The New World of Publishing: Maybe You Wrote a Good Book

This is sort of a continuation of the last promotion post, but a ton of words shorter I promise. And if you haven’t read the comments on the last promotion post, I would suggest you do so. Some wonderful discussion there.

I saved this part of the promotion post to stand alone because I knew if I didn’t, it would get lost. So here is my thesis statement:

Maybe your book is selling because it’s a great book. Not because you promoted it.

I know. Shock! Am I trying to tell you that good storytelling sells?

Yes, I am. Because readers have this scary ability to hear about and go find good writing and good stories they want to read.

And a bad or amateur story doesn’t sell no matter how much you Twitter and Facebook and blog tour about it. Sorry.

I was stunned in the last post that I only got one comment “But what about Amanda Hocking?”

Amanda Hocking has a blog with a lot of followers where she talks about her life in general and sometimes her books. But why her books sold as much as they did and why New York stepped in and offered her millions was not because of her blog. Nope. The readers and New York did not buy her blog. It was because she wrote some damn fine books that readers wanted to read.

It really is that simple.

But putting the responsibility squarely back on the writer’s shoulders to write better stories is scary. Especially to new writers who really don’t understand what it takes to write a quality story that hundreds or thousands or millions will want to read. New writers don’t even know what they don’t know. They just don’t have the study or the practice or the words under their fingers yet.

Writing good stories is a skill that takes time to learn. It can be learned. It’s not a talent, it’s a craft that can be studied and learned with enough effort and drive and practice.

But writing and learning need to be the focus.

So if you are out promoting your third novel and wondering why it’s not selling, maybe your time would be better served to learn how to write a better story. Just maybe.

Just saying…

Attitude is Everything!!

A mentor of mine once told me a secret about writing that really, really hit home.

He and I were in a workshop and he told some young beginning writer (with a horrid attitude) to turn a story into a novel. That was his entire critique of the story which was so poorly done that it had no hope at all in my opinion. And the writer was so full of himself, he wasn’t going to listen to anything negative about the story anyway. He thought his one story a masterpiece and he was going to make sure the world knew it was. In fact, the only reason he had submitted it to the workshop was to impress my mentor friend.

So as we were walking away from the workshop, I asked my mentor why he had told the young writer to turn that awful story into a novel.

My mentor just smiled and said, “With someone like him who has a pile of crap, tell them to make it into a bigger pile of crap and they go away happy.”

Folks, sorry, but if you have only written one novel or few short stories, promoting a pile of crap just won’t help you.

And trust me, I wrote some really heaping, steaming piles of crap when I started out. We all do. And my piles of crap were pretentious because I came from a poetry background and thought I knew everything about writing. They were rewritten to death because I believed that was the way to create art. They had zero thought to the art of storytelling or what a reader on the other side might be thinking when reading it.

They stank up the place and I had no idea at the time.

Looking back, I have no idea what would have happened to me at that point in the 1970s when I wrote those early stories if I had the modern world of easy access to publishing. I imagine I would have published and promoted them to death and wondered why readers were so stupid as to not understand my great art.

Luckily I didn’t, so I just sent them to editors who paid no attention and sent me form rejections.

Writing good stories readers want to read is a craft that can be learned, but it takes time. And a ton of practice and learning combined with the practice. Focused practice.

Attitude is everything. And that attitude needs to be a hunger to learn and to become a better storyteller.

So my suggestion: Put your story out on the market either to editors or readers and forget it and focus forward on learning and writing more stories. It can’t hurt you to have them out. No one will read them if they are a stinking pile of crap. So no big deal.

And if you happened to have gotten close to a story that works, then readers will pay you money for it without you doing a thing to push them. And you will then know and can take credit for writing a good story.

And when that happens, take the credit. You will deserve it.

Keep writing and learning and writing and learning and writing and learning.

There will be enough time down the road for promotion of the right book.

And keep having fun.

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Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
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This entry was posted in On Writing, publishing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to The New World of Publishing: Maybe You Wrote a Good Book

  1. Great post. I too have often had scary thoughts as to what would have happened had I had the ability to upload my early work directly to the market. At the time I thought it was great stuff, especially since I managed to sell a couple stories to a professional magazine while still in high school, but now know differently. It took five years before my short stories started to sell regularly, and eight years before I finally had a novel accepted by a major published. During that time I just kept writing new stuff and submitting it, which is why that later stuff started to sell. It really is that simple, yet so many out there don’t want to believe this.

    Not long ago, in an attempt to help people understand the above idea since I was getting many questions from new writers asking me what my secret to being successful was, I uploaded a picture of all the rejection slips I had ever gotten onto Facebook. None of them understood it though, and instead they kept insisting that writers today are lucky that they don’t have to go through the pain and humiliation of getting such rejections. I couldn’t believe it. They also didn’t seem to realize that their work is still earning rejections, but rather than it being from an editor of a publication, it is coming from an audience, one that is a lot less likely to jot down the words “Please submit more” even if the work shows some potential at the end of their rejection.

    • dwsmith says:

      William, spot on the money. Thanks for that. Very well said. Always helps to hear from other longer-term professionals here who understand the length it takes to learn this craft. Thanks!

  2. J.A. Beard says:

    Dean,

    Thanks for this. In the last year, I’ve constantly complained that I didn’t “have enough time to write.” I should have had four books out by now, but only have one.

    I initially convinced that was just because of the realities of my life. Day job changes, moving, et cetera.

    When I actually analyzed my time though, I realized I didn’t “have time to write” because I was spending all my time obsessing over the platform building and promotion. It’s blogs like yours that have helped me remember what I enjoy about writing to begin and, more importantly, what I can actually control.

    Since I’ve stopped worrying so much about promotion, I’ve suddenly found all sorts of time to write. The not-so-funny thing is I’ve been reading this blog (and others) making similar points for the last couple of years and even though I agreed with them in my head, I still found myself falling into the promotion-over-all mentality.

  3. Nelson says:

    Another great blog, Dean, though I have to ask (and this is as a person who has been to too many writing workshops and hasn’t seen any good techniques taught) what techniques/methods do you use to get better? Or recommend?
    Is it trying to remember to write in all the senses until it becomes natural (because, of course, one reads books without all those senses)?
    My focus has been on the emotional arc of the character, while timing it with plot points…
    Thoughts? What do others out there use?
    cheers

    • dwsmith says:

      Nelson,

      I’ve talked about this a ton in a bunch of different posts. You read books for pleasure and when you get done with one you really like, you go back and study it. Did the content only pull you through, or did the author do all sorts of details right, from cliffhangers to pacing to character voice and so on and so on.

      And the more you focus, the more you see that you don’t understand and can study. It really does never end. The key is to keep at it and keep studying and practicing. Think of a beginning chess player watching two chess masters play. You can see how they are moving the pieces but you have no idea what they are really doing. That’s the same with writing. When you start off, you practice what you can see and need work on and keep studying and as time goes on, you can just see more and more and more.

      • “You read books for pleasure and when you get done with one you really like, you go back and study it.”

        I love it. Once again, you are confirming my gut instincts, Dean. I have not read the posts you refer to, but I am currently in the middle of re-reading a series of detective novels I very much enjoy. The first time through, I read them for pleasure. Now, I’m reading them with a pencil in hand, noting plot points, twists, character arcs, and red herrings. I thought about signing up for a mystery writing workshop, and then thought, “What the hell. I’ll learn from a best selling writer whose work I like.” Instead of paying thousands of bucks to go to a workshop, I’m spending a fraction of that on Robert Parker, J. D. Robb, Rex Stout, Sarah Paretsky and Sue Grafton. Can’t ask for better teachers. :)

    • Luke says:

      All of the things like character/plot arcs don’t really manifest themselves to me visually until the second or third time I read it. The second time I read Thief of Always (Clive Barker), I saw the light. I saw the tone, ebb and flow, the hero/villain buildup, word/plot twists, mood development, everything. Then I emulated the structure he laid out. It wasn’t altogether different than studying a musical composition, or a lengthy recipe, but it was a lot more involved. Writing allows you so many more levels of tweaking than a recipe. I adjusted my seasoning and my writing improved.

      I was a pre-med gunner back in the day, and I recall a prof telling us that we would need to go over material two or three times in order to “see” the underlying structure since we were all newbies. He said the first time we studied material, we would remember less than 30% of what we read. On the third run-through, we’d remember close to 80%. And he was right. I suspect someone like Dean will probably be able to see it right off the bat.

      • dwsmith says:

        Luke, of heaven’s no, I can’t see any more than anyone else off the bat. I read a book for pleasure first and then go back, sometimes a dozen times, to really dig down into what an author was doing in a section that I liked and wanted to learn. That needing to repeat over and over to really see the underlying structure is true for everyone. Only difference is that I might know what I am looking for more than others because I’ve studied so much and practiced so much.

        Thanks, great point.!

        • Mercy Loomis says:

          I always get sucked into the story when I try to go back through… It’s really hard not to.

          • dwsmith says:

            Mercy, yup, the better the writer, the more you have to stop and go back over and over a small section to not get sucked into the story again and finally see the words. Those are the writers who you want to study. But they are difficult.

  4. Luke says:

    “And a bad or amateur story doesn’t sell no matter how much you Twitter and Facebook and blog tour about it. Sorry.”

    So what happened with Fifty Shades? Marketing, or a good story?

    • dwsmith says:

      Might not be up to yours or my tastes, Luke. But the content and the storytelling were enough to pull it up to the top. No amount of marketing in a million years could have done that. All content and storytelling.

      Remember the difference between “taste” and “quality” are often a long ways away from each other. There are major bestsellers who are far from my tastes, but I still study them because when you can get a million people to buy your book, you are doing something solid in the writing and I want to learn how to do that as well.

      • nathan says:

        The distinction between ‘quality’ and ‘taste’ is one of the greatest hang ups writers/new writers have, or among the most common anyway, it seems.

        My wife got 50 Shades from a friend because of the hoop-la. I tried to read it. Found it painful. Even more painful than I found Twilight which caused me to drop the tome like it was hot.

        But I knew there was something there, something people were willing to spend their discretionary dollars on; and in staggering droves. I’d love to have a work take off like 50—but I don’t, not yet. I’d love to have S Meyers’ career—but I don’t and few ever will.

        But 50 & Twilight & Dan Brown & D Steele & King & Rowling & Patterson and, and, and, and… all those writers who’ve actually done it to the dream level and still have people (other less successful writers no less) saying they can’t write.
        This is a huge blind spot in writers’ vision, IMO anyway.
        Great post, Dean.

  5. Joe Cron says:

    One of your shorter posts, but so much here that hits home.

    “New writers don’t even know what they don’t know.” That’s for sure! I swear to God if I had any idea how far away I was when I first thought I could write a book, I’d have never started. Now I know more about how bad I am, but by learning that have also learned some of how to get better, so now I can’t let go. I’m in it for the long haul.

    This whole promotion thing keeps slapping my brain with the notion that we live in such a heavily advertised society that new writers naturally think advertising is the thing with books, and it simply isn’t. It’s counterintuitive in today’s marketplace, but you just have to set that all aside and keep writing and learning.

  6. Andrew says:

    My novels and stories have been selling steadily for a year and a half but not millions like Amanda Hocking. Surely, if there are people I don’t know consistently buying them (I can tell, because at least Kobo gives the location) there has to be some value in them.

    I’ve done no promotion. I’ve probably written 10-12 novels and many more novels worth of short stories. Thus far, only 2 novels and 9 short stories have seen the light of day, with 2 good novels not published and 1 (hopefully) good novel underway.

    My sales aren’t great compared to some of the people I see, but they are consistent, steady and growing. Hopefully that means I’m doing okay. :)

  7. Having several well-written, entertaining stories out on the market is of great value, because when readers find one that they like, they’ll seek out the others and recommend them to friends.

    Right now I’m compiling an anthology of short stories. I wrote them all, but under different pen names, but I’m not sure if the ebooks get listed on most sites by multiple authors or just the editor name. Will fans of a particular pen name be able to find the anthology, or would it be better to expand the stories and release them as single-author collections and/or novellas?

    Also, Smashwords distributes to both B&N and Amazon, but am I correct in thinking that it’s better to unselect those options on SW and instead release the ebooks through PubIt and Amazon KDP? Or should I leave the options selected?

    • dwsmith says:

      Plato, those are all choices you have to make. We go direct where we can, and since Smashwords really doesn’t distribute to Amazon, that’s not a question. We go direct where we can. Smashwords is a great service, but their payment schedule is bothersome at most and needs to be updated. As for your stories, what to do with them, up to you.

      Good luck.

      • I just double-checked and you’re absolutely correct. Smashwords doesn’t distribute to Amazon. I was confused by the style guide, which says that Smashwords makes your work readable on Kindle. It doesn’t say readers can buy it on Amazon. My mistake.

        Thanks, Dean, for your quick response. Your blog is always enlightening. Keep writing great books.

      • Marc Cabot says:

        One thing which often causes confusion on this topic is that Smashwords’ Distribution Channel page lists Amazon as a distribution recipient – you are automatically opted into distribution to Amazon (just like every other distribution channel) when you publish and you have to turn it off (opt out) manually.

        This is problematic because as of now, Smashwords does NOT distribute to Amazon, as Mr. Smith points out. That’s the plan, but it is not yet executed and there is no timetable for such execution. People who see it and think that they are in the pipeline for Amazon distribution are wrong, but there’s nothing obvious to indicate that they are wrong. (It does say that they are “working on technical issues,” but that’s easy to miss.)

        By the way, while Smashwords DOES distribute to Kobo, somewhere in the pipeline – not blaming anybody, insufficient information – there is a major hangup. Books I published at the end of July were still waiting to be shipped to Kobo as of three days ago, when I finally bit the bullet and set up a Kobo account for direct distribution. I know I am not the only author having this problem (and not all of the authors are erotica authors, either. :-P ) Apple’s iBooks store, on the other hand, does take a few weeks but they WILL go through, and from what I’ve heard that isn’t really much longer than it takes a direct submission to go through.

        And I am curious as to why you have a problem with Smashwords’ payment system. Do you not like quarterly payments? I think quarterly is pretty reasonable, myself. Or is it the pass-through delays? That I can see being irritating. The chains seem a little torturous.

  8. I’d be really interested in seeing some posts from you on your opinions/views on good crafting of a story. Obviously, there are a lot variables, so I’d expect it to primarily be from the perspective of the genres you love and write, but that wouldn’t mean it wouldn’t be really intriguing for folks who write different stuff than you.

    Any chance of that? :)

    • dwsmith says:

      V.J., not sure what you mean, actually. There is no one secret, only millions of small details. As for what makes a story work, that isn’t set from genre to genre. That concerns taste of the reader and not much else besides craft of the writer. There are elements that make a reader satisfied from genre to genre, such as “Happily ever after” endings on romance.

      What makes a good story? If a reader picks it up, starts to read, is pulled into the story and only surfaces when you the writer let them go at the end. And never once notices they are reading. They are down inside the character’s head, down in the events of the story, and don’t surface until the writer says, “You are free to go.”

      How to do that? Years of practice, study, and typing with a focused practice.

  9. I’ve published 20 books (16 traditionally, 4 indie), and I have never stopped learning or striving to improve. When it comes to writing there’s no such thing as getting to a point where you know everything.

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks, Bettye. Very much appreciated. And that attitude is why you are still selling after that many novels. Thanks for adding in your voice on this.

  10. Guy Antibes says:

    I started my writing career late in life (60′s) and just don’t have the time to do traditional publishing with three year plus cycles. That said, it’s daunting to learn so much and get into the right kind of groove and, since I do everything myself, the no-promo (only a website for my nom de plume) is well-received advice.

    Since I do everything myself (I’ve got Adobe CS4), I came up with a publishing company, but all of the publisher/writer aspects are tough to master and that takes a bit of time to organize. I’m nearly there, but that doesn’t provide much time to promote along with a day job and a five novel/year output goal.

    I will say this, I went back and re-edited my e-book inventory and published them on CreateSpace, raising prices to approx the levels you suggest and the sales haven’t dipped so far.

  11. Steven Mohan says:

    Great post, Dean! I just wanted to echo your point. I am CERTAINLY no Amanda Hocking, but I am selling enough to bump up against a living wage and I’ve managed to do it with zero promotion. No Twitter, no Facebook, no solicited reviews, no contests, no blog, not hard-selling my friends or relatives. (My best selling books are under a pen name and I rarely tell people what it is–unless they specifically ask.) I don’t even have a website. (Though I do plan to do a static site in the future.) So virtually no promotion.

    My experience is that promotion is not necessary to succeed. If people enjoy blogging or tweeting or whatever, there’s nothing wrong with it. And if writer’s are naturally good at it, maybe there’s some small potential benefit. But I think books mostly rise and fall on there own merit. ::Shrugs::

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks, Steven, for weighing in on this. Very much appreciated. And spot on what I have been saying. Writing comes first, let the rest of it take care of itself. Thanks!

  12. Interesting that you brought up Amanda Hocking in this post. A few years ago when she was first making her big splash as self-published author, I was curious as to the reason why, so I bought one of her books. I was thoroughly prepared to not like it. She doesn’t write in a genre I like to read for starters. I was still in trad publishing snob mode as well. (Not that I’m published yet, but I was involved with groups of authors who were.)

    I started reading the book and immediately started being critical of it. I focused on every misplaced comma, every “it’s” instead of “its,” etc. But I kept reading. By the end of the book, all I could think was “Boy, this woman knows how to tell a story!”

    • dwsmith says:

      Elise, she sure does, and that’s why she got the big bucks, not because she had a blog. Thanks!

    • I also got curious about Amanda Hocking and checked Amazon’s “look inside” on one of her books. The typos had been mostly fixed by this time, but the type of story was definitively *not* to my taste. In spite of that, my attention was utterly captured. If I’d bought the book, I would have read to the end, when she finally let me go. As it was, with a sample, I read to the end of the sample, unable to pull away. I remain utterly amazed that she could do that: draw me in with a story of a type I actively dislike. Wow! That impressed me.

      • dwsmith says:

        J.M., yes, that’s a skill we all work toward and it made me angry when so many people said her success came from her blog. It did not. It came from quality storytelling.

  13. Bob Mayer says:

    The best promotion is a good book.

    Better promotion is more good books.

    • dwsmith says:

      Agree completely, Bob. Thanks! Maybe if enough of us keep repeating that, one or two myth-driven promotion-loving writers will hear it. (grin)

  14. I love you. Will you marry me? :) All kidding aside, thank you and your wife so much for educating a newbie in the writing business. It’s always good to have someone in your corner that will tell it to you straight.

    Thanks.

    Ruthie

  15. Gable Brandenson says:

    Dean,

    What is your take on being a reader for developing your writing ability?

    For example (all things being equal) imagine two writers are building a career and one reads 20 books a year and another writer reads 100+ books a year.

    What that have a noticeable difference on craft? Do you soak up stuff from just reading a ton?

    • dwsmith says:

      Gable, writers are always readers. Nature of the beast. And usually writers read across all areas of interest, including a ton of nonfiction. And yes, I do think reading more helps. And reading across diverse areas helps as well.

      That said, most writers I know had “reading periods” where we read a vast amount for one reason or another, then brought it back to a more normal level. For example, for me, I had two such periods. First when I owned a used bookstore. That lasted for seven years and I did my best to look at every book that came in the door and read anything that interested me. So for a decade of books I knew and had read most of them. Then when Kris and I moved to the coast about 15 years ago, our local grocery store had a large book rack. I would do the shopping and I would study those books every week when the changed, and do what Kris calls my “scan read.” I can look at a book, read the blurbs and back cover, read the opening few pages and then skip read through the book, following the plot and characters like a stone skipping over the water. I could read a book that way in about ten minutes standing in the store, so every week I would do that with two or three books, not counting the ones I bought and read for submersion or the ones I bought in other places.

      So yes, pouring in information in any way you can is critical to a writer.

      • Early in my writing years (long before I was anywhere near ready to publish) I realized I had problems with writing descriptions so I took several months off of writing and read everything of Nora Roberts’ that I could get my hands on (somewhere upwards of 60 books). I enjoyed the stories, but I soaked up the way she used verbs and described scenes and emotions and when I started writing again I found descriptions came easier than before for me. I wasn’t trying to take on her style, I was just learning how to do it better. Any time you want to improve a specific aspect of writing, studying books by someone who has a reputation for doing that one thing well can really improve your writing and help you see it differently.

  16. Tina says:

    A lot of people see popular indie authors going on blog tours/engaging in social media and think that’s why they succeeded while failing to notice how well those books did BEFORE the author went on the blog tour. The most glaring recent example of this I can think of is Samantha Young, whose book went straight to #1 in the kindle store and squatted there for weeks BEFORE her blog tour even started. In fact, if you look at her old blog posts, she kept the release info for that book under the radar because she was known for YA and this was an erotic adult romance. That book succeeded because it was a story people liked, and you can’t recreate the magic through marketing or promotion. Other books, like “Taking Chances,” have had similar runs even though they were the first book by a new author and had no or little audience/promotion to speak of. I can’t remember any books that had temporary spikes due to promotion because they fell so fast after the promotion was over.

    I LOVE Amanda Hocking and do not want to demean her or her success in any way, but there are so many success stories now that you can’t even keep track of them all. In fact, no one is keeping track of them–even some of the BIG ones. I know of a few authors who are making at least $70,000-$100,000 a month (based on what I know about author rank/what their books are priced at)…and they might even be writing under different names too, who knows? But what’s even more interesting is that NONE of them do any real promotion beyond blogging and saying hi to fans on facebook–they just write really great books quickly. There are also a lot of us quietly making a living. Though I am by no means an author any of you would recognize, I’m now a full time writer making more money than I’ve ever made before in my life writing books as fast as I can under a number of pen names.

  17. Sarah says:

    Interestingly, I read an essay by G.K. Chesterton yesterday in which he was denouncing the recent wave of books and articles claiming to be able to teach you how to become successful in business. (He hoped that it was just a short lived fad. If only!) Chesterton argued that the very idea how being able to learn “how to be successful” was fallacious. There are two ways to achieve success, he said. Be very good at whatever it is you are doing or be dishonest. Anything else is mysticism.

    I think this applies to being a writer as well. There are two ways to be a successful author. Write good stories and put them out there for people to buy. Or cheat (fake reviews, gaming the bestseller lists, etc).

    I think perhaps one of the reasons that so many people insist there must be some other way is that they see so many books that they personally do not like become hugely successful. They do not accept that those stories were good enough to resonate with large numbers of readers and so they think there must have been some other reason for the success. It must have been marketing! It must have been social media! When really the most likely reason was simply good storytelling.

    We need to remember that we are not the judges of good storytelling. Only the reader is. And if we put our stories out there and the readers don’t respond to the them the way we expect or desire, marketing and social media isn’t going to fix the problem. The only thing that can fix the problem is going back to work and trying to improve your story telling skills in the next book.

    • dwsmith says:

      Exactly, Sarah. I think you hit it on the head with the taste vs storytelling. Luckily, there is no one way to tell a story that all readers will think is perfect. I watched an interview with John Grisham one evening and when the he was asked if he got upset with bad reviews, he laughed and said that when reviewers started liking his books, he knew he was doing something wrong. His only concern was what his readers thought. The readers who liked the type of book he was writing.

    • Sarah said, “I think this applies to being a writer as well. There are two ways to be a successful author. Write good stories and put them out there for people to buy. Or cheat (fake reviews, gaming the bestseller lists, etc).”

      I question how much “cheating” actually helps people sell more books. There’s been a lot of hoopla over some high profile indie writers putting in false reviews lately, as though it was the reviews that made them sell a lot. I cry BS on that. Had their books sucked, all the fake reviews in the world would not have made them sell in the hundreds of thousands or millions. So I would argue that you are incorrect. There are not two ways to success, just one. Be great at what you do.

  18. TXRed says:

    Thanks for this, Dean. I just got the wind taken out of my sails by an outside reader’s strongly negative review of a manuscript. However, since I wrote that manuscript (2009), I’d written a second one (2011) that is currently in press. In fairness to the reviewer, who read as a specialist, the quality difference between the two is night-and-day. Why? Partly because in between writing those two books I also wrote short articles and a herd of short stories. So keep writing, keep reading, and your work will improve if you try, fiction or non-fiction, literary or otherwise.

  19. j. johnson says:

    Nice post, illustrates a problem. However, PLEASE tell me someone with some backbone would step up and tell a beginner that this wonderful work is a pile of crap. That someone with some creditability will be able to say this isn’t any good and the reason is x, y, and z. The old saw about everyone has one good book in them may very well be true, but that book needs a writer to put the story into presentable form.

    Constructive criticism is always hard to do and might not be accepted but everyone needs to try to do it, tell them the truth! Be honest – both of you will feel better in the long run.

    • dwsmith says:

      J.Johnson, afraid I don’t agree with much of what I think you were saying. “Honest…” as you put it, often just goes back to taste. There are very few professional writers with enough training to climb through personal taste and dig into a story to help anyone with any kind of criticism of any nature. Mostly it is just destructive and tries to make some new writer into something they are not.

      And I flat don’t agree that this new world is a bad world. In fact, I think the bad contracts traditional publishers are trying to force down our throats is the real problem. This new world just gives us a new way to learn and get out.

      So sorry, to be honest, as you put it, I pretty much think you opinion on this is flat wrong. How’s that for honest?

  20. DG Sandru says:

    Sound advice, you cannot argue with it, and it should be followed. I will.

  21. Robin Brande says:

    Dean, love this with all of my heart. Thank you.

  22. Andy Decker says:

    So, I’ve been reading all this. Good stuff as usual, btw. The only promoting I do is the lowly blog and much of that is just me talking about various and sundry topics. I have two tiny trees and one dinky-tiny tree, in the forest; combined sales are skyrocketing into the dozens. This is cool because only three of those sales are to people I know. In a way your posting and the comments are encouraging; the lifelong advice I give my kids to stay at something and don’t give up. But, I can see how someone could publish something and have zero sales, become discouraged, and quit. I know that’s how other careers operate as well. Anyway, thanks for another good read. I appreciate it.

  23. Karen Nilsen says:

    Great post, Dean, as always–you and Kris are really providing a wonderful service for other writers. Aside from the great storytelling, one thing I think contibuted to Amanda Hocking’s seemingly overnight success was the fact that she had not one, but two complete series available for sale when she hit the big time. As a fantasy/paranormal romance reader, one thing that I know is I really hesitate buying the first book of series if the other books aren’t out–I’ve been burned too many times by series that take twenty years for a writer to finish–and still aren’t done. In my mind, the first book of a fantasy series is not a complete book–it’s the prologue to a really long novel. This is how I’ve always looked at my work–yeah, it was great finishing that first book. But I wasn’t actually able to feel the story was complete until I finished writing the fourth book, and I can’t express my gratitude enough to readers who took a chance on my first book before the last one was out.

  24. Thanks, Dean! I always find value in your blog, but I come back time and again to re-hammer this single point into my “you-must-promote-promote-promote” brainwashed head. I’ll go along for a few weeks, feeling okay about just writing the next story and not promoting, but then invariably an author friend on one of my loops will start talking sales numbers and all the things he/she is doing to get the word out. And I think, “Should I be doing xyz, too? My sales so far are pretty low, and he/she’s way up the list, so…” I will drive myself crazy for a day or two, like the proverbial hamster on the wheel, before sanity returns (in the form of another visit to this page) and I get back to my WIP with the reminder that I am a *writer.* And writers write. Period.

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