As a self-published author, you’ll inevitably come up against this from time to time. When you share your pride at having written and released a novel, some people just can’t let you have a win. “Oh, you’re self published? Anyone can do that.”
Cue jaw drop. Allow blood to boil before simmering.
The problem is — it’s true. Anyone CAN write a book. But my ready response when this comes up (and thankfully it’s not often… it’s just those really cynical self-loathing people that hate the world) is – “Really? Where’s yours then?”
The sad truth is, however, that there is a large amount of low quality self published books on Kindle. Books that were self edited (a cardinal sin, I’m sorry to say). Books that did not go through a beta review or developmental process. Books that are poorly formatted. Books with covers designed using free tools and stock images.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am aware that not everybody can afford to pay for some of this work, and some writers have a very frugal budget, but the point is, the amount of brilliant writers out there that don’t need all of this extra polish is probably close to zero. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of great books out there with cheaply designed covers, because I know there are. But the sheer number of truly amateur books outweighs… well, everything else available on the market.
Is this a problem? In some ways, no. Amateur writers deserve to be able to share their work as much as anybody else. More than that, even though I did choose to pay for editing, typesetting, and a professionally designed cover, I’m still somewhat of an amateur writer myself. I’m no better than anybody else, I just had more money.
But the question remains… SHOULD anyone be able to write a book?
There are some strangely confident people out there in several of the writers groups that I’m in, who can barely string a sentence together, yet they somehow have written 10 books. Some of these have barely sold any copies, and are priced well above the market (eBooks at $10 USD, for example). Some have excerpts that are difficult to read due to poor sentence structure and strange word choices. Should these people be able to write a book? CAN anybody really write a book?
It’s a complex topic, but if I boil down the idea of a book to simply sharing a story, then yes, anybody can write a book, and anybody SHOULD be able to write a book. There is room in the marketplace for people of all skill levels to do their best – and the market will decide.
Who are we to judge the quality of anybody’s book, simply based on their writing? Even Stephen King’s books are edited (although I’m quite sure his output is already quite highly polished even before editing). If that person was able to make a few dollars from their books, and influence even one person, then perhaps that’s a success.
The selfish side of this argument, though, is that these lower quality releases dilute the market significantly. It’s much harder for those that put in the effort to polish as best they can to even be noticed. And the sheer quantity of lower quality titles available perpetuates the stereotype that all self-published books are low quality.
As a new writer myself, and one that put a lot of time, money, and effort into polishing my book… I feel this way quite often. I blame others for slow sales and so on. I occasionally feel resentful at other writers’ successes. I’m only human.
But the reality is… 15 years ago, what I did was impossible. Unheard of. What the Internet has allowed us to do — in various ways, not just for writers — is amazing. Anybody can release music now, and make it available to the world via streaming services. Anybody can make their own video, and put that up online for people to view via YouTube. And anybody can write a book.
And the harsh fact is — that’s the way it should be. If I wanted to, I could open a restaurant. If the food was poor, nobody would eat there. If it was amazing, then I’d be booked for months in advance. It’s the market that decides.
So, like anything else, don’t sweat the competition. If you want to succeed, then write the best damned book you can, and do your best to market it. Then write another, and another, and another. If you really do a good job, you will find a market, even if it’s small.
And those smartasses that tell you “anybody can write a book”? Sure, that’s true, but YOU did, and THEY didn’t. So there.