Good vs. Bad book? Don’t Judge

(loudandcleargraphics.co.uk)

K.M. Weiland is an excellent resource for writers of all types. Her website Helping Writers Become Authors should be on everyone’s short list of helpful websites. Also, her books on writing are excellent and merge well with Agile Writer theory. But, in a recent site article by Katherine Marsh entitled “Why Do So Many Bad Books Sell on Amazon?” steps over the line from advice to judgement. Let me explain.

In the article Marsh explains that Amazon has started promoting eBooks that are newer – like only 30 days old. This has allowed ‘ghost writers’ to churn out new stories using a template from a previous book (replace princess with enchantress, replace castle with mansion, etc…). Thus, these writers are producing a book a month and getting (presumably) good sales.

What Ms. Marsh argues is that this promotes ‘bad books’. At Agile Writers the definition of success is getting your book into the hands of readers who want them. If readers are buying these copycats, then they are probably satisfied. Otherwise, they’d return them (you *can* return eBooks, you know). Therefore, these are not bad books. They are finding a home with people who crave the same plot lines with different characters and locations. The Romance genre is rife with this sort of churning.

And that’s, Okay.

It’s the responsibility of the author to work the system – to play the game – to get their work into the hands of readers who want to read it. Knowing how the game is played and then playing the game well does that.

Ms. Marsh goes on to lay out a plan to deliver *good* books (in her estimation) by splitting a novel into segments that are released every 30 days. This is a brilliant strategy the uses the Amazon system to the author’s benefit. There is no need to qualify ‘good’ vs. ‘bad.’

The READER determines what is good or bad, not the author – and not the algorithms at Amazon nor the publishers in the ivory towers of the Big Four publishing houses.

I heartily recommend Ms. Marsh’s article because it lays out the information you’ll need to get your book in front of more readers’ eyes.

However, this should be only one arrow in your quiver of promotional tools. Remember – Amazon is a *destination* site. People go there because THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR. Impulse buys on Amazon are far less likely than in a bricks-and-mortar store like Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. People go to bookstores, newsstands, drug stores, and others without knowing precisely what book they want – if any.

But because the self-published author doesn’t have the advantage of in-store sales, we have to rely on self-promotion. And by self-promotion I mean social media and search advertising.

Learn the rules of the game. Then play the game well. The definition of a ‘good book’ is one that finds its reader. Make sure your book finds its home in the hands of the reader waiting for it.

4 thoughts on “Good vs. Bad book? Don’t Judge

  1. Greg – I liked your blog post and your response to Ms. Weiland, but the question still remains…don’t some of these authors understand th value of good editing? I find myself terribly disappointed by the number of books published / self-published that are lacking good editorship. Just my thoughts!

    • Judy,

      Yes, to everything you said. I agree with you, and with Ms. Marsh, that we should deliver the best possible book we can. And still, there are those who are so enrapt with joy to find $Free or $0.99 stories that don’t have polish on them. Remember “pulp fiction?” This may be the new digital version of pulp.

      However, for the discerning reader, it’s a bit of buyer beware. Now, you have to pay close attention to ratings and other red flags before you “click to download” your latest Kindle Unlimited prize. More and more it’s not the money you’re paying, but the time it takes to read the book.

      To that end, check out GoodReads.com. I think (despite the fact that they are still Amazon) have a more honest rating system. That should help separate the wheat from the chaff.

      Thanks for writing and Continued Success!

      Greg

  2. Hey! Awesome that you’re kicking off discussion on your own blog. I think you have a healthy attitude – this is Amazon’s game, and it’s the job to play it.

    I failed to mention that my company is in KU, which is Amazon exclusive, so yeah, you’re totally right. There are MANY more places a non-KU author can go, and it’s a completely different game, especially in the genres that aren’t KU-tastic. We’re in fantasy, romance, military fantasy and space adventure, and thriller, which are all KU audiences.

    ‘At Agile Writers the definition of success is getting your book into the hands of readers who want them. If readers are buying these copycats, then they are probably satisfied. Otherwise, they’d return them (you *can* return eBooks, you know). Therefore, these are not bad books. They are finding a home with people who crave the same plot lines with different characters and locations. The Romance genre is rife with this sort of churning.’

    Right – this is absolutely true, and what makes self-publishing great. I didn’t intend to make a value judgment. I should have said poor GRAMMAR – not poor writing. Good writing or storytelling is entirely subjective, and especially in the case of entertainment fiction, not really valid to judge. We in vampire and occult romance are certainly not high literature, lololol!

    Furthermore, the quality of a book does not matter for gamification purposes. It really, truly doesn’t, not even if something has a 1.7 star average.
    Amazon’s algorithms don’t care WHAT the heck you have in your books, as long as you deliver the goods on time and on-trend. In the notorious case of ‘A Boy And His Donkey,’ a book that was nothing but Lorem Ipsom and read-botted for KU money, it took an embarrassingly long time for Amazon to take it down.

    • Thanks for writing back. I think this is a healthy discussion and I appreciate your positive feedback! You’re spot-on about keeping the content as ‘clean’ as possible. That is, free from errors (typos, grammar, etc…). Anything the gets in the way of the reader’s enjoyment and immersion is a negative for your product. However, there is a growing swath of readers who don’t pay any mind to technique. “Know your audience.”

      Great article, great discussion, and Continued Success!

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