If you’ve spent any time at all reading up on what it takes to sell a book, you’ve no doubt come across one specific piece of advice countless times…”Write a good book!”
I’ve seen it everywhere. Agents, publishers, other authors…everyone seems obsessed with the idea that the first step toward becoming a successful author is to write this mythical good book.
I have so many thoughts about this that I can hardly even start this post without breaking down into a babbling mess of crazed confusion.
First…I think we all know that there are plenty of books which have been published and achieved at least a modicum of what is traditionally believed to be success while being, what we consider, to be anything but a ‘good book’ (*ahem* Twilight and Fifty Shades)
To be completely above board about this, I actually stopped reading books for a great portion of my high school and older years simply because I had read too many terrible books that had somehow risen to the top of the pile of books I was told I should read. I’d be willing to hazard a guess that if you were to show any given reader a list of traditionally published successful books of today, they would probably outright consider at least 50% of them to be utter crap.
That’s because writing is an artform, and like any piece of art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Now, there are a few things that are definitely important when developing a book which will make it a better book, such as editing…but that’s not really what people mean when they use the very vague phrase “good book”.
Truth be told, all you need for any art to be successful is for it to connect with people. When I look at a piece of painted art, or listen to a CD, my feelings about it can be rather immediate. A second viewing or listening could completely change my feelings about that piece of art. But my feelings could be (and often are) quite a bit different from the person sitting next to me. I often like to talk movies with my brother-in-law. We have completely different tastes and very rarely agree on movies that we absolutely loved. I may hate a movie that he thinks is the best movie of the decade.
So, when people tell you to write a good book, what they really should be saying is to write the best book you can…realize that what you’re doing when you’re writing is expressing yourself through the artistry of words.
The problem here is…writing a ‘good’ book (by any definition you want to use) does not actually ensure success. I was actually in a competition not too long ago where my soon-to-be-released book The Long Chron (release date impending, I promise!) was up for a publishing contract with Amazon. One of the books it lost out to was written, first words written until the point it was entered into the competition, in 9 days. Now, I’ll be honest, I haven’t read this other book about pugs and aliens…it’s quite probable that it’s the picasso of fiction…but the likelihood is pretty damned minimal.
No, what’s important for a successful books are a whole host of other factors you can’t really control. Things like current reader trends, how people respond to your book’s blurb, covers, and the list could, quite seriously, go on and on.
So, the next question to have here really is quite simple. Why even take the time to write a good book? I’ve read countless success stories from authors who have gone the way of the write for quantity not quality process who have found themselves capable of quitting their day jobs and have legions of fans behind them. The dinosaur porn that hit the news sites a few years back supposedly helped the authors through college even!
Here are Adam’s Simple Reasons for Writing a Good Book:
1. Have some damned self-respect! Seriously…if you’re putting your artwork out there for all to see, don’t you want it to be the best you can make? I can scribble some turds on a piece of paper, but it isn’t what I want to be known for.
2. Brand creation. In connection to the previous, if you write a good book, people have a better chance of coming back for more, as opposed to just coming back because they already read one of your steaming turds.
3. Why not? Even if you write terrible books, you’re still going to have to go about the work of marketing them. Dinosaur porn didn’t just magically become the bestsellers…it happened because of a whole host of things (most notably being that they were the only books filling an unexpected market need). But even more than that, they still had to make people aware of what they had. They luckily had something really worth talking about. Perhaps what is worth talking about your book is that it’s actually fun to read.
I’m not going to promise you riches for writing the best book you can…I certainly haven’t found them yet. But I will promise you that you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself in the event that you do ever find success.
Have fun out there!