You are Not a Special Snowflake in the Literary World

Many years ago, I came across a conversation between a few trade published authors who kept referring to authors who had succumbed to the “Special Snowflake” mentality. I took great offense at a lot of what they were saying because, at the time, I was still a naïve writer who thought much the same way as the rest of the writing world.

Then the self-publishing disaster hit the publishing world, and I slowly began to see what those veteran authors were referring to all those years ago. I wrote an article about this several years back, but I feel the need to revamp the above statement. Most people are going to hate me for this, but it’s time that all those Amazon wannabes get a good dose of reality and pull their heads out of their collective asses. It’s time to stop deluding yourself and go take your meds. Seriously. You. ARE NOT. a special. Snowflake.

Trade publishers release approximately 300K books a year. Indie publishers produce approximately twice that many. The fact that you wrote a book is about as rare as someone buying a cup of coffee at some point in their lives. The fact that you managed to type out a few See Jane Run sentences on your computer, slap up a generic stock photo on it and managed to figure out how to upload it to Amazon does not make you interesting and it sure as hell doesn’t make you a professional writer. These days, nearly one in three people have now published a book on their memoirs, thoughts on parenting, aging, the tacky Fifty Shades knock off. There is absolutely ZERO barriers to becoming a published author these days. If you can manage to string sentences together, no matter how grammatically incorrect, presto, you’re an author. So again, You. Are NOT. Special. So get over it.

Being a writer is hard; being a successful writer is even harder. The sooner you realize these truths and accept them and start actually working at becoming a better writer, the sooner you will find yourself amassing actual readers and fans with the real reviews and the success that goes along with it.

1. Don’t quit your day job.

Whether you want to admit it or not, being a writer is a lot of work. And I do mean a LOT. OF FREAKIN’. WORK. Most writers won’t ever make enough money to support themselves or their families by pounding out novels. And those few that do usually can do so only because they are married with a spouse who works a steady Evil Day Job (EDJ) making enough money so that their writer spouse can keep writing full time.

Writers who have children and house notes and car notes and utility bills rarely make enough through writing on a continued basis to afford to write full time. Anyone telling you anything different is full of shit, period. Even bestselling authors aren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. They don’t get to live in multi-million dollar houses and drive cars that cost more than most people’s annual salaries.

Not even when you manage to hit the NYT Bestseller list are you going to be rolling in the dough. Even if you managed to get an advancement from your trade publisher, your agent is going to take a chunk of that, followed by the IRS. Your publisher, if you are lucky enough to have been trade pubbed, will not start paying out royalties until your novel advancement has earned out, which could take years, if it happens at all.

Making enough to support yourself is rare, making enough to support entire families for years on end is even rarer, and hitting that multi-million dollar book deal is the rarest of all. Sorry to bust your bubble, but that’s just the way the business actually works. The rare author who hits it big is the exception to the rule, not the norm. The sooner you accept that success as a writer doesn’t always mean being a multi-million dollar NYT Bestseller with fans hanging on your every word, the happier you will be.

2. You are not the next Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, V.C. Andrews, E.L. James, Stephen King…..

You. Are. NOT. Again, stop deluding yourself and go take your meds. Authors of any caliber got that way because they worked their butts off for years honing their craft, learning the industry, promoting the hell out of themselves when no one else would, and never took ‘no’ for an answer. In other words, THEY. DID. a LOT. of freakin’. WORK.

Success isn’t just handed to successful writers, and they certainly didn’t become successful by slapping up unedited garbage on Amazon and claiming it to be the best damn novel ever written. They did not become successful by then begging everyone and their brother to leave a bunch of fake reviews on GoodReads in a badly thought-out marketing plan to delude readers into buying their junk novels. And if your sole reason behind doing so is an attempt to cash in on the whole self-pubbing craze in an effort to get a chunk of the proverbial pie, then the joke is on you. When you are competing with THAT many people and THAT many new books each day, the slices of the pie continue to get smaller and smaller with each new book that hits the marketplace. When you are producing less than professional quality work, all you are really doing in the end is pissing off readers who were expecting a professional grade book but ended up getting sub-par drivel.

3. You are not a special snowflake. Deal with it.

If you enter into the industry as an unpublished writer who thinks that you are the absolute best, most awesome writer ever and have not produced the absolute best, most professional and awesome book ever, then don’t expect readers, and especially other seasoned authors, to flock to your side singing your praises. Sorry, it’s not going to happen. You are not a better writer than everyone else. Chances are you are not nearly as good as those writers out there who have spent years honing their craft. And you certainly aren’t better than those big-name authors who have earned the right to think they are all that. You. Are. NOT. Get over yourself. It’s annoying.

It simply amazes me at the sheer number of first-time writers out there who hit Amazon and FB every day thinking they are the bomb when it comes to writing, that they are the know-it-all of everything publishing and writing. They go around spamming FB and every group they can get into, singing their own praises and harassing anyone who dares to call them out on how bad their precious novel is, even though they have never even bothered to print the damn thing out and edit it or hire someone who knows what they are doing because they are simply. Just. That. GOOD.

Well, sorry to break it to you Mr. Joe-Blow, but if you don’t know your to/too/two or your it’s/its from your ass, and the punctuation police needs to come make a house arrest, then you need to sit down, shut up, and get to work on learning those basics before you start trying to convince others that you know what you are doing.

And you think you don’t need an editor? Pppffftttt, well think again, darlin’. Even I, someone with over thirty years of writing experience and a former editor KNOWS I need a professional editor. Anne Rice KNOWS she needs an editor. Stephenie Meyer? Editor. If you are going to be a writing diva right out of the gate who thinks the publishing world owes you something because your writing is pure gold then, man, you are SCREWED.

4. You are on your own.

It doesn’t matter if you are signed with a trade pub, a small house, or if you are 100% indie published, You. Are. On. Your. Own. Sorry to break it to you, but contrary to what you see in the movies or on Oprah, not even the big publishers are going to spend tons of marketing dollars on an author until they prove to the company through numerous bestsellers that they are golden. Only then, once you have proven yourself to be a genuine cash cow, will the company start paying out anything to promote your work. You cannot just turn in a manuscript or push publish on Amazon and think you are done. Writing the book is the easy part. Once it has hit the proverbial shelves, you will have to promote, network, market, and build your author brand on your own.

5. It’s a business. Start treating it like one.

If you are writing just for the fun of it and don’t care enough about the work, or your reputation as a professional writer, to bother to produce a quality product, then stop clogging up the marketplace and move aside for those of us who actually give a damn and want to make a living at it. If you don’t care enough to bother to even get a professional editor, then go slap your half-assed crap up onto a free site and stop fucking up the industry for the rest of us who actually work hard at producing a quality piece of work for our readers. Yeah, I said. Other authors have said, and I know it won’t win me any awards with other writers, but quite frankly, it’s the truth.

If you don’t want to put forth the work to hire a pro editor and market your work with sound marketing plans instead of under-handed gaming of the Amazon rankings, then why on God’s green Earth are you slapping up that crap on Amazon and wasting valuable space as well as turning readers against SPAs? You are making it harder for those of us who DO want to make a living at this profession. You’re like the really bad singer who wants it so badly but never bothered to take a damn singing lesson. There are real writers out there with real talent who don’t mind busting their asses to write quality work and spend the time, energy, and money it takes to hire professionals to get it right the first time. If all you are looking for is someone to stroke your ego, then go post your D-rated porn flicks onto an adult site and get. The Fuck. Out. Of. The. Way. Some of us don’t mind the hard work involved in producing well-crafted, polished books.

I am not writing this to try to discourage anyone from not going for their dreams or stop them from becoming successful. I’m writing this to lay out the cold, hard truth of the industry. Being a writer is a lot of hard, never-ending work. It takes practice to become a good writer, it takes time to hone your skills, and it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build your brand. It is not for those who are looking to score a few quick bucks by gaming the Amazon system or for those who are not willing to put forth the time and effort it requires to produce a quality book. Those who think they are so good that they refuse to acknowledge the truth of the industry or refuse to take the advice and wisdom of seasoned writers will not succeed. Those who think they are so good that they do not need to edit or rewrite their books and insist upon publishing something on Amazon that they deem ‘good enough’ will not succeed. If you are truly serious about making it as a writer, then you will need to humble yourself, spend the time it takes to hone your craft, learn the industry, and be prepared to work like you have never worked before. Only then will you truly be successful as a professional writer.

The Lazy Writing Phenomenon

Thanks to Amazon’s ‘instant’ publication feature for Kindle, more and more people are jumping on the author band wagon. While it has been a god-send for those authors committed to producing the absolute best work they have to offer, the ease of uploading a Word file and becoming an insta-author has caused a massive influx of mediocre drivel that has caused many, many readers to boycott SPAs completely.

And who could blame them? Gone are the days when books were re-written, proofread, and edited within an inch of their lives. Gone too, it appears, is any set of standards or dignity when it comes to producing quality work. People are no longer enlisting the help of professional editors to help them clean up the mistakes, develop their writing style, and polish the work so that it flows smoothly from beginning to end. It’s the lazy man’s way of writing, and anything goes.

These days any old thing will do, from poorly edited train wrecks with shifting tenses, wrong word usage, missing words, and typographical errors to poorly written pieces that are hallmarked as a ‘writer’s’ first attempts evident by the sheer number of errors, lack of any discernable syntax, no plot or character development, and zero writing style. The entire self-publishing craze has left the literary world awash in a sea of utter garbage, and thanks to such atrocities as Fifty Shades, even the formerly noble art of writing erotic romance has given way to stories and novels that read like badly directed D-rated porn flicks. More and more people are pushing ‘publish’ on the first thing that pops into their heads, leaving readers wondering what on earth happen to the art of the written word.

The entire process has made it quite an ordeal for professional authors who value their reputation and stake their name and their success on their ability to produce a well crafted piece to rise up above all the false advertisements and astroturfing to get their names out there. For those who choose to NOT stoop to the level of the other wannabe writers plaguing Amazon and GoodReads, it is becoming increasingly harder to rise up above all the fakery. Professional indie authors are being forced to either see their works fail miserably while all the other drivel gets snatched off the proverbial shelves, or begin participating in the same under-handed, sneaky marketing gimmicks that the less-than-scrupulous writers are doing.

It seems that the vast majority of the literary world has been reduced to little more than half-assed words slung at a page. It’s degrading as an author who takes pride in her work to be lumped in the same category as some of these people. Being a writer has always been a profession that was looked down on by the rest of the world, as if we were somehow less of an artist, as if our work did not count. Many of us have to work full time jobs because writing doesn’t pay well enough to cover the bills or feed our kids, and yet those of us who continue to take pride in our work and are dedicated to producing a quality product are being shoved further and further down the literary pole because readers simply can’t find a good indie book. It’s sickening, disheartening, and worst of all, it’s unfair to readers to constantly swindle them out of money by allowing fake reviews to trick them into thinking they are getting a professional product when all they are really getting is someone’s latest attempt to cash in on the whole business.

So where does that leave us? For readers, LEAVE REVIEWS. This simply cannot be stressed enough. If you come across something that isn’t suited to be used in the bottom of your cat’s litter box, then LEAVE A REVIEW. When you come across a great read, then LEAVE A REVIEW. Stop being passive about the whole thing while moving on to the next book. SPEAK UP.

In time, when enough reviews have been left that attest to the true quality of the writing, the fake reviews will no longer apply and readers will stop buying. Eventually the problem with badly written self-published books will take care of itself, allowing the good writers to once again be noticed and purchased. But that will only happen if readers stand up for themselves. STOP just assuming that the problem will go away on its own. Never underestimate the power of the review. It has caused many a writer to stop writing, and when used properly, it can stop the influx of drivel from taking over our lives.

Why a Professional Editor is a MUST for Even the Most Diligent Indie Author

In all the years I have under my belt as a writer, I have humble beginnings as a proofreader and editor. Growing up, most girls had babysitting jobs or paper routes. Given my class ranking in high school, I made extra money by proofreading and typing up term papers, book reports, and oftentimes writing them as well.

During those first ten years or so of my writing ‘career,’ I sent out dozens upon dozens of query letters and samples of my manuscript. I received back just as many rejection letters, many of them with advice on how to improve my writing. Over the years, I received a lot of good advice, a lot of bad advice, and a lot of advice that just didn’t seem relevant or hold true for me as a writer. Some of it I took to heart, some of it I took with a grain of salt, and some of it, the really hard lessons, it took me years before I finally grasped the gravity of what those well-meaning editors were trying to get across to me.

One of the most important pieces of advice I ever received is also the one piece of advice that it took me the longest to finally understand and to accept as a writing truth, and that is the ultimate need for a very good, high quality, professional editor. With so many years spent as a freelance editor, I know full well how to edit and proofread a piece of work. Add in the thirty plus years spent writing and proofreading my own work, and all that experience has only honed my skills as both a writer and an editor.

But I was naïve when it came to my own work. I thought that editors were meant to be nothing more than spell checks with fingers, someone who picked up what MS Word could not, like correct word usage and punctuation. I could easily do this on my own, and have always put my own works through dozens upon dozens of rewrites and edits. I saw absolutely no reason why anyone with a strong grasp of the English language would want to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars doing what anyone with a bit of patience could do on their own. Besides, I had read enough carbon copies of books that all sounded like they had been written by the same boring writer to know that editors could do real damage to the writing style of the original author, stripping it out to the point where even the action scenes seemed dull and lifeless. Who the hell wanted THAT for their story?

It was not until the self-publication wave hit Amazon that I realized just how very, very wrong I was in that mind set.

Editors do more than just find typos. Those that are good at what they do, do so much more than merely find typographical errors. Strong, professional editors help out the syntax of the sentences in the story, correcting grammatical mistakes that go beyond subject/verb agreement and shifting tenses. They actually help the author hone their writing style, make sure the storyline and the writing itself flows smoothly and is consistent throughout. They also make sure that the writing is actually good and does not read like something that the author just slapped down with never a rewrite or second thought about it.

A quality editor would never let something like “I’m already hard…..My cock would like to say ‘hello’ to her kitty….I slap her, make her mine…. She purrs, I smile….I whip my dick out, make her take it” ever see the light of day. This amounts to nothing but incredibly lazy writing by someone who has obviously never written anything before in their life. Even when writing erotica and porn, there is a right way to write it so that it sounds good, and a wrong way. A good editor would never have let this be published, and for good reason. It’s just plain horrible writing, lazy, the work of someone who obviously doesn’t care about the art of writing or their reputation as a career writer. It is just drivel, a vomit of words onto the page with no real plot line, no writing style, and no real care as to how the story and characters are presented.

And herein lays the problem with the self-pubbing industry. More and more people are hitting the ‘publish’ button on Amazon on the first thing they slap down on their computers and call it a novel. It’s not going through professional editors, if they bother to send it to any type of editor at all. Most self-pubbed authors are just doing it themselves or having friends, family, or a few beta readers with absolutely no credentials as editors look through and try to catch mistakes. It results in the above drivel, badly written ‘erotica’ and other stories that read like D-rated porn movies.

As a writer, I take great pride in my work. I spend months cultivating plotlines and characters, bringing them to life in my own mind before committing them to paper. I want to be taken seriously as a professional writer, which means that I take the extra time and the extra expense to produce a quality product the first time around. If you think you can bypass this and ‘save up’ to buy professional editing services once you ‘sell a few books,’ then consider this: readers RARELY re-read a novel, and if they do, it is usually only once. There are simply too many new books being produced that they want to read to go back to anything but a super-favorite novel and read it a second time. With that said, the chances of a reader going back and re-reading an indie published novel that has had the grammatical errors ‘fixed’ after they have purchased the book is virtually non-existent. Having a quality product for them the first time can mean the difference between the reader either returning the book/leaving a bad review, and them recommending the book to fellow readers. In addition, publishing a poor quality novel can stay with you for years, resulting in loss of readers who were unimpressed with your first work and refuse to take a chance on you producing better quality writing at a later date.

In the literary world, there really is NOT a second chance to make a first impression. So you have to ask yourself, is producing sub-par books something you really want to be known for as a writer? Is it worth your reputation as a professional or worth risking losing potential readers? In the end, no one, not even Anne Rice, can risk producing anything but the very best, quality work possible. Bottom line, if you expect to be treated like a professional writer, then you must produce and sell a professional quality piece. Otherwise, that imperfection could very well stay with you through the entirety of your writing career, a testiment to either your Success, or your Failure.