Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Things I hate about the current publishing scene

The following is an off-the-cuff list of things I'm currently hating about the publishing scene.

#10 - Only authors with a 'professional' attitude deserve to be taken seriously.

Okay, let's get this one out of the way straight off the bat. I loathe the word 'professional', particularly as it pertains to writers. When people talk about 'professional', what they're actually talking about is 'successful'. And 'successful' is their shorthand for 'sells lots of books'.

Jordan sells lots of books. England football players sell lots of books. These people are not professional writers; they are professional celebrities, whose key drive is to succeed at modelling or football (or both), and to make lots of cash from being talked about all the time.

I have a professional attitude towards my writing. I write damn good poetry, and damn fine stories. I am professional in that I take seriously my duty of care to the reader - everything I publish is proofread and spellchecked and formatted (as far as I am able to) to make the reading experience enjoyable for them, not frustrating.

People who tell me that not caring about sales, or not prioritising marketing over reader enjoyability, makes me unprofessional - those people can fuck off.

#9 - The best ways to build a publishing platform is to write lots of books.

Because writing lots of books builds an author's platform, maximises their exposure to potential readers, and generates sales from repeat customers.

Which translates as: if you're not writing/publishing 2-3 books a year, you're not taking this writing thing seriously. You're not being professional.

Fuck off.

Writing a book to a standard that is acceptable to me takes time. Heck, writing a good poem - a decent limerick! - takes time. To not put every last ounce of effort into writing the best story or poem that I am physically and mentally capable of ... that is to cheat myself, and my readers. And if that takes a lot of time, then so be it.

I spent the best part of seven years - on and off - writing Snowdrop, my story in verse. It is a slim book - just over 2,000 lines of poetry. But every single line, every word, has been considered and drafted and reconsidered and redrafted to make it serve my vision for the poem, and the story.

Writing my first novel - The Gods in the Jungle - took three years from first word to pressing the Publish Button on lulu.com. Since publishing, I've revised it twice, and I'm thinking of revising it again. Why? Because while the book is damn good, I want it to be better.

The world in which The Gods in the Jungle is set took THIRTY YEARS to develop. That work will continue until my last breath.

I have no respect - none - for people, writers, who dash off substandard work just to push up their book tally and book sales. Readers deserve better.

#8 - All authors must have a professional-looking website.

Here's a news flash: I've spent more time than I care to tally checking out author websites. They are all shit.

Why? Because they are all generic, based on the same outdated 20th century idea about what an author website should be: a bio; a link to the books; a (usually empty) events list; links to reviews; possibly a brief passage from a book, or a couple of poems; a (rarely updated) blog. Oh, and a photo of the author looking 'writerly'.

Oh, I'll accept that some author websites look prettier than others. A few are even capable of nodding towards current design aesthetics: a parallax header, a flat design, a considered palette, half-decent typography, even (gasp) a responsive layout.

Beyond that, they are all bollocks. A complete waste of time.

I don't have an author's website. I have websites for my books. Because at the end of the day it's the books that matter, not me. I just wrote them. I have a website for my poetry, and a website for my first book. I am planning to develop a website for my short stories and for my second book as and when I get round to it. If you want to know about me, the author of the books, you'll find a link to my bio somewhere near the bottom of the navigation pane. Right where it is supposed to be.

#7 - All authors must have a proactive social media strategy - twitter, facebook, blogtours, etc - and must work on it every day.

I think it is well know that I loathe Twitter with a vengeance. It has its uses, but book promotion is not one of them. Facebook - that's where I go and chat with my friends. Sometimes my friends have to put up with author-spam from me. I can only thank them for their forbearance: they deserve better than that from me, but sometimes I get a bit excitable about my writing.

I think my first book has its own Facebook page. I can't remember. I must have deleted the link from my left bar ages back, and I can't be arsed to check in on it.

Blogs - they have their uses. But they're shit for promoting stuff. Look at the lame attempts on this blog to promote stuff - sales generated: zero.

Facebook is for friends and family. Blogs are for bloggy stuff. Twitter is for twats. There's no more to be said.

#6 - If the book doesn't have a good cover, it's not worth checking out.

Apparently, there's websites devoted to taking the piss out of poorly designed book covers. Good luck to them: they'll have a fucking field day with my book covers - and I hope they get a good chuckle out of them.

If you're choosing which book to read based on what its cover looks like - you're nuts. Good book covers are made by damn fine artists and designers. Those artists and designers have ZERO input into the book's content. They didn't make any decisions on the story to be told, or the ordering of the poems, or the techniques and voices and characters used to convey reading pleasure to the reader. Not. One. Single. Decision.

All a good book cover tells you is that the artist is good at their job. And that the author, or publisher, was willing to pay good money for that artwork. Nothing else.

If you want to know how good the book is, ask your friends or colleagues. Alternatively, use the 'Look Inside' or 'Preview' buttons on the bookseller website to check out the blurb and the first few pages. If you like what you read, buy the book; if not, move on.

Buying a book because you like the cover is like buying a car because you like its colour. Serously, grow up.

#5 - Ebooks are secondary to printed books.

This peeve is directed mainly at publishers - big and small - who decide to publish eBooks without bothering to proofread them before pressing the Big Red Publish Button.

If this is you, you are a fucking twat. Be aware that I have hacked the internets to find your home address and I will be on your doorstep sometime in the near future with a baseball bat and an unquenched anger.

I pay money for these books. Money that I cannot really afford. And you sell me shoddy, unfit-for-sale goods. You deserve to be hurt.

And authors, if your publisher is doing this to your books? Sue their fucking arses to penury! Your readers deserve better.

#4 - Self-published books are shit.

Most self-published books are shit. Most traditionally published books are shit. Books that are written too quickly, that are edited and revised too clumsily, that are barely proofread - these books are shit. This is how much most publishers, and too many self-published authors, care about their customers.

If you, as a reader, come across a shoddily produced book, report it to your local trading standards office. Ask for a replacement of equivalent value. Or demand your money back.

People get away with selling shit books because customers let them. Authors, and publishers, will only learn NOT to sell unfit goods if there are real, tangible repercussions to their actions.

I leave this ball in the reader's court.

#3 - It is right, and good, to exclude self-published books from competitions and awards.

Fuck off. Seriously, fuck off!

I have no time for this stupidity.

#2 - Only people who win awards or who land big contracts with traditional publishing houses have the right to a point of view.

Yeah, right. How's that one working out for you?

#1 - If your books are not selling, you are a failure, a waste of everybody's time, a LOSER.

Can you tell from the last couple of answers that I'm getting bored of this rant? That's because it has cut into too much of my writing time. So I'm shit at marketing, and brown-nosing, and log-rolling. My websites are quirky. My cover designs are personal rather than professional. My books - all of them - are slow-cooked masterpieces rather than production-line tv dinners.

If that makes me a LOSER, I embrace it. I celebrate it! Because at the end of the day, only the reader matters - and I'd rather have ten utterly satisfied readers than ten million indifferent ones.

I can deal with it. Can you?


  1. Anonymous2:29 pm

    10 out of 10 bullseyes!

  2. Anonymous3:01 pm

    High Five about covers it, I think!

    1. Your rant inspired my rant. I enjoy swearing more, I think.