There are good books, bad books and… maybe something else.

Beware researching all this self-publishing stuff. It’s got a plot that thickens far more than any Agatha Christie novel – and I’ve got a feeling the ending will be just as much a surprise.

You see so many posts on forums, and in Google communities, and it’s a battle to figure which ones are worth giving credit. I don’t mean the blatant spam and scams. I’m talking about the posts that give you a true indication of what’s really happening – or not. I read something today that kind of worries me in a new way (as if I needed any more to worry about when it comes to a writing career).

On a writer’s forum a successful author outlined his sales, his success and how he did it, all for the benefit of other forum members. It was a genuine, selfless act that told us a lot. This guy is selling over 100,000 books a year. He writes fantasy and publishes around 6-7 books a year, and claims to write almost 70 hours a week to achieve this and there’s no reason to disbelieve him. He has effectively pushed through the barrier of becoming a full-time, successful author and reached the tipping point where his output, his books and sales are kind of self-perpetuating. The secret, by the way, is now his backlist – it’s the sheer amount of titles he has on sale.

The problem I’m having is that there’s a lot of evidence – a lot – that his books are fucking rubbish. There’s a disturbing trend in the Amazon reviews. Sure, he has literally hundreds of positive, 5 Star reviews, but the 40-50 1 Star reviews on some of his books have this ring of authenticity that’s hard to ignore. It isn’t childish trolling saying the books are crap, and so on. These have a recurring, informed theme that complains about the total lack of character development, awful dialogue, holes in a non-existent plot, constant and mindless sword fights, raping, pillaging and violence for the sake of violence. Attempts to clone the Game of Thrones franchise are all too obvious and poorly carried out.

So how is he selling so many books?

It looks like the slavish application of a genre formula has become even more successful than it ever was in traditional print publishing. People will apparently buy and read anything as long as it has the prerequisite magic sword, nasty wizard and naked damsel tied to a tree in the forest. A sort of “fantasy, sword fight porn” thing where the quality of the writing hardly matters at all for most fans. Something similar has happened in the romance/erotica genre – but at least they admit it’s a type of soft porn.

So I’m wondering if there truly is a market for good fiction in the self-publishing world? Or to look at the issue a different way, how good is the self-publishing market for quality writing, if you take all the genre-driven, formulaic writing out of the data that says self-publishing is working? At the moment self-publishing is looking like a golden goose just waiting to be plucked, but if you want to write outside of these narrow, formula genres are the opportunities still there?

Well, obviously the opportunities are there, but what about the perceived levels of success? Hmm… not sure. Anyone?

4 thoughts on “There are good books, bad books and… maybe something else.

  1. I’ve found that with some self published authors with a lot of fuss about them. Like Hugh Howey. I kept hearing about his work, and the genres he writes are ones I’m interested in. But I’m finding the books a bit of a chore and am wondering what the fuss is/was.

    I hope you do well though with the kindle books of yours. I love all your horror books, and A Place to Fear is a personal favourite book. Are they all available to American purchasers? Or just Aussies? Digital book rights are often a ridiculous mess, where in a lot of cases they aren’t available to Australians and others. When I see your kindle books showing “MacMillan” I wondered if they were available to America…

    1. Likewise Michael, I’m trying to work up the enthusiasm for reading Game of Thrones and finding out what all the fuss is about… I gave up on fantasy after LOTR and the Thomas Covenant series.
      All my books are available on Amazon and places like iBooks. As far as I know they’re available world-wide in the English market. If you have any trouble please let me know.
      By the way, have you read “Ghost Tales, Four Stories of the Dead Among Us”? I’d be happy to Gift you a copy (Ebook) through Amazon in the hope of a decent review!

      1. Yes, Thomas Covenant! I haven’t read the third series, that just finished last year. I bought the audiobooks of those from Scott Brick’s website. The second chronicles isn’t on audio yet though.
        I gave up reading any fantasy series that just keep going on and on and on… I was a teen, reading the Raymond Feist novels, and suddenly realised that at some stage in my life, I’d never get to the end, either by my demise, or the author’s. Heck, King’s The Dark Tower nearly didn’t get finished… I won’t even watch a TV series in progress anymore, just season by season, and sometimes the entire runs… Game of Thrones is also another one I’ve also failed working up any enthusiasm for, books or the tv series. HBO used to make great series, but now it is like they are the 21st century playboy channel.

        No, I haven’t read that newer book of yours. I’d be keen to read it, although it might take some time to get through as I don’t have an actual kindle with text to voice. I honestly should get a kindle just for that capability, when the options run out on audio :)…

        I might check with some American friends to check on availability. I do know that there actually are some editions of audible books that are available to Aussies, and not Americans, like the chivers published Jo Nesbo books. So it can work both ways

  2. I seriously hope you can do well in the epublishing world. You really deserve it. Your books are true gems and I wish more people will discover you – and I guess now they can, rather than just stumbling across them by accident like I did. I nearly want to rebuy them on kindle so I can publish reviews as a verified purchaser. Not that my reviewer status is worth much though. I wish I know how to drum up support for you. Are you on goodreads too? Maybe handing out review copies to people that have good reviews around the genre.

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