Bad Books and Lessons Learned: Part One

You’ve seen them. You know they’re out there. Perhaps you’ve even handled a few. I’m talking about bad books. From unedited fan fictions that are self-publishing sensations to traditionally published bestsellers that your friends tell you’ll love, only for you to realize your friends don’t know or love you at all. The point is they are out there. They’re taking up space on bookshelves. They, well, exist.

So what can you do about it? Pout most likely. Ball up your fist to shake at the sky while you curse the publishing gods (don’t worry, I’ve done it too). Well, those are a couple of ways to go about it. Another way is the Joe Hill approach. As I listened to an interview the author did where someone spoke up about books that are considered bad that became successful while he was still building his name and brand. Here’s how he responded: “Hey, art is art, man. What you like is what you like. Apparently there are plenty of people who did like those books enough to fatten the pockets of all involved. To tell you the truth I read these types of books. Not because I’m a masochist but because they made it big, so I can try to figure out why.”

There’s plenty of truth in this as many books make it onto store shelves and libraries that make you wonder “how in the world did this get approved?” Outside of the universe hating you there are plenty of other reasons this happens. So what can we learn from so called bad books?

Know your audience.

Good books and bad books know what their audience wants, whether it be punchy dialogue or multiple book boyfriends that the lead can’t seem to decide between. It’s not that someone may write better than you, it’s that they can read their audience and give them exactly what they want.

Let your voice sing.

There was a very popular book that came out a couple years that I bought on people’s recommendation. They made it sound so amazing, fun and full of magic. So I read it . . . and I listened to it as read by one of my favorite audio book narrators. My lord, I was bored senseless. I’ve come across quite a few people afterwards who reported having the same problem with it. One thing we all agreed on was the voice, the way the words flowed, was absolutely beautiful. The author took great care in the words used, making it poetry. In the end you wanted to go right along the road of nonevent to nonevent just as long as the words didn’t stop. Take care of your words and they’ll take care of your story. But please add a story.

Use your assets.

In this day and age it’s almost impossible to get noticed without some type of internet presence. The whole world is there to sell your book to, but the whole world is trying to sell theirs as well. So how do you stand out?

This brings me to a beef I have with a certain self-published author. This author, who I refuse to name, used Kickstarter to get their book out. I’m not knocking building your audience and brand through this platform, it’s incredibly difficult. Selling books through Kickstarter or Indiegogo is a hassle and the numbers prove it with only around two percent of books put up get funded. My problem with this particular person was the fact that for rewards she offered to do videos wearing tighter shirts. Grr. Before I hear any feedback, no, I did not back this. However plenty did so she got multiple books out with outlandish art from top artists in the comic book field, yada yada yada.

I’m not saying to do anything along this line (please don’t). But if there’s anything to take away from this it’s use your assets whatever they may be. Have a smile that lights up the night? Make sure you’re smiling in your profile and author pics. Love cats? Let the world see your cat love. Are you a culinary wunderkind? Present those foodie masterpieces. There’s more to you than just being a writer or mom/ dad. We all have a bit of something that makes us stand out. Learn to flaunt it and let that build your audience as well.

Hmmm… Went on a little rant there. I suppose that’s enough for now. There’s plenty for another.

Until then have a writeous day!

Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.