Joe Konrath’s Tips on Writing

I do not subscribe to Joe Konrath’s blog, but I do occasionally check out his site, and over the years I have gleaned a great deal of information about the publishing world from him.  Yesterday a great friend and author, Bert Carson (www.bertcarson.com), sent me a link for Joe’s latest blog (if you’d like to read it, here’s the link http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/07/are-you-writing.html).  In a nutshell, Joe asks us authors if we are writing, and his point is that spending time reading his blog prevents you, the author, from writing.  But he makes a couple of other points that I feel are worth
a comment or two.

We All Want Joe Konrath’s or John Locke’s Book Sales

Sure we do, right?  There isn’t an author out there who would turn down selling that many books (or making that kind of money).  Joe makes a great point here.  The reason why he’s making money isn’t because he wrote one book (like The DaVinci Code) and it sold like hotcakes, bringing Joe thousands of dollars a month.  On the contrary, Joe has forty books available right now.  The total sales is what allows him to keep writing.  Okay, you think to yourself, I’ll write a bunch of books, publish them as ebooks, and I’ll sell like crazy.  Maybe…but Joe makes another point which is worth pointing out.

That ONE Word In Joe’s Blog

Joe makes the comment that he’s lucky enough to be a full-time writer, and that he’s a fast enough writer that he can churn out publishable words than a lot of people.  Did you catch that one important word?  It’s Publishable.  You can crank out all the books that you want, but if your writing isn’t very good, you likely aren’t going to sell very well.

Now I’m sure there are some of you reading this that will say, “Hey, there are plenty of bad
writers that sell well.”  And in the past, that has been the case.  However, this ebook revolution is changing that, and here’s why.  A reader can download a sample of your book, and if they don’t like it, they won’t buy the ebook or any others that you write.  So your writing has to stand out.  I’m sure there are some exceptions, but those writers most likely got lucky, and/or they figured out how to market their works in spite of mediocre writing.  And those sales will likely not be long-term (would you buy a second book if the first one wasn’t written well).  Unfortunately, indie writers have a harder time getting their books to sell: no one knows who you are and you don’t have any help from a publisher to market your books.  Don’t make it harder on yourself by writing something that isn’t very good.

So Who Are You To Criticize Me?

I’m just another indie author trying to make it.  But as I’ve been meeting new authors on Twitter and Facebook, I’m struck by the sheer number that publish stuff that isn’t very good.  This inconveniences us all but it hurts you, the author, because the reader realizes there are a lot of bad writers out there.  Now the reader will test the waters again, but he/she won’t come back to you because your writing wasn’t good (if you don’t believe me, check out book reviewers – a number of them don’t want to read indie authors because they’ve reviewed bad books).  I’m getting asked to review books or sample chapters that just don’t read well.  The language is flat, the voice is passive, the point of view is
inconsistent, the writer is telling, not showing, and so on – it just reads amateur.

I can say this with some authority. I’ve taken multiple writing classes, I’ve been to numerous writing seminars, and most importantly, I have two editors that read my works before I publish them, and both ladies are harsh.  Not because they just want to be mean, but because they are helping me improve my writing so I have something publishable.  Furthermore, I’m the first person to admit that my early writings stink.  I had some great
ideas, the novels just weren’t very good.  It’s taken years of work to hone my craft.  And at this point, my writing and my reviews speak for themselves (if you don’t believe me, go buy my books and see for yourself).  There are enough readers that we can all be successful.  So a bit of advice, if I may.

Don’t rely on your spouse, best friend, children, or whoever to give you writing advice or critiques of your book.  Unless this person is trained as a developmental editor or is an agent, they more than likely won’t know what needs improvement, and more significantly, they won’t want to hurt your feelings, so they won’t tell you if the writing is bad.

Read books on the craft of writing. Stephen King’s On Writing is excellent, but so are many others.  Take the time to learn how to improve your writing.  Consider a critique group, but only if the members are able to put their own egos aside and work to help everyone improve.  If you continue to hone your craft, your works will get better, and you’ll
likely see your sales improve.

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