Six Reasons Not To Write A Book

What’s killing the indie author? Writers are sensitive souls often plagued by despondency, worn down by mindless promotion, and the inability to find a reason to not write. So I wrote this…

woman-trowing-booksDo we really need any more books? The enormous volume of material available to download to Kindle alone renders the vast majority of new books coming onto the market, as more or less invisible. The number of books being published has exploded. According to the Bowker Report in September 2016 more than 700,000 books were self-published in the US alone, which is an increase of 375% since 2010. This doesn’t account for commercial publishing, or those 13 million previously published books recently made available to Kindle. Surely, the market cannot absorb this amount of reading matter? The market is completely saturated.
The cost of visibility is increasing Readers and new authors might be shocked by the cost of advertising – BookBub is the current most effective site which offers amazing results to authors and publishers – but it comes at a price. It’s not unusual to pay in the region of £1,000 to advertise a single title. Lots of smaller sites have sprung up and they charge considerably less, but of course they don’t command anywhere near the same number of subscribers. Submit to a handful of these sites at £30 to £50 and you can soon be out of pocket. This leaves many authors at the mercy of social media, and at the risk of annoying their followers with mindless promotion. Even the commercial Facebook ‘Page’ has changed to one of pay-as-you-go. Visibility of posts has been severely restricted unless you hit that promo button and start entering your card details.
when-you-pay-peanuts-you-get-monkeysFree books. Publishers have always used the loss-leader approach with free copies, usually in exchange for a review, but not always. Where does this leave the individual publisher? I don’t know any indie author who willingly gifts paperbacks on a regular basis – they cost in the region of £5-£8 to print, depending on where you get them printed, and the exchange rate. This is without factoring in the shipping costs, and not forgetting those small background invisibles such as editing, proofreading, formatting, and cover design. And this is without factoring in the time you’ve taken to actually write the book. The profit from selling a paperback can be as little as £1. Unfortunately, readers are used to browsing a huge selection of free material for Kindle and although print costs can be waived in respect of electronic formats; writing, editing, formatting, cover design, and advertising, is exactly the same as for a print book.
Poor Production Homemade covers and un-edited books, give all indies a bad name. They do, but a word of caution. Authors should strive for excellence, not perfection. There is no such thing as a perfectly produced book. This is partly because a lot of the time perfection is subjective to any one individual. Even traditional publishers get things wrong and mistakes slip through. Some bloggers are quick to judge a book purely by the amount of typos, incorrect punctuation or too much padding and waffle. It’s easy to say there’s no excuse for this – and a lot of the time, there isn’t – but I do take a slightly kinder approach, albeit only slightly and I do feel some of the internet Grammar Police out there need taking to task on this and on the errors of their own scribblings. Tut-tut I spotted a run-on sentence once on a blog post written by a particularly over-zealous reviewer. This person ripped a perfectly good book to shreds with their painfully acidic views on punctuation and vocabulary. Let’s get this into some perspective.The overwhelming reason to read a book is to enjoy the story. If the story holds up, i.e. no serious, consistent issues, and I’m entertained, then I can overlook the occasional blooper, that something which takes me out of the story. Story is everything. A missing comma is just that…  However, there’s another side to this woolly coin. The vast quantity of poor, unedited material out there gives the conscientious author a bad name the minute he declares himself self-published. Editing at any level attracts a cost, likewise with proofreading; but it’s a vital part of publishing a book for public consumption, and the competition to sell and be seen is at an all-time high, so, why wouldn’t you?
Reviews. Another reason to develop a second skin or buy a mouth guard to prevent nightly grinding of the molars. The current product review system employed by Amazon is clearly open to error: One star: totally loved it! Three stars: not read it yet, won’t download. And abuse, on various levels: Doesn’t make any sense, completely unreadable, don’t bother. Reviews which have the power to connect with other readers do help visibility and authors can use them to some effect through social media, but not all readers review books, even if they enjoyed their free or 99p book and would have no hesitation in recommending it to others. The frustration of garnering reader-reviews is real, but then authors can be their own worst enemy. I’ve seen some writers attack readers on social media for posting a low-starred review and going on to label said reader as a troll. (Could it be that they just didn’t like the book? Consider that other potential readers will perhaps read this and back-off reviewing for fear of reprisal or getting it ‘wrong’) And if the review does have a whiff of vindictiveness about it, then surely the most sensible thing to do is to stop drawing attention to it, since this is usually the intent. And then there’s always the option to pay through sites such as Net Galley – the big book giveaway for bloggers and book reviewers in exchange for reviews, although the publisher/author has to pay a handsome sum to be listed. I do think some sites and reviewers have become a bit too powerful, but some authors are desperate enough to pay for a handful of (glowing) reviews – from any source. Amazon have a problem controlling the unethical ones, and their sister site, Goodreads, actively encourages ‘readers’ to simply rate books with no purchase required, or even a simple acknowledgement that they’ve read the book in order to validate the rating. Why not get rid of all the star ratings? If a reader has an opinion about a book, have them write a review using prompts such as characters/plot/setting/ etc. Or, is it time to do away with book reviews completely? After all, we don’t rely on this system in a real bookshop. The sample and the book description should be enough to have us decide if we want to spend our precious 99p (That’s 35p to the author).
Success. Written a best-seller? Great! Now your agent/publisher/annoying little man in your head strongly advises you to write at least two more before the end of the year, otherwise no one will remember who you are and all those knock-on sales will be lost…

24 thoughts on “Six Reasons Not To Write A Book

  1. All the above and more besides. It’s an endless struggle against those who want to make money, rather than those who want to write good books. Then again, once in a while you get a message saying I loved your books, please write more. So somewhere, your stories meet readers’ minds, and that makes it all worthwhile.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Poor production – these days NOBODY uses a sub-editor. I think the last of the species became a forgotten fossil about a decade ago. Some of the shoddy editing one buys from major publishers should make them blush (and/or employ a subbie). But doesn’t. Your section on the weirdness of some Amazon reviewers had me chuckling. Would that it were not true: but it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Liked this post. It says all the things I meant to say but didn’t. Writing a book is the easy part. I wrote a post about having this great superpower of suddenly becoming invisible when marketing (selling) my book. The same applies to reviews. I’ve had people telling me how much they loved my book, how they cried at the end of it. I cried too, because they wouldn’t review it. Really, what’s the point of all this noise we make? I’m not sure, but writing is almost as addictive as reading.

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  4. I agree Jan. I also think that we have got sucked into the global publishing marketing message and forgotten that each of us live within a community and that the best place to start with marketing your book is there. There is no stigma attached to being on local radio and in the local paper or online editions. Tesco here will let you have a table and chair for free to sell your product including books all day. There are local book fairs that are reasonably priced. Local independent book shops are usually delighted to have a local author do a book signing. Of course they will take their cut but deals to be made. It is often easier to be a big fish in a small pond and expand from there. My first books worked that way and after several more in print and eBook on Amazon, I am going old school again. I am going to do a launch here in my part of Ireland with my first Irish book in 15 years and will monitor the difference between sales the old fashioned way and with Amazon.

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  5. Great post, Jan. I agree with everything you say. I also agree with what Jill says here in the comments. For now I still love writing. I write for me and the very small tribe of readers who respond positively. For the record I love your writing and hope to see another book from you one day…

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  6. Quite right, Jan. The whole awful merry-go-round of online promo that you ‘must’ do moves both writers and readers away from the real point – to write and read excellent, thoughtful, entertaining stories. I have no choice but to do the promo; I hate it, but it’s obvious that no-one will read your book if they don’t know about it. However I do try not to lose sight of my real objective – to write ever better books. That’s what really matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent points, Jan! So frustrating for ALL authors – there are just too many of us out there, all vying for attention from (possibly) a dwindling pool of readers. Not sure what the answer is – or even if there is one! Thanks for bringing these arguments together so entertainingly!

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  8. This is a good post, Jan…. I’ve noticed, of late, quite a few writers who’ve had some success but not a great deal, and then just…. stopped. I echo what Carol says, though. Unless you are relying on book sales for income, most writers who don’t give up do it simply because they love to write. I’ve never been a best seller, but I have a nice group of regular readers, and find more with each new book, particularly if in a slightly different genre. Recently, an author asked me how I get so many reviews. I think she was a little dismayed to find that I do it by putting the hours in – being supportive of book bloggers, writing promotional posts for my books for their blogs when invited to – this doesn’t happen by accident. I’ve never paid a penny for advertising, and may never do so. If you write decent books and find a readership by putting the hours in on social media sites and book blogs, readers will keep buying them.

    I totally agree with all you said about reviews, btw. I can’t stand bad grammar or sloppy editing, but if a book is great but has a few missing commas, so what. It is a very personal thing, though. What makes a book unreadable for one will not bother another. And you’re right about drawing attention to bad reviews, too. As long as there are not lots of them, in a way they are to be celebrated. It means your marketing is working, you are reaching the reading public, instead of just your cosy circle of fellow writers and bloggers!

    I think book reviews are really important. I always read them before buying, and not just on books! I agree about the frustration that comes with many people’s view of self-pub books, too. I agree with many of your points! But mostly I just…. write. Do not be downhearted, you produce professional books and have built up a good following! And trying to make money out of a creative enterprise has never, and will never, be easy,.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Terry. Not especially downhearted, I think I’m just blunt, or maybe drawn to the truth and tired of all those happy clappy blog posts – or maybe I’m just a miserable old cuss! (Although they do say that miserable old truth seekers make the best writers… 🙂


    1. Well, I’m a miserable old truth seeker, so maybe there is hope for me yet! I get fed up with the happy-clappy stuff, too. The more the market becomes saturated, the more blog posts are written about how you CAN do it, mostly by people who want you to purchase their marketing services! I think so many articles give new writers the wrong impression, too; I came across a girl recently who is writing short stories and plans to write a novel. I asked her if she was going to self pub, go with an indie press or try for agents and Big 5. She said, oh, I’ll be getting an agent, I’ll start submitting when the novel’s written. I think she’s been given the impression by all these posts she reads that if you write it, they will come 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Eek at reading comments I left over 3 years ago!

    My outlook on paying for advertising has changed, btw. I had 2 BookBubs a couple of years ago, which were amazing, and now I just put one book on free every month, and pay for promotion for it on Freebooksy. I sometimes use eReaderIQ, Ereader Cafe and ManyBooks as well; they are cheaper, but have less subscribers. This keeps it all ticking over, with lots of Kindle Unlimited page reads. Newer books I will put on at 99p, and for this I use Bargain Booksy.

    On some of the sites you can pay a little more to advertise a whole series – which would be great for your books! I don’t think you can calculate if you break even financially, because the promos raise your visibility on Amazon, generally, and you never know which future sales are because of it.


    1. Interesting, Terry! The goalposts change all the time. Admit I haven’t paid for years for any kind of promotion, but then I’m not writing either! (Despite all the lockdown time I’ve found little enthusiasm.) Like you say, I do wish we could pinpoint where sales have come from…


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