Not every self-published indie author is bad. There actually are some very good ones. But they're the exception, not the rule.
Like with everything else, talent is rare. Just because you know how to ice skate without falling on your ass, doesn't mean you're an Olympic speed skater.
Shakespeare was one in a million. That makes you pretty unique, if there's only one million people.
But when there's a hundred million people, then being one in a million means there are 100 people just as talented as you.
In a country of 300 million people, there are 300 people like you. And in a world of seven billion people, you're competing with 7000 other people who are every bit as good as you. I wonder if Shakespeare would have gotten famous if he lived today, and had to compete with 7000 other Shakespeares.
Hundreds of years ago, the population was a lot smaller. That made it easier for a unique person to stand out from the bland crowd. But today there are hundreds of thousands of writers. To stand out among so much competition, it's simply not enough anymore to be one in a million.
You may be an amazingly talented writer, and still not get your book published as a worldwide bestseller, because there are so many other amazingly talented Shakespeares out there, and there's just not enough room for everyone. No matter how good you are, the world simply doesn't need yet another Shakespeare. The world will go on spinning just fine without you. That's sad and unfair, but that's just the reality of today's overcrowded, oversaturated world.
"99 out of 100 geniuses perish without being discovered."
But let's be honest: You're probably not the next Shakespeare or Hemingway or Steinbeck anyway. You're probably a housewife who likes to read smutty "romance" books, and you realized that Fifty Shades of Grey was so poorly written, so amateurish, that even you could write a book like Fifty Shades.
So after you picked up your children from soccer practice and made dinner, you hastily typed away on your old laptop, and basically retold Fifty Shades in your own words, the way kids retell a movie they just watched. You changed the names and some details, but you basically retold the same stupid story. Just like a million other wannabe writers.
Scroll through a list of books online, and you will find page after page after page of book covers with shirtless guys and titles that scream BILLIONAIRE ROMANCE! or ALPHA-MALE PARANORMAL WEREWOLF ROMANCE! or something equally ridiculous. All these shitty books look like clones of each other. There's not an original thought in sight.
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But if there's a shirtless guy on your cover, or your title includes the words billionaire, alpha-male, werewolf or werebear, your "book" is probably a pile of unimaginative, derivative drivel devoid of a single original thought. Yet another poorly written romance clone the world didn't need.
Nowadays, there are not just thousands of Shakespeares out there, but also millions of mediocre or absolutely terrible "authors" who self-publish a neverending flood of garbage thanks to the invention of ebooks and print-on-demand.
Just because you know the alphabet doesn't mean you're a writer. And just because you can write down a bunch of sentences doesn't mean you're an author.
You could literally self-publish a book that contains no text except the word "tomato" repeated a thousand times in a row. Would that make you a writer? Of course not.
Real writers have original thoughts. They bring something new to the table. They don't write the same story that has already been told by a thousand other people. They enrich the world with new thoughts that have value. Thoughts that force you to see something new, or to see something in a new light. Real writers make you think about what you just read.
Wannabe writers love to pretend that they are veteran book industry insiders. And they spout off absolute bullshit with such sincerity, it almost sounds true.
A lot of them like to make-believe that they are Young Adult authors. The funny thing is, they don't even know what the label Young Adult actually means.
They think it means the protagonists in the book are teenagers. It doesn't matter what the book is about, as long as the protagonists are teenagers, it's a YA book.
By that definition, my book Bad Choices Make Good Stories, in all its hyper-realistic, uncensored and extremely explicit glory, would be a Young Adult book, because the protagonist is a teenage hacker.
If you've read it, you know how absurd that is.
The reality is, and this will shock you if you are a clueless wannabe writer, the YA label is the equivalent of the PG13 label in the movie industry.
YA is the label the real book industry uses to designate books that are written for children between 12 and 18 years old.
I know. You can't even.
I'm gonna give you a minute.
Better? Ok, so, yeah, YA doesn't mean "any book where the protagonist is a teenager." YA means it's a book that was written for the simpler minds of 12 to 18 year old kids. Regardless of the topic. There are YA books about every imaginable topic. Just like grown up books. So, what makes YA books different from grown up books? YA books are written for the minds of children.
YA books are easier to read (and easier to write) than grown up books, because they require less intellectual maturity than grown up books.
That's one of the problems with today's flood of crappy, uninspired books. Particularly Young Adult books. Most of them have no intellectual value. There's nothing in there that will grow your mind. No new information that you haven't already read better somewhere else. There's no meat and potatoes for your brain in most of the shit that gets self-published these days.
Calling a book "Young Adult" is just a fancy way of saying the book is censored. People used to say they like to read books about romance, true crime, comedy, horror or science fiction. But these days people simply say they like to read "Young Adult" books. As if that were a topic. But that's the thing: Young Adult is not a topic, it's a level of censorship. Saying "I like Young Adult books" is just another way of saying "I like books that have been dumbed down for children. I like books with no big words and no difficult abstract concepts. Nothing that will strain my brain."
"The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience."
But don't take my word for it. Look it up in the dictionary. Or google it. Google will send you to Wikipedia. Google always sends people to Wikipedia when they look up what words mean. You know why? Wikipedia is trustworthy. Sure, occasionally there might be a mistake. Just like in any other dictionary. But Wikipedia is almost always right.
So, what does the Wikipedia dictionary have to say about Young Adult books?
"Young adult fiction (YA) is a category of fiction published for readers in their youth. YA books are catered towards children between 12 to 18 years old."
In case you're one of those sheepish idiots who think nothing on Wikipedia is true, because that's what everyone else says, here's another dictionary definition for you:
an age group including persons from about 12 years to about 18 years old: used as a reader category in libraries, book publishing, etc."
-Webster's New World College Dictionary
If that comes as a surprise to you, you are absolutely clueless about the actual book industry, as opposed to your circle of role playing wannabe writer friends on Facebook.
Have you ever heard of the National Writers Union? If you were a real writer, you would have.
People like to brag that they used to start reading at an early age, as if that were a badge of honor, a sign of intelligence. Nobody brags about when they started to watch TV. But books are being dumbed down so much these days, it's really not a sign of great intelligence when you're a grown up and you struggle your way through Green Eggs and Ham.
Nowadays, so many unbelievably shitty books are being self-published, it's really nothing to be proud of to read that garbage. It doesn't make you sound smart when you brag about reading 65 shitty billionaire cookie-cutter romance novels in a row last year.
Young Adult is simply a censorship label, like PG13. Now imagine if someone said "My favorite movies are PG13 movies!" That would be a little odd, no? Like, why is the level of censorship of a movie so important to you that you need to make it a point to watch only PG13 movies, regardless of what they're about? Shouldn't the topic or the quality of the movie be more important than its level of censorship?
Or to put it another way: I would never describe Lord of The Rings as a YA book (or a PG13 movie.) I would describe it as a fantasy novel, or a hero's quest. The Catcher in the Rye is not a YA book either. It's a coming-of-age novel.
Another hilariously common misconception among wannabe writers is that erotica and porn are two different things.
Supposedly porn is smurt. Dirty and gross. But erotica is literature. Supposedly porn doesn't have a plot. It's just sex. But erotica has a story line.
Complete bullshit. There are lots and lots of pornos with elaborate plots, like the movie Pirates XXX.
So why do they believe that erotica and porn are two different things? Because that's what all the other rookie wannabe writers keep saying, so it must be true. They're all just repeating the uninformed, clueless bullshit they hear in their little echo chamber.
It also has to do with the fact that Americans don't know a lot about the outside world. They don't know anything about foreign languages or history. They have no idea that the word erotica is thousands of years old, and has always meant one thing: sexually explicit material. Then, not so long ago, we started to use a more modern word for sexually explicit material: porn. Language is fluid.
But porn and erotica mean literally, exactly, precisely the same thing. Both mean sexually explicit material. The name erotica is just a lot older than the name porn.
Google Ancient Roman Erotica. Or Ancient Greek Erotica. Or Ancient Egyptian Erotica. Then click on the Google button for image results.
Take a look at those results. It's hardcore porn. Thousands of years old. Sexually explicit material. Ancient porn. And what word is used to describe old porn? Erotica.
Most wannabe erotica authors know nothing about any of that. They know nothing about the thousand-year history of erotica prior to Fifty Shades. They never even heard the word erotica before Fifty Shades.
So now they think somehow Fifty Shades is a new genre, called erotica. They have no idea that erotica has always existed, for thousands of years, and it was always the name for sexually explicit material, or in a more modern term, porn.
They think porn is bad, so they don't want to be seen as mere porn peddlers. They want to make-believe that they're real authors. So they swear that erotica and porn are two different things, and that they write artsy fartsy erotica. Sure, it's sexually explicit material, but noooo don't call it porn!
And because tens of thousands of wannabe writers believe that, you probably believe it too.
But when you search for erotica on Thesaurus.com, guess what? The #1 synonym for erotica is porn. And the description for erotica and for porn are identical.
Another thing I see them say on Facebook is that you must always write: Write write write!
Here's a better idea: Only write when you actually have something original to say. Until then, don't write. In the meantime: Think think think!
Some wannabe authors like to go to homemade author conventions. By homemade I mean it's not a big, legit convention. It's a small get-together, arranged by a wannabe writer. And then a couple of other wannabe writers come, too. Then they all sit in a room with a couple of their books that nobody wants to read and hope to sell a copy or two. Usually to each other.
Sometimes they travel hundreds of miles to these wannabe conventions. Supposedly to sell books. But the handful of books they sell, if they even sell any, don't turn a profit. The travel expenses, and printing flyers, promotional posters, table stands or banners, cost far more than the couple of bucks they make from selling a few copies to each other.
It's almost like a bake sale, where everyone brings a homemade pie.
Some of them even give away free gifts with their books. Like bookmarks or lip gloss with their name printed on it. Seriously. They call it bling. Apparently they believe this will make people want to read their book.
I think they're simply doing all that to role play and make-believe that they're real authors: "I have an assistant! And I go to author conventions! I'm a real writer! Even if nobody wants to read my books unless I beg or pay them."
They like to believe it's an investment in their future career. Just like wannabe actors in Hollywood, spending a ton of money because they want to believe it brings them closer to their dream.
Well, there you have it. The ugly truth about the self-publishing dream.
You might be angry with me now for writing these things. Or grateful. I guess it depends on whether you're a real writer or just a clueless wannabe.
But even if you are an angry clueless wannabe, reading this little book might save you a lot of money and heartache. Maybe writing just isn't your thing after all. There's no shame in that. Maybe you're really good at karaoke instead. Or scrapbooking.
I think a lot of wannabe authors would have thought twice about spending so much money on self-publishing and promoting a shitty book, if they had known that it's shitty, and they're not gonna sell any copies because no one wants to read it.
If you're a real writer: Good luck to you. It's tough out there. But you know that already.