When is a book not a book?

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Questions at the bottom of the post.

I had an interesting conversation this last week whilst at the reserve, well l had several, one of which l shall discuss in tomorrow’s Slice of Life’ and another l shall raise as a question today. At the reserve there are several retired schoolteachers – three in fact, maybe even four. One started out teaching English Literature in comprehensive schools in the mid to later 70’s and then progressed to lecturing on the ‘writing or authoring books’ as a study in university in the 90’s. The others were primary school teachers in Art and History.

On Wednesday l found myself chipping the pathways, or ‘barking the way clear’ as we jokingly term it for half of the morning. I was engaged in a healthy conversation with the retired authoring lecturer about the quality of books and the publishing industry in today’s market and we were pondering upon the question of when is a book an actual book? As in self-published versus traditionally published?

We discussed how there seemingly was a non-stop book market for the reader today and that Amazon as example as an eBook publisher had a staggering 6 million Kindle books listed for this year alone, with an average of one million published every year and ever growing.

Nancy [retiree] was saying how she had a conversation with friends of hers the previous day over lunch who were all ‘best seller’ authors on Amazon, and whilst their books were okay as far as Indie published books went, they were not that good in comparison to Traditionally published authors.

I asked if she was against self-publishing? No, she wasn’t, but because it seemed that anyone could publish anything on Amazon today good or bad or downright terrible quality, derogatory and inflamed and so on – where would the quality of poor books end? Who regulated them?

It did make me think …. but then NOT all traditionally published books are fantastically written either, not all are great publishing’s to be proud of and not all will stand the test of time in so far as popularity and further sales. The same can be said for an Indie publisher releasing books on Amazon …

For as many books that are published to Kindle the percentages of poor quality albeit may be greater, but equally there are some absolute gems out there. Some authors have been turned down and away from the brick and mortar publishing houses and made great success in the eBook market and some have gone on further to be offered lucrative deals from traditional publishers and other industries to boot. Not all of course in fact the latter percentage of success is acutely small in comparison to the sheer volume of books being published daily as eBooks.

One of the questions l have always had as a burning interest and this also stems from another course l have sitting on my PC waiting to be retaken and l will once l have finished with the marketing course is what really is a great style to publish books into/onto Amazon in the first place?

Low Content books are hugely successful on Amazon, and l think [a bit like my recent Worm Farming Course] that many of those are seriously poor quality, but the fact is that anyone can publish almost anything to Amazon of any size and style ……… with very small regulation control.

How successful are self – publishing authors these days anyway? I mean just because every Tom, Dick or Harriet can publish content doesn’t mean they should but in many cases they do.

My other course was saying that in order to be successful with Amazon and YOU CAN be as an author, then you need to be publishing fresh content every thirty days – in layman terms that is a book every thirty days – be this written by you or if you employ a ghost writer to produce your content , the best way to stay visible is to literally write a new book every thirty days and one of the most prolific fiction genres to write for is Romance and all the sub genres that can shoot off that – as that is an exceedingly healthy market with millions of readers .. who will buy anything?

Other popular genres, styles and formats are found in short fiction and short non-fiction and the latter as a genre overview is one of the most steadily popular selling genres going as much as low content and niche content too.

I remember thinking when reading the course … this might explain why there are so many cruddy books available on Amazon in the first place! Especially if writers and not even very good ones are producing 12 books a year. The Facebook group l belong to with this eBook course, has people there who are writing and having written for them five books a month. The books being written can cost them anywhere between $20 to $100 max, and the best part of the book is usually the cover … covers should have money spent on them as that draws the reader in .. to the point that the content doesn’t really matter. The other thing is price – make these ‘newly written books’ cheaper and they will sell. But don’t forget to pick the right title! Title is everything …

Many a time many books are bought by readers who like the cover or the title only and the brief introduction but don’t read them at the point of purchase and many readers will buy 20 books at a time and maybe only read 30% of those before buying new books.

Treat book writing like Blog post creation and hey presto you could have a lucrative business …. but most genuine authors, writers and creators of content CANNOT produce one book or several every thirty days it isn’t possible! Not good quality written books anyway. Low Content books maybe, short fiction stories, perhaps … although l suppose if someone is writing 15 hours a day non-stop and not enjoying any of their life, they might be able to produce a continuous flow of published book content …

But how often these days are we all seeing too many awful books on the eBook market? Poor quality writing, poor covers, poor everything really, but above everything, one of my biggest errs is the fact that many new wannabee writers don’t seem to proof-read anything anymore ……. whereas genuine authors take the time to edit, re-write, re-edit, proof read and then publish their content.

I was mortified to read the content of that course last year – that in essence they were promoting without a care in the world – that it is okay to scrape, ghost-write and in some cases copy content or shuffle content from other works they created the previous month to create mass works for publishing to Amazon and yet, this is what is happening and will continue to happen. Never mind the many wanabee writers who think they are highly skilled when at best they are merely sub-standard writers or worse, downright terrible.

Years ago, l had thought about writing books, recently l had thought about writing books, maybe creating a course also – but the genuine time it takes to research and study and prepare and create a course or write a book can be a little bit disheartening l think.

Writing the content is hard, publishing is easy especially today as an Indie, but then the truly hardest bit begins and that is marketing and expectation – as in what are you expecting as a return for your work? Your work being your heart and soul for x period to produce your book? Now the hard bit begins as far as the journey goes … you are going to have to work your butt off to become a leader. Spend money and invest lots of time into your promotion especially as you are NOT creating 12 books a year!

There are of course very easy ways to become a best-selling author with Amazon and it’s easier than you might think, it’s down to visibility, rankings and having some cool friends boost your sales for a while … but that’ll not see your book stand the test of time. You care about your book, you want it to sell, not just because it would be nice to make some sales but because it’s your BOOK!! You wrote it, you believe in it – you are not just writing and publishing for the money, this is your work of art!

But so many these days and if the course is anything to go by and an example is the course creator has almost 2000 books on Amazon in the romance genre alone. The creator is about as far removed from the writer you might think has written these romantically charged 150 paged books on love! He has a team of ghost-writers and scrapers writing content for him on a daily basis and uploading books all the time, although he now makes more money selling course material on how to become an Successful Amazon eBook Author/Seller that he doesn’t even need to write romantic books anymore. He cares about profit, about money that’s it.

You care about writing, about quality content and about your passion, but your book or books are competing against assembly lines of wannabee writers out to make a killing on your wallet.

Of course, some quality writers may not be able to produce a book every 30 days, but they could well produce a book every three months pending their specific genre, and therefore they are continually visible. The longer they write and stay fresh in the reader’s mind and eyes – they can make a comfortable income …

It is a thoroughly fascinating topic; l am still very keen to write a book or two maybe and create a course – but will l publish the content to the world or make it more of an online concept within my own business? Do l actually need to or want or desire to earn an income this way or am l content to simply know that l have written and produced x, y and z? Is that not enough of a reward of a satisfaction or should l be more concentrated and focused on making more of a marketing effort and maybe look at an income?

But it mustn’t be forgotten that once your eBooks are published even if you are not retiring on the profits, you do have the potential of a steady monthly passive income pending how many publications you have and … how much you push your marketing. If it is NOT seen it’ll not sell.

All good questions – BUT, what l want to know from you today is ….

“Do you consider Indie self – published books to be as good as Traditionally published books and if so why and also if not why not?

“Are there too many self published books today and if you think there are – why do you think that way?

Do you think that the eBook market today is all about quality content and diversity selection OR only about numbers and money?

Let me know below … thanks.

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34 thoughts on “When is a book not a book?

  1. There are far too many genuinely good books readily available, even in the average second-hand bookshop, to warrant wasting time searching through the self published garbage heap, in hope of finding a hidden gem. And the idea of producing a book every 30 days is just an obscenity – an insult to literature.

    1. Hey Richmond, l actually agree with you regarding the sheer overwhelming tsunami of second hand literature we have in shops today. their recycle value drops every year .. l wonder if at times it’ll be the brick and mortar publishers that will disappear completely in the next 10 years or become extremely elitist.

      I also am in full agreeance concerning the insult to literature comment – but many are now ONLY in it for the monetary gains.

      1. I find it hard to conceive of a world without printed books. There will always be an audience for literature and art – as long as we remain essentially human. Even much of the printed stuff is pulp, but the self-published is (generally) even worse. I have never understood why Stephen King is held on such a pedestal. His output is phenomenal, to be sure, and he is highly skilled …. but even he would surely agree that he has never published anything more than polished pulp. And yet there is so much potentially life changing fiction out there …. no one could read it all in a lifetime.

  2. I think you’re answered a couple of questions about quality and quantity of ebooks in your post. I have found a few good books on Amazon as in ebooks. But as you said there are too many there. But it’s a fact that not everyone makes money off their bills even if they are really good. It takes aggressive marketing and not everyone is good at that. I prefer reading good books, rather than writing bad ones!

    1. Hey Sadje, that’s is it to be a leader it does take a huge concentrated effort to make sure that your titles stay in the rankings or alternatively – you just keep cramming the market with titles.

      1. Yes, that’s true. It needs lot of drive and determination. Not my cup of tea. I’m sure if you wrote a book you’d promote it well.

  3. “Do you consider Indie self – published books to be as good as Traditionally published books and if so why and also if not why not?”

    Generally not. Of course there are exceptions, but too often the SP books are full of errors because the authors aren’t proofreading closely, or ideally hiring an actual editor.

    “Are there too many self published books today and if you think there are – why do you think that way?”

    No. I think anyone who writes a book has the right to try to find an audience. The problem is that it’s too hard to find something good when people are shoveling out a book a month.

    “Do you think that the eBook market today is all about quality content and diversity selection OR only about numbers and money?”

    The latter, sadly…

    1. Hey Paula, good answers indeed. The sad truth is frightening – that when some ‘ so called’ authors are uploading a book and more a month, it knocks the quality writer literally off the shelf. Of course l think Amazon do have a Top Sellers listing that browsers can view .. but that is not a great way of finding quality either because new wannabees are dicking with the figures by pushing their new books through sales using tricks of the trade to make sure they are seen.

      Yes, sadly everything not just books, but much of the digital industry is about poor quality and mass content insertion – anything that rolls the numbers out.

      1. It’s terrible. I am generally offered “OK” books in the KU program given their algorithm to send me stuff like I’ve already read, which these days are mysteries/suspense and light romances (not erotica, which is mostly horrible). Even so, I see way too many typos. In printed books from B&N, you do not see typos. Of course, you pay for that!

        1. Hey Paula, l am seeing many many typos these days in online articles that shouldn’t have any and not just in eBooks, but in so called proofread news articles too.

  4. A given traditionally-published book is not necessarily going to better than a given self-published book, but traditionally-published books guarantee a certain basic level of quality, whereas with self-published books there’s no such guarantee.

    There are a lot of self-published books, but to say there are too many would suggest there should be some sort of cap on how many there should be, which would sort of defeat the whole purpose of self-publishing.

    The idea of publishing a book every 30 days seems utterly absurd. As far as I can tell, Amazon doesn’t lean towards showing customers what’s new; it leans towards showing people what’s selling. If you have a bunch of shitty books selling 5 copies each, Amazon’s not going to put them in front of people’s faces unless it’s in the form of paid advertising. I’m curious whether that person who’s published 2000 books is actually generating any sales, or if those 2000 books just makes their course look more appealing.

    1. Hey Ashley, points l agree with.

      I will in fact be writing about this ‘book’ topic in more detail in Journal in the next few months.

      I’ll answer your question from the knowledge that l know, but l’ll not give too many details until l write about in Journal.

      The creator has written several books which are published via Kindle and Paperback but all self published by what l can glean. The actual number under his own name is roughly 5 – 7. Under a nom de plume the number starts to rise considerably. He also writes as a co-author with other writers and also writes alongside students.

      Is the actual number 2000 books all his own though? I don’t think so because he writes under variaous aliases and his family write as well and they all fall under his brand name.

      The course heavily promotes to ‘students’ the need to write frequently and producing more than average books using ideally their own talents but when not available, employing ghost writers or freelancers.

      Next to the usual tacky tricks, it is also promotes the need to develop a solid strategy using many medias and paid for advertising.

      The real secret of course is to carefully define your publishing and marketing strategy but not everyone wants the hassle with this.

      The creator makes more money selling course material to students looking to make money online.

      Last year, just before the pandemic closed the UK down, [you may recall], l bought this course and then life took a different direction for me .. back in February 2020 l was struggling to understand how anyone could produce 1 book per month of any quality.

      Since then l have slowly been rereading the course and also reviewing the antics of the course content creators … last year l can say l was less savvy to certain things today.

  5. It’s worth looking at the 1920-50s for some enlightenment here. the low-content, fast-output shorter stories (there are labels for some of them, particularly the crime genre) were pumped out by the hundreds/thousands each week (the magazine/newspapers published a lot). Some of the authors became famous (about 1%), most slipped into oblivion. The ones who needed to eat learned fast the needs of the readers and gave them what they wanted. And they wrote a lot because they didn’t eat if they didn’t keep selling. Most novelists (not all, because some self-published authors did make a killing, but they had money or friends enough to go that route) had no choice but to go through the travails of agents and publishing houses because that was the only path available. It wasn’t about validation.

    In traditional publishing, the writers are in a stable. one horse will be the unicorn, the one who brings in all the money. The others are there for a short time (until the books are returned from the sellers) and then they drift into oblivion – and that’s most of them (the 99%), so just because a book is published by a trad publisher doesn’t mean it’s better or is going to make sales.

    In contemporary self-publishing, there are some writers who take up the position of unicorn. They sell well, they keep their readers happy, and they earn enough to keep the wolf from the door. Most, though, will create a book and expect it to sell. Even with advertising the crap out of a book, if it isn’t good enough, if it doesn’t fit the reader expectations, it fails (regardless of how well written or edited; most readers will forgive a few bloopers if the story is compelling enough — and this is also in trad-published).

    Yes, it takes advertising to get the book in front of the right reader, but if the writer doesn’t understand what that reader wants/expects, then even the best advertising isn’t going to do good sales.

    What it comes down to, in all eras and publishing positions, is a good story that’s well told and aimed at the right audience. The quality of the story comes first, last, and every place in between.

    What is also comes down to is that there is always someone who makes money from the dreams of writers who want to publish. They are more often than not, in my view, money-sucking vampires (with some exceptions – Brandon Sanderson offers his BYU lectures on YouTube, no cost, and all his lessons can apply to any genre).

    It’s a hard road, full of bumps, missing road junctions and signs, shady characters hissing from behind light-posts about a secret stash of gold … etc.

    Well, that’s how I see it.

    1. You see it well Cage, the journey is more like a highway to hell if not motored carefully.

      Good answer.

      But the audience can be fickle these days because there is at times simply too much choice.

      Also, it’s so true about writing what the audience wants to read – that is very keen and spot on, but that also is applicable to bloggers creating content for their readership. Yes we write for ourselves, our passion to create BUT we ultimately wish to be read and so we write we know will be read.

      1. I don’t think the audience is fickle – and they do have more choices. But if I think of myself as a member of an audience, I have to keep in mind that I don’t read in only one channel. My range is wide, my understanding greater (now), my input for perusal more expansive. I keep in mind that if I can be like that, then my reader can be, too.
        In a way, I write for (a facet of) me, but each story may be a different face who may also be represented in other people who are like that me for that moment they’re looking.
        And what do I want?
        A good story, well-told, where I am transported to elsewhere for the time I’m immersed in that world. When I look at a specific genre, I expect to see the structure and form that define that genre.

        Blogging is another form and format of writing, and for me, that’s less structured, more in-the-moment (not so much a business, but a front-facing representation, a piece of music in words). A bit of fun as well as reaching out to like-minded souls. Not a mirror, a carousel of many colours and creatures.

        Yes, it’s early in the morning, and I’ve run off the mind-tarmac again.

  6. When I was still reading, I didn’t BUY many books. The ones I did buy (e-books) were from authors I “knew” from social media. Twitter before I started blogging. I tried the Unlimited for a while, but it was Meh🤷🏼‍♀️ I had the same luck grabbing a random book off a shelf at the library.

    I think most authors, people who write for art, get some satisfaction from self-publishing, even if they don’t make a lot of money. Even published authors who have deals with old school publishers don’t always make a ton of money.

    I think people who use publishing just to make money are as bad as “used car salesmen”… shiny, slick & full of shit. Zero quality. Like you discovered, it’s a racket… The average person might make some money, maybe… but it will take tons of work to get their gem to stand out from all the crap.

    Cyberspace is another place that humanity has littered with garbage☹

  7. I signed up to Goodreads years ago, more to record what I’ve read rather than the social media side of it. However, I did enter a challenge a few years back where I had to choose books from specific genres or ones with specific plots, and so I found myself reading a dire novel about a party. Yet it was written by a professional writer, albeit a journalist. So god knows what a rank amateur could come up with, with only thirty days and a free pass into publishing.

    I don’t bother with it. There’s not a shortage of renowned authors and novels, more than I could read in a lifetime. I tend to stick to the big names. But it’s mainly about taste, which is indisputable.

    I don’t know how it affects the future of literature though. It could be the case that the easier it becomes to publish, the lower the remuneration – or it forces the best of writers to be populist rather than individual – or maybe as a career it becomes less appealing for intelligent authors; I don’t know, maybe it’s close to the end of literature now. But there’s still plenty for me to read while I’m still alive.

    1. Interesting thoughts indeed Ian – and as Richmond has also said as indeed have you, there is more than enough literature out in the world already, second hand, newly publish, ebook, other platforms, blogs and so to last each and every one of a lifestime of reading – good and bad.

  8. There are some excellent books on Amazon! With that said, I consider Amazon publishing a way to get your feet wet. It gives those a chance to self-publish and test the market. If all goes as expected, then go to the next step.

    What I like about Amazon published books is that I can load them to my Kindle, which is much easier for me to read because of my eyesight.

    There are good and bad authors and good and bad books, but with anything else it’s a matter of taste.

    1. Hey Eugenia – this is very true and more so with many industries and not just the publishing market, it now is applicable to everything l feel.

      Self publishing does indeed offer people a way of sampling another way forward with regards expression with their writing and reaching larger audiences more so than a blog may.

      Everything is about taste that is a fact 🙂

  9. I know of many reviewers who won’t accept review requests for self-published books and honestly, I don’t blame them. I have read some wonderful self-published books in the cozy mystery genre but there are also plenty of writers who create really mediocre content.

    I’ve seen many people offering advice like the course you mentioned, encouraging authors to churn out content as fast as they can, and I think it’s very unfortunate. From a reader’s perspective, readers want quality content and diverse selection but too many self-published authors approach it from the numbers and money angle.

    Maybe I’m just lucky and the self-publishing courses haven’t pushed cozy mysteries as the place to make $$ yet…

    1. Hey Mint – firstly, thank you for commenting 🙂

      Sadly ypou are quite right, the biggest problem we have today is there is an awful amount of mediocre content availanle. There are some absolute crackers, but it can be very luck of the draw at times.

      Readers always want a quality read, you and l are no different – we want the same.

      My fear is that courses like l have mentioned are being created left right and centre and all they do is as Richmond wrote above, they insult literature, they insult writers who care about their craft and ultimately they hurt readers who become wary of trying new authors and new brands.

      Here’s wishing you a lovely day.

      I wasn’t aware of the Cozy Mystery series and had to look the genre up.

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