That was the theme of an article I read last week. Blogging will not sell your book at all, wrote a female author, not even if your blog is read by thousands and thousands of people.
This female author had a real, published book for sale and her widely read blog post led to one or two sales of the book and that’s it, she wrote. Yet, she insists that blogging is still a good thing. Blogging gets your writing and your name out into the world and keeps both on your readers’ mind, so when the reader runs across your book someday, they know who you are.
Last year, I read a blurb from a literary agent who said the first thing he does when he gets a submission is Google the prospective author’s name. If they don’t have an online presence in place, he won’t even read the submission.
I guess the lesson to take from both of these tidbits of information is that modern writers better be online in some form.
I completed 23 percent of that book I mentioned the other day and could go no further. I gave it a two-star review on Goodreads and in the process ran across an interesting review from another Goodreads user who also gave two stars.
Her review said the book started strong, but became repetitive and slow moving, which she thought could have been fixed by an editor. I agreed completely with her assessment and it forced the question: do all writers need an editor?
An editor of mine at a newspaper I worked for used to say everyone needs an editor. She didn’t say it to me directly in a scolding sort of way; she just said it out loud when circumstances called for it. While there were rare occasions in which she wouldn’t change a word of my stories for the paper, she more often changed them for the better. A few times, she changed them for the worse, but only a few times. Overall, my work was better for having an editor.
So, if I had to give advice to anyone thinking of publishing a book, I would tell them to get an editor. They don’t help with spelling and grammar as much as they help with analyzing the feel and flow of a work.
From what I understand, self-publishers can hire decent editors. Does anyone out there have a good editor they can recommend?
I usually don’t get past the first page or two of most books, so the greatest compliment I can give any book is to finish it. I sample a lot of books and it’s a pretty decent compliment if I pass the first chapter. I found a random book yesterday that lured me beyond the nine percent mark on Kindle. The book is Deadly Messengers by Susan May.
I plunged right in without reading any blurbs and found the general writing style to my liking and the story intriguing enough. I will continue reading it today and see how far I get. The beauty of reading on Kindle Unlimited is I can quit the book anytime.
If I make it all the way through, I may even take a stab at writing a short review for this blog. I promise to keep it short to increase the odds that you will finish it.
I’ve mentioned at times that I’m currently reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and how it is impossible to get actors Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall out of my head whenever reading about Woodrow or Gus, the two primary characters in the story. That is, of course, because I have seen the TV movie of Lonesome Dove long before I read the book.
Well, I ran across this passage just now, a passage in the book that describes the character of Gus and I couldn’t help but think Duvall must have read this passage before taking on the role of Gus in the movie. The passage conveys the thoughts of a character named Jake and how he hates the sound of Gus’ voice:
“It was a loud voice – the sound of it made it hard to think, when it wasn’t easy to think anyway. But the most aggravating aspect to it was that Gus always sounded cheerful, as if there was no trouble in the world that could catch him. At times when life seemed all trouble, the sight of Gus, untouched by all that went around him, was difficult to bear.”
If you’ve ever seen Duvall playing Gus in Lonesome Dove, that passage describes him so perfectly, I just had to mention it on this fine evening. Have yourself a wonderful night.
Consumers of entertainment love lists, like the Billboard Top 10, the top hits of the weekend box office, or the New York Times Bestseller List. The big difference between the first two lists and the third list is the honest, realistic sample size available.
If you see a list of the top 10 songs, it is reasonable to assume a music fan will have listened to all 10 songs and formed opinions about each. A moviegoer could easily watch three to five of the top 10 movies over a one-month stretch, but books require a significantly greater time commitment, meaning a reader might only read one book on a bestseller list before the list has completely changed.
The rest of the books on the list become irrelevant and vanish, like old blog posts. I remember back around Thanksgiving, everywhere I browsed for books I kept seeing the new book from Bruce Springsteen. His memoir Born to Run was all over the bestseller list for a couple of months. What list is it on now? Does anyone even remember that Springsteen wrote a book?
In a way, entertainment brokers’ lists resemble slow-moving social-media feeds. We glance over them the way we would glance over our Facebook page, reading only the posts that interest us and forgetting the others forever. Of course, there is only so much time in a day, so how many 70,000-word posts are really getting read?
Yesterday, someone asked me if I had read any good books lately. It may be the first time that’s happened in a decade. The exchange that followed was revealing and educational for anyone thinking of selling a book.
I told her Comanche Moon was pretty good and her response: “That sounds like a western,” meaning she would never bother with a western. She didn’t have to see the cover or read a page or two. She heard the title and rejected the book immediately.
Even though I thought she might enjoy the book despite it being a western, I didn’t press the issue. Instead, I told her she might like Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. This suggestion seemed to satisfy her and she said she would look it up and try an e-book sample.
No word as to whether she started reading Beautiful Ruins, but that’s not important. The lesson here is that a casual reader will reject your book in a heartbeat if there is the slightest chance it doesn’t fit their idea of what they want to read. A title or a cover can turn away a reader before they ever give a chance to the writing or the story. Readers have preconceived notions about what they want to buy and if an author doesn’t deliver the goods from start to finish, there will be no sale.
As an English Literature major in college, I studied many great writers of the past. The old writers were celebrities of sorts, or so the stories seemed to suggest. Everyone knew of Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner. What writers do we speak of today?
If someone asked me who the best writers of the 21st century are, I wouldn’t have an answer. Maybe that means writing is totally irrelevant in our world today. If asked, I think most people automatically mention the old writers as the best. Jane Austen is still a big name today, thanks to movies made of all her books. Do people actually still read her books or just know her name from the movies?
If I asked my niece or nephew, who are both in high school, whether Jane Austen was a good writer, they would both answer yes. If I asked whether they had read one of her books, they would both answer no. Around Christmas time I asked them if they were familiar with A Christmas Carol. They were, but only the movie. They had no interest in reading the book by Charles Dickens.
Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer for fiction this year for writing The Underground Railroad. Is Colson Whitehead one of today’s great writers. Whitehead has a twitter page and six novels to his credit, according to a Google search. Do modern great writers have to have a twitter page? Must they write novels?
Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize for literature last year. He doesn’t write novels. He falls loosely in the poet category, if you consider modern-day song writers the equivalent of ancient poets. Do poets still exist outside of songwriters?
These are some of the questions floating through my head on this Wednesday night. Who do you think are some of the 21st century’s greatest writers?