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Publishing's Dirty Little Secret

My motto is, "Life is too short for bad fiction." 

There is nothing that makes me happier than finding a new writer whose world building and plotting submurges me on page one and does not let me breathe again until the last page is turned. There are images from stories that will haunt me for life. Exquisite word usage is icing on the cream cake.These are the books I hate to leave for a moment, the ones I will stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish, the kind of series I binge read more than once. Sadly, they aren't as common as I'd like.

The Story Building Blocks series is the result of my research into what it takes to become one of those skilled authors. It's a selfish thing. As a book addict, I want more reading highs.

Editors and agents fight over brilliant wordsmiths and unique storytellers. Skillful writing is damned hard work. Writers flock to classes and workshops, eager to become those authors, the only kind gatekeepers admit to opening the front door for. I worship those willing to do the work. So many give up when they realize a first draft isn't the key to fame and fortune, even though they have a natural gift.

I have discovered indy-pubbed authors I'd place in the brilliant category that were ignored by traditional publishers. I am truly thankful they found their own launch pad and happily promote them every chance I get.

There are snobs who can debate what constitutes "literature" for days. Some of those books are snooze-fests. The majority of stories that sell well are written simply, but they have a unique story world, character, or plot twist that makes up for their flaws even if they aren't Nobel prize material.

But here's publishing's dirty little secret: shit sells.

It has always sold. Publishers have a dark, dingy back door that lets authors in as long as they can churn out a constant stream of mediocrity to feed the demand. Unpolished schlock from bodice rippers to gore fests to plodding mysteries have always sold like hotcakes in the form of melodramas of old to cheap paperbacks to fulfill genre demand. These authors make a comfortable living. I don't begrudge them the money. If there wasn't a demand, they wouldn't sell a single book.

In addition, publishers are guilty of guilding some serious turds. They put a lot of money into marketing them and, if a little bit of the gilt falls off, they have already made their profit. Those millions often help launch other projects they love that have less reach. So, more power y'all.

When those stinking dumps of excrement rise meteorically, aspiring authors think, "What the heck? What is all this fuss about writing well when this dreck makes millions?" I share your confusion and disdain. Then I remember low-brow reality television shows get more ratings than quality screenwriting.

You don't have to invest months, perhaps years, of honing skills to become a first-class writer to make money. Nowadays there are book feeding frenzies, usually sparked by a best-seller. By carefully tracking the chum of the week, an author can make a small fortune writing and uploading a first-draft novella or two a month. It still involves a lot of elbow grease, just a different kind. You have to be on topic, prolific, master the formatting and uploading process, and know how to promote online.

Self-publishing didn't create the phenomenon. It just made the process easier and cut out the pimps who sneered at the illicit trade but were all too happy to pocket the money.

If you aren't concerned with quality, there has never been a better time to pinch your nose and start shoveling.

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