The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Writers breathlessly running toward Kindle like lemmings seeking a cliff

“This is what I say to people who tell me they want to write. It takes 3-4 hours per day of guided practice, I pause, for ten years…The ones who don’t flinch have a better shot.” – Julianna Baggott in “You Want to Write, or Do You Want to Be a Writer?”

kindlereaders

It’s a race, isn’t it? We write. We upload to Kindle. We’re published.

  • LAUNCH PARTY. . .Enter my Give-Away on GoodReads. . .Question: Which Hollywood stars best fit the characters in my book?…Squeeeeee, I’m so excited!!!!!!!!!!!! …Buy my book….LOOK: My first Amazon reviewNeed Christmas gifts? “Beyond Disbelief” is the perfect stocking stuffer for everyone who still believes in Santa Claus.
  • What happens now? The answer is nothing.

We might sell a couple hundred copies. We might give away another 500 copies. But after that, the answer is still nothing, though we may not notice because we’re racing to write, upload our next effort to Kindle and say, “Yay, published again.”

I know. I’ve fallen off the cliffs designed for writers by Lulu, Smashwords, CreateSpace and iUniverse. And then I Tweeted (carefully, so it wouldn’t look like SPAM) to hundreds, saw my carefully prepared status updates scroll across the timelines of 1,400 Facebook friends, and connected with others on FriendFeed, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Like the others who were falling, or who were about to be falling, off the cliffs, I hoped somebody out there would rescue my work from the cluttered scrapheap of books published every day.

It was like waiting for Santa Claus.

Now that she has released her third novel since 1992, Donna Tartt (“Goldfinch”) is being talked about again. In a world where books are racing off the Kindle assembly lines and being chatted about endlessly (to no avail) in the social media, the people who know books are asking (rhetorically), “What the hell has Donna Tartt been doing?”

I suspect, as Hemingway might say, “She was getting the words right.”

The words in many of those Kindle books currently falling off the cliff into oblivion might not be too broke to fix. But they won’t be, partly because there seemed to be some urgent need to get them published. Some of the writers racing to Kindle are asked why they didn’t go with a traditional publisher where their words would be fine-tuned by editors and proofreaders.

“Too time consuming,” some say. “Too uncertain,” others proclaim.

What’s the hurry? And what’s so appealing about throwing a novel off the Kindle cliff even though the pile of books at the bottom is, truth be told, a certainty?

We have to need to write more than we need to say, “yay, I’m published.”

“But need keeps coming,” says Baggott. “It’s an engine that drives and drives and drives. It has its own will. It says, Ten years? I’ll give you a lifetime.”

How long does it take to get the words right? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is choosing not to publish them a moment sooner.

Malcolm

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9 thoughts on “Writers breathlessly running toward Kindle like lemmings seeking a cliff

  1. Interesting post! I’m not very up to speed on the world of Kindle publishing so this was a very helpful account.

    Also, while I definitely take your point about spending enough time to fine tune what you’re trying to say, I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a point where I’m completely comfortable that I’ve gotten my words just ‘right’. But not rushing towards the Kindle cliff like ‘lemmings’ (as you say) seems a worthwhile caution! x

  2. melindaclayton on said:

    This makes me feel much better about being a very slow writer. Someone on a Kindle Direct Publishing thread a few weeks ago asked, “How many books do you guys publish a month?” A month??? I can’t even manage one per year!

  3. Will the sheer amount of microwave writers discredit the quality writers that choose to use Amazon or other ebook publishing route?

    My concern is this, I see the publishing industry as being in serious need to embrace the digital world. So far they have done a fair job, but so much potential is being missed. Once “traditional” publishing embraces digital to it’s full potential, will it be too late? Will the “shoot from the hip” writers destroy the credibility of digital before then?

    • I recently saw a news story that said PRINT is no longer a certainty in contracts from BIG PUBLISHERS. Perhaps this is an indication that the mainstream world is slowly coming around to digital. I don’t think the hurry-up-and-publish writers will destroy digital because a fair number of people are already buying the digital editions of books by big name authors. If anything, the glut of self-published books is (possibly) the biggest obstacle to self-published books. It’s hard to stand out in the crowd no matter how well written the book may be.

  4. Oh well done. it ALL seems so instant now – I get offered books endlessly to read (self-published, mainly) and of course the big advantage of Kindle is you can look inside, see, in the main, writing which is like chewing on silver paper, and, kindly but firmly, decline.

    I’m not into fast food, instant this or that, fine wines, fine books, fine whisky and fine trees, all take time!.

    And yes, The Goldfinch was absolutely worth its maturing time!

    • Yes, fine whiskey and many wines need to age before they become fine. I know the feeling about rushing to print. The bills are piling up and it’s easy to think an angel might see a self-published book, love it, show it to Random House, and suddenly there’s a six-figure offer. You’re right, Kindle does make it easy to see how the book reads; fortunately, the LOOK INSIDE preview feature on B&N and Amazon also lets us do that with print books. Thanks for stopping by, Lady Fancifull

      • Yes, daft me (rushing!) I meant the Look Inside. Of course good old fashioned browsing in a good old fashioned bookshop gives the same possibility, but these are for books which get publishers.

        Mind you, publication itself no guarantee of literary glory either, when often something poorly written or mediocre is puffed and padded by a marketing department. And the professional reviewing world is not exempt from that either – you scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours. I probably trust the passionate reader without an obvious payback most, now. Whether it is a friend with some similar tastes, or Amazon reviewers or bloggers with some similar tastes.

        Good luck with the time, the angels and Random House!

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