It seems in the last few years, dialogue about all-things-publishing has been focused on platform, marketing, increasing output, distribution platforms, technology, and self-publishing. (This blog is no exception.) But as I noted in this post at Author Media , I think it’s important to call our attention back to the work.
It may be easier to get published these days because of self-pub and the proliferation of indie publishing options. But it’s not any easier to write a good book.
In fact, it may be even harder to write a good book than it was in days past, because both you and your reader have more distractions. You’re tempted by the Internet, your ability to concentrate for long periods of time has been compromised, and deep focus is more challenging. Meanwhile, your reader has infinite sources of information and entertainment. So a book has to be darn good to to keep both your attention and your reader’s. Now is the time to make sure we’re not minimizing the importance of mastering the craft.
Yes, platform is important if you want people to read your stuff. But ultimately, great writing is the best platform. A million followers are meaningless if you don’t have something worthwhile for them to read. Marketing challenges, evolving technology, and competition will always be with us. But it’s irrelevant without a good book.
I sense, out there in writer-land, an increasing focus on writing more-more-more. Many want to publish as fast as possible. Volume + speed = more money, or more success, or some such equation that I can’t quite wrap my mind around. But I do understand that this environment is leaving some writers feeling insecure, thinking they’ll be left behind if they don’t join the fray.
This agitated state of the collective mind is caused by information overload. Too many stories floating around out there, and no way to know the exact truth of each one. Anxiety comes from hearing about the accomplishments of 1% of writers and not the 99% who are slogging away in the trenches, many experiencing their own kinds of success.
And while more-more-more seems to be the mantra for some writers, readers can only read so much. They’ll have shrinking patience for works that feel sloppily crafted and hastily written.
The only way forward is the same as it ever was: run away from the noise, hunker down and wrestle mightily with your prose. Writing your best book is what matters, regardless of how many people ever read it. And in a nice bit of synchronicity, it’s what will make people want to read it.
As an agent, I’m here to help with the “other stuff.” Only you, the writer, can do the most important part. Write that book. And make it great.
Let’s collectively settle into 2014 remembering that mastering the craft is the best object of our focus. There is a time for considering various publishing routes and promoting our works, but only when we have in our hands a book that is the absolute best it can be.
Let’s go into 2014 focused more than ever on the craft of writing. Click to Tweet.
It’s harder to write a good book today – you & your reader have more distractions. Click to Tweet.
A million followers are worthless if you don’t have something good for them to read. Click to Tweet.
Anxiety = hearing the success of 10% of writers, not the 90% toiling in the trenches. Click to Tweet.
Image credit: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo
I’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview: I’m an optimist by nature — I usually expect things will all work out. But for the new year, I plan to maintain a more realistic mindset by “thinking negative.” What do I mean by that? When I “think negative,” I factor into my […][ Read More → ]
Happy new year! As we begin 2014, talk is everywhere about our goals, resolutions and plans. Many of you have chosen “one word” that will serve as a focal point throughout 2014. Choosing a word has become popular in the last five years or so, and I like it because it’s a concise way to distill […][ Read More → ]
Hey… you. Yeah, you, the one sitting alone in your basement hammering out a thousand words every morning before you go to work. And you. The one filling out your registration for a writers conference and terrified to click “send.” And you in the back, there… frantically taking notes in the writing workshop, attempting to […][ Read More → ]
Guest Blogger: Bryan Cohen (@bryancohenbooks) Self-motivation is crucial for authors, regardless of which publishing path you choose. Writing a book is difficult enough, but when you add on editing and marketing, it can feel impossible. And I’m crazy enough to have self-published 32 times. How did I do it? I learned a few ways […][ Read More → ]
One of the biggest challenges for many writers is being able to separate the artist self from the business self, and figuring out ways to nurture both. I find this to be an issue for unpublished authors more than those who are published. Once a writer is published, they seem highly motivated to stay published, […][ Read More → ]
In publishing, we’re constantly asking writers—typically a rather introverted bunch—to get involved, to engage, to network, to join groups and go to conferences. I often find myself wondering how many of you cringe every time you hear that kind of advice. Maybe you’re not into the whole publishing “scene.” Maybe you don’t enjoy being […][ Read More → ]
I’ve just finished reading Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. I’m still processing what I learned, and checking other sources for differing perspectives, but my initial reaction is that this is an eye-opening, clarifying, sobering yet illuminating resource for anyone interested in publishing or business in general. I […][ Read More → ]
Once you’re a published author, you’re going to have a target on your back. You will offer up your words to strangers, and not everyone will like what you write. You’ll be naked and vulnerable in front of the world. You’ll make mistakes, you may offend people. And you may not feel safe. They […][ Read More → ]
Awhile back, Nathan Bransford had a terrific post on “Why You Are Receiving Rejections.” He says if you keep getting rejections, it boils down to two reasons: either your query isn’t strong enough, or your query is fine but your project isn’t resonating with agents. So true! He’s nailed it! He’s absolutely right! But I have […][ Read More → ]
I’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a snippet: Every time I blog about platform or social media, the vocal response in the comments reminds me that it’s a difficult subject for many authors. Everyone wonders how and when to build a platform, and many writers aren’t enthusiastic about it. There are two things […][ Read More → ]
The whole idea of “building a platform” and “marketing your book” is to get people to read what you’ve written. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, connecting with potential readers is crucial. There are many good ways to do this (although it’s not necessarily easy), and plenty of resources to help you. Today I want to […][ Read More → ]
Last week I wrote a post about following your passion as a writer, versus trying to write what the market wants. I concluded that it’s a false dichotomy—you need to to both. It’s not easy living in two worlds, and it got me thinking of all the ways writers and publishing professionals have to live […][ Read More → ]
Guest Blogger: Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) The contract will come in the mail with the publisher’s name on it, and for a few minutes or hours or days, you’ll feel on top of the world. Here you are, at the beginning of a dream come true, at the precipice of all you’ve been waiting […][ Read More → ]