grey zone where it’s difficult to separate contrived buzz from a killer bee. Nowadays, it takes a lot of ‘Read-on-Demand’ hype to make a crowd go wild.

    We wait for the movies. We’ll sit through fifty shades of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ remakes, not for the story but to find out who is going to out-Darcy Colin Firth.

    The two ends of the publishing chain (New York and Hollywood) meet in an ivory tower. Inside is a custom-designed monster we consumers of story helped create. The monster is scanning for the next book/movie blockbuster. Everything else is slush. ‘We have seen the consumer and it are us’. Take in a movie. There’s your book heroin right there.

    I fear we may have become hooked on special effects, brilliant film editing techniques, and star-struck by stories told faster than the speed of speedreading.

    I love the comments. I’ve learned some nifty new phrases today: ‘Gold in the grit’. ‘the Zon’, ‘swimming in truthiness’, and ‘bigging up a book’. There’s so much to love about this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      I’d have no objections to monsters scanning for the next blockbuster if they just spent more time making the blockbusters into actual blockbusters, Veronica. But they’re not. They’re just pointing, plucking and shelving. That’s the job of a wholesaler, not a publisher.

      And yes, my commenters are a classy bunch. They’re killing me. 😉

      Like

  14. February 28, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Rats. I meant to write ‘cover all the bases’.

    Like

  15. February 28, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Even though I’ve gone the independent route, I highly valuable the traditional publishing process which tells us, “No.” Being told “No, this isn’t good enough” by beta readers and professionals has pushed me to hone my craft and do the work to build my skills to a professional level. I believe it is far more important to take the time to put out something of high quality – whether traditionally or independently published – gone over by a strong editor than rushing out a story for the sake of the market.
    I also think a “vetting” process – or grading system for independent books is a great idea – something beyond reviews. The challenge is building something ubiquitous enough that the standard matters.

    Like

    • February 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      That’s an excellent point. Sometimes we do need to be told “No”. Or at the very least, “Not yet.” If half the books I was giving out about here had been told “Not yet” I might have a lot less to give out about.

      This vetting thing is going to become a movement. Let’s all pretend it started here and give ourselves the credit for multi-handedly saving the book business!

      Like

  16. February 28, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    It’s more than the need for editing. I believe it’s a lack of training and the focus on production and marketing. I know authors who believe they can knock out their ideas during NaNoWriMo and release them at the beginning of the new year. I would never say every writer should finish an MFA, but I do think writers should work with experienced teachers and writers who aren’t afraid to criticize their work. Dozens of books on every aspect of writing exist, but I wonder how many developing writers read them. They aren’t helped by review systems like Amazon’s that rely heavily on casual, and not informed readers.

    The problem isn’t the abundance of books, or even the abundance of bad books, it’s that we have few communal standards anymore, especially in the indie business where the stress is on cranking out formula fiction and hoping you hit the success button. Readers demand the formula, so that’s limit of what developing authors wish to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 28, 2017 at 11:38 pm

      All excellent points, Phillip. Can’t pick a single hole or disagree with any of them. This is hard for me, so I’m going to lie down now.

      Like

  17. Ben
    March 1, 2017 at 2:13 am

    The digital age is rushing everything. I missed the second half of February entirely, with zero blog posts. It slowed me down, removed me from constant distraction. I fell in love with an old MS of mine and moved through it slowly, then took my time preparing a decent proposal. Now that I’ve poked my head back up again, I hope I can remember to slow my pace and expectations once in a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 1, 2017 at 10:37 am

      I’m a little bit in love with the idea of slowing myself down too, Ben. It sounds gorgeous. I think I’ll take a leaf out of your book, no pun intended.

      Like

  18. March 1, 2017 at 10:24 am

    This one hit a nerve with me. I’ve also been shocked at how many books out there simply feel that they just haven’t really been edited. It’s a shame. I wonder if the writers themselves realise it, because it’s such a disservice to them particularly with debut authors. It also puts me off the publishers and agents involved when I see this as someone hasn’t been protecting this writing and guiding them. Nice piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 1, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Thanks Oran. It is a little heartbreaking that an author might feel they’ve hit the jackpot when they get their debut deal and the end result is something which holds them back.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. March 1, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    I believe this wholeheartedly but try not to say it too much lest I sound, I don’t know, “jealous” of all the money being thrown at marginal authors by certain vanity presses these days in the hot pursuit of the NYT /USAT best seller designation. However, as I commented on a facebook post about this, I have read at least 2 Big Author Books from Big Publishing Houses that were so disappointing I thought they might have been ARCs too. It’s a curse of the Big Uncertainty that is book publishing these days. Write More. Write Faster. Publish Now or be forgotten. I hope it slows down for quality’s sake. I’m sick of my own Twitter feed because of all the dang books there seem to be to choose from, 60-70% of which I am sure skipped “editing.” Personally, I am looking to bigger publishers myself to work with, to relocate that village that will be dedicated to making my book better, not faster.
    I am now a follower of your blog, Tara. GREAT post. Cheers,
    Liz

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 1, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Thank you Liz! That’s lovely to hear. I hope it slows down too, and for better reasons than they’ve just wasted all the money on the wrong books.

      Like

  20. March 1, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    “The more rushed the market becomes – and the more the authors are being shaped to fit market fads and fashion, rather than books being shaped to be the best version of that story they can be – the worse it’s going to get.”

    And thus we keep getting the same kinds of stories, only their covers varying (but even there the offerings of some whole genres, like romance, are nearly identical to each other) over and over again. I wonder, if we could break out of this straightjacket of promoting only past proven money makers, what kinds of new and interesting varieties, possibly even whole genre and genre mixes might blossom?

    About editing, that’d be a tough job.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. March 2, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Your post has inspired yet another foolproof money making idea. I write a story, but it’s not a story it’s a very detailed template. I then sell these ready made templates to authors looking to publish five or six books a year and all they have to do is change the names of the characters, locations and methods of murder/perversion/dragon rearing.

    Chip in with twenty grand, Tara, and I’ll make you a shareholder. Triple your money in twelve months GUARANTEED.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 2, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      I’m sorry, Chris. If you’d asked me for two hundred grand, I might have considered. But I’m afraid unless you’re willing to think in the big leagues, I can’t be seen to swim with you, no matter how damn good your ideas are.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. March 4, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    This is all well and good, Tara, but when are we going to actually see the fruits of your labours? I want to read a story that comes from the mind of a person who can relate intelligence to puff pastry.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. March 5, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    The post is brilliant but the comments are pretty great, too. And said everything I would have so I’ll follow Nick’s lead and say “great post”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 5, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      The comments are too good, Sarah. They’ve become a beast of internet discourse. There should be awards for this sort of thing. I’d start it, but I’m not a nice enough person. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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