Thursday, 31 March 2011

Am I Being A Grumpy No-So-Old Writer?

Today was productive in the writing sense. I finished my first fiction assignment and sent it off to my (new) tutor and I even sent off a letter to Writing Magazine.   But to be honest this letter, and the article it was related to, also prompted me to want to blog.

This morning I had some time to read through April's issue of Writing Magazine - yes I know, May Issue will probably arrive tomorrow and I still haven't finished this one yet. I fail at reading magazines!

I read the Grumpy Old Bookman column (p35 Writer's News) by Michael Allan, and funnily enough, after all the commotion over the past couple of days of self-published Jacqueline Howett and her unprofessional approach to critiques, the subject was on self-publishing and those making money from it.

He discusses how self-publishing is working for some, and the potential money writer's are making.  He then goes on to talk about Ms Vianka van Bokkem who has 15 books published, but actually they are short stories, ranging from around 5,000 to 13,500 words and the prices are between $2.99-$3.99.  She's sold around 2,500 ebooks in December alone!  Vianka has had reviews such as "The worst book I've ever read", to the other end of the scale giving praise.  I assume she hasn't acted like Ms Howett when given negative feedback or we may have heard about it

Then Allan quotes some of her text, proving she isn't a polished writer - and that some readers (considering the reviews) simply can't care, it hasn't bothered them in this new digital age.  I'm an easy going reader, but I really do care about good presentation of the written word, especially as it's something I'm striving for in my own writing.  (Whether I'm achieving it is another matter!) 

He ends on a note of good luck to her, she's having fun, making friends and money.  However, although yes, in someways I don't want to scoff at someone else's success - yes, good luck to her, if people are prepared to buy her stories, and she's not doing anything deceitful to sell them.  But is she improving her skill?  Is she another writer giving self-publishing a bad name?  Has it become too easy to get published (and sell) with the likes of eBooks?

I've been trying to think up a suitable analogy, because as usual I fear I'm not getting my point across in the way I want - something as a writer I need to work on, but I've always been like it in life - I really do have trouble spitting my words out at times!  So here goes;

Imagine I turn up on X-Factor, singing badly (because I can't sing - I only sound good in the car, on my own) something like "I Will Survive," and I have no intentions of trying to improve.  In fact I think I'm brilliant! Simon Cowell says I can use his recording studio to get my stuff out there (for a small fee).  I then put it on Amazon and make money by selling my badly sung song.  (I imagine there could be a lot of con-artists in the record industry preying on wannabe-singers, yet we never actually get to hear the music.)

Is it happening in the record industry?  I'm not in that line, so I haven't heard about it.  The thing is, everyone can actually write, or type, but it's not necessarily good.  I imagine it's a lot harder to get a song on iTunes and actually make money from it than it is to get an eBook out there.  The equipment you need to record a song is a little bit harder to come by than what you need to write - that's what I'm trying to say!

Writing is a craft, a talent, a skill, an art, like singing - isn't it?

Yes, I do see the need for self-publishing, even if thanks to the likes of Ms Howett who give it a bad name, and the vanity press that prey on wannabe writers.  But I suppose what niggles me now is that there seems to be readers out there that don't mind this slack approach to writing.  Part of me is annoyed that society is getting lazy in all sorts of ways, and now it seems we're getting lazy in what we expect in good writing.  Or am I wrong?

I've tried to write this as diplomatically as I can, and not sound out of turn - I apologise now if it seems that way.  I don't want to sound like some snobby writer - I'm not.  As an unpublished writer trying to find my way, I'm interested to know what others think.  Are you frustrated that people actually can make money out of bad writing?  Who are the con-artists really?  Are readers being duped?


  1. Hmm, I guess readers are only being short changed if it bothers them? I must admit I haven't read any self published books yet. Not sure why really, I guess I felt that there are far too many published ones to choose from and I know that repeated errors would bother me. I have become more and more critical of what I read the more I write myself. That is not to say my writing is flawless, you know first hand my issues with punctuation ;-) Though I am trying very hard to better myself.
    So to answer your question, I don't know really. Depends what you want from a book as a reader. For me personally I would not want to go down the self publishing route and am not likely to read many self published books, but then that's just me.

  2. I agree, Doris. It was just playing on my mind last night after I'd read the article.

    I have so many books on my to-read pile that I am unlikely to buy a self-published book unless one came thoroughly recommended, or I knew the author.

    That's why it is important to read, it does improve you're own writing without even realising it. You will spot the mistakes, and that's good.

    I don't want to go down the self-publishing route either... just means working extremely hard in the hope that we catch an agent or publisher's attention! Good luck.


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