Another Kindleboards-inspired post. This time the topic was “Good Writing vs Good Promotion: Which Is More Important To Success?”.
First of all, I’d like to preface this with the definition of ‘success’ I’m going to be using, which is purely in terms of sales. Amanda Hocking gets hundreds of thousands of sales a month, therefore she is a ‘success’. With that said, she’s not a good writer.
Before I go any further I’d just like to say that I don’t begrudge AH her success or wish her ill or anything like that, and I’m certainly not envious of her position. When I say ‘she’s not a good writer’ I mean her sentences are clumsy, she often uses the wrong word, her characters are flat and unengaging, her dialogue is clichéd, she head-hops a lot and so on. I recently read a review of Hollowland titled “If you enjoy mediocrity, read this book!” That pretty much sums it up. With time and effort she may improve, I think she’s got potential, but as it stands there’s nothing special about her writing. Additionally, her books are poorly formatted and in serious need of editing, just reading the sample for Hollowland I picked up dozens of basic errors. So it’s not ‘quality’ that’s selling her books, at least not in the sense that I judge quality (others will disagree, I’m sure). Partly it’s the genre she’s writing in that’s helped her achieve success; paranormal romance is hot right now, and at the time she attained her first success there were millions of readers out there who wanted nothing more than ‘more Twilight’, which is what she provided (she wasn’t specifically chasing Twilight’s success, to be clear, she just happened to be writing for that audience). She promoted herself and her books in a smart way, she used social networking effectively, and she was writing what people wanted–which was not ‘good writing’ as I judge it. Basically, and this is a difficult truth, quality does not necessarily sell, because most people don’t want quality. They just want ‘familiar’. More of what they recognise, more of what they know is acceptable to like. So more than being a ‘good writer’, if you want success in the Amanda Hocking sense then you need to be good at promoting yourself. This is true with anything, if you don’t put yourself forward, you’re going to be ignored. Good writing is almost a separate thing, because the number of people for whom ‘good writing’ is important is comparatively small.
And so, I think the formula is less like:
good writing + good promotion = success
And more like:
acceptable standard of writing (which is pretty low) + smart promotion + “right place, right time” + luck = success
Speaking for myself, I don’t promote much, because I don’t mind if I never achieve success. I’m happy just quietly writing and slowly but surely improving at my craft, and time spent promoting is time not writing. I like talking to people and I like giving away free books, so those two things are what I mostly do as far as ‘promotion’ goes, and I’m very happy with this (I’m not a natural self-promoter and I’m not very good at it, at least as far as ‘selling’ is concerned, so I just do what’s comfortable for me). For me, it’s satisfying and fun enough just to write a book, if other people also enjoy my work then that’s just a splendid bonus.
In closing I’d just like to once again clarify, no ill-will here towards Amanda Hocking, and apologies for any offence caused–she’s just such a perfect example of ‘good writing’ versus ‘good promotion’. Many, many people enjoy her books, and that’s great. Everyone has different things that are important to them, and that’s great too! Diversity is so important. I wish Amanda Hocking, and every other indie author out there, all the success in the world.