Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It Comes Down To One Thing: The Book

The internet has been a buzz with interesting articles and talk. Is there a YA mafia? Oh, how I love a good conspiracy. Is the publishing industry going to finally burn in apocalyptic flames? Oh, how I love me some doom and gloom. Is self-publishing the new revolution in which all we authors stick it to The Man? Oh, how I love a good, bloody revolution...

Overall, it seems to me there's a heavy helping of paranoia out there. And we all know how healthy that is. Nothing like paranoia to get people hiding their savings in secret safes. Better build that bomb shelter while you're at it.

That might sound a little rude, but seriously, can we all chill out here a little? Yes, I know change is scary. I know we're all trying to get into (or stay in) a business that is increasingly hard to crack. But no matter how much things change, no matter if there are secret societies blocking you, no matter if the four horsemen swoop down and demolish publishing, no matter if self-publishing goes all French Revolution on books, there is still only one thing that matters:

A Good Story.

Stories will never die. We have all of human history as example. Millions of stories over thousands of years. People love stories, no matter the form. So if you have a good story in you, chances are people will want to hear it in one way or another.

If you get a case of the paranoia, don't forget this. Because it's truth. Yes, maybe knowing someone can get your book to the top of some pile, but that doesn't matter jack if it's not well-written and the person doesn't connect with it. Yes, maybe publishing is struggling, but it will not die—we won't let it die. Who the crap wants it to die? There is so much we can do to encourage and support reading and books, in whatever form.

But I do understand the paranoia, really. I've been there many a time. When I was querying my dragon book, I thought maybe people were out to get me. I got a lot of requests—more than with any other book. Why? Because the query was awesome. The query also was miles better than my book, because I'd had more people revise my query than my manuscript. So partials got rejected over and over, and I got frustrated because I didn't understand. They liked the query! They should like the book! Never mind that guilty pit in my stomach, mumbling that I hadn't revised it as I should.

And being on sub for 15 months? Oh boy, can that make you paranoid. If they think the writing is "so great," then why aren't they buying? Why won't they give me a chance? I've done everything they asked and still I can't get anyone to like it enough to buy.

It's a helpless feeling. And when I feel that way, I start looking outside myself for something to blame. There has to be some kind of conspiracy! Right? It's not my fault. I'm putting in the work. I'm doing what I'm told. So what is the deal?

Well, there isn't a conspiracy. Nor an impending apocalypse. Though, well, some kind of revolution is at hand, but let's hope it's not the French kind. It's really quite simple—there are a lot of good books out there, and only so many spots to be filled. That's always how it is in any creative field. Sometimes it comes down to having the right book at the right time, and that's all.

Write a good story, and people will want to read it. Plain and simple.


  1. I do hope we don't have a French-esque Revolution in publishing. Imagine the spilled ink! The return of the guillotine! Goodness, not the King of Books! Do not behead the symbol for Marie Antoinette! Goodness!!!

    Awesome post. I'm going to sit and ride the waves myself. Whatever happens I'll just have to work to my benefit.

  2. Fantastic post, Natalie. You and Kiersten on laying on the tough love today and, as always, it's much needed. ((hugs))

  3. I'm not too scared, honestly. If the industry shifts a bit, just means that changing with it is a good thing.

    And bottom line, well you already said that! Good story=the most important thing!

  4. Meh. Self-publishing's been "threatening" commercial publishing at least once a decade since the printing press. I think somewhere in all this a few people have equated all e-books with self-publishing, and that's not what it is at all.

    If you can make a go of it on your own, Yay you.

    If you make it to the top of the NYT bestseller list straight off the press, Yay you.

    If you end up with a grassroots best-seller, Yay you.

    If you're the next "popcorn" writer who sells a bajillion books while the "real" writers scratch their heads and wonder how it happened, then, YAY YOU!

    Publishing may be in an uncertain place right now, but equilibrium will straighten things out again on one side or the other.

  5. Great post, Natalie. It's so true--we ALL have those moments when we'd like someone to blame. It's natural. And as long as we recognize what we're doing it and move on, we're fine.

    But when we stay in that place, insisting on a scapegoat for our lack of success, that's when the conspiracies start.

  6. Thanks for always being a reassuring and in-a- good-way sane voice out here. :)

  7. Very well said.

    I made a post on Jody Hedlund's blog saying that all these concerns about how hard it is to get published have been with us for years. They are universal. The only thing that has changed is the ease with which we can communicate our fears to one another, so it makes it seem like it's become harder.

  8. DRAGONS ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD???? Speaking of writing good books, I can't wait until you get back to writing yours. :) Want.

  9. It's like we're best friends or something.

  10. Love this Natalie and you're right - there will always be stories and there will always be people who LOVE stories. But yeah, they have to be good stories :)

    This whole YA Mafia thing makes me laugh!

  11. Another awesome post--and it's so true :) I wish SO many people would read this, and just relax a little bit with all the panic.

  12. It's funny, I always thought it was my own fault for not being published, because I just couldn't do everything perfectly.

    But one of those things I thought I wasn't doing perfectly was 'networking'. I mean, 10 years ago in SFF, networking was strongly encouraged and supported as a way of getting a foot in the door. It's discouraging and confusing now to see so many professionals claiming the opposite.

  13. well I hope self-publishing does bring the revolution, because there shouldn't be only so many spots for the really good books. That means there are great books out there I won't be able to read that I could have loved.

  14. "can we all chill out here a little?"

    I certainly hope so. I've overdosed on hype and doomsday scenarios, and I'm just trying to take this ride one day at a time.

  15. We should embrace all opportunities to share great stories whether it comes in an indie or traditionally published form.

  16. Hi Natalie,
    I'm new to post, but wanted to tell you how much I love your blog. You always seem to say the right thing, right when I need to hear it. Thank you for inspiring me, lowering my writerly anxiety, and keeping me focused on what's important - like the story!

  17. I don't get paranoid about it. Sure, I'll read the articles and posts, but then I just shrug my shoulders and keep writing. If the story's good, people will want to read it, like you said.

    And also, no French-esque revolutions please. I'm reading a novel now that takes place during that time...super scary stuff!

  18. I love you. I say tht so often it must be creepy. Sorry.

    I agree though. People get all caughtup in all the wrong things. Knowing the industry is important. Understanding the technology is important. Seeing the trends is important. Blogging is important. Studing the craft is important.

    But there is still only one way to write a book. And that is to write a book.

  19. This is a great post and you are right. It all comes down to a good story, and people will always want to read a good story. :)

  20. It all starts with the story, and it ends with the story. It's like seeing a hunky guy with great tan, but he is a brainless jerk, so nothing can happen. The story has to be strong, and get the reader seduced all the way. good posting.

  21. I am self publishing my first book and I am super excitted becuase I know its a good book and I know people well love it.
    I took the time to get it professionaly edited (it is in the process) and I am getting cover art for it and everyting.
    I just want to do it the right way and have more power over it.
    that is my biggest reason, I know it would get published for "real" buuuut. I want more say.
    control freak ladies and gentlment!