Friday, 3 December 2010

Novels need readers

A novel only half exists until someone reads it. The reader completes the process the author began, which is why it's so very unsatisfactory to be an unpublished writer.

I hadn't fully realized this until I self-published Remix. I'd got intimations from members of YouWriteOn and Authonomy who read and reviewed the first few thousand words, but until members of the public choose to pay for your book and spend hours of their time reading it right the way through, you don't know how important this is. These people have a different approach to fiction from writers, agents and publishers. They don't care if you have POV switches, or if your novel doesn't neatly fit into a genre; and no one has told them that books about rock stars never sell. All they care about is whether it's a good read; whether it holds their attention and entertains them for a few hours. Their priorities are so different, I've concluded it's only the stranglehold the publishing industry has on the bookshops that has kept them in business this long.

When I was writing my first novel, Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation, I had the naive idea that if you wrote a reasonably coherent book, you could get it published, and once in the bookshops, the Public Would Decide. How wrong I was. But with the rise of independent authors, who self-publish after rejection by the mainstream, and the advent of the Kindle, we are heading for the situation I imagined, where readers get to choose.

Which is no bad thing.


  1. "I've concluded it's only the stranglehold the publishing industry has on the bookshops that has kept them in business this long."

    Awesome post, and this statement alone makes me want to run out and buy your book. RTing this post.

  2. I love the idea that the experience isn't complete until someone reads the story. So. True.

    Best of luck with your book!

  3. Karen, do not resist that urge. You run out and buy Remix (or do it from the comfort of your computer).

    Thank you, Susan - I like your blog.

  4. I'm on chapter 7 of Remix!! Thought I'd just tell you! :-)

    Oh readers - I love readers!!!! I especially love them when they critique - they speak from gut instinct and don't bother about the technicalities of writing. They don't have an agenda (ie. they're not trying to write a novel too) so what they say is more honest.

    Sorry - I just forwarded a bit of my writing to volunteer readers - yes kitty and doggie people read books too! LOL - and writers and the differences in their responses blew my head off. Seriously.

    So yay for readers is all I can say! Take care

  5. Kitty, I hope you like the dog in Remix.

    Readers 'speak from gut instinct and don't bother about the technicalities of writing' - exactly. They do care about spelling and formatting, which is as it should be.

  6. So will you be turning Torbrek into an ebook soon?

  7. No, Norm; in its current state I don't think Torbrek good enough. I wouldn't want to disappoint readers who'd enjoyed Remix.

    If I had time, I'd have a go at fixing it, particularly as I think Trav Zander, the sequel, is quite good; but I'm busy daily-breading and writing my next novel.

  8. Very insightful comments! I think you're right. I know some people really stick to certain genres, even as readers, and anything not in those genres doesn't get a second look. I don't get that at all. I want a well-written book that takes me away in some fashion, whether it be to make me think or to purely entertain. I want to feel satisfied when I finish a read (and not just satisfied I finally finished it!) I could care less what genre or category. Good books are good books are good books!

  9. Ah, Grace, genres - some reviewers say that Remix is not their usual genre, but to their surprise, they found they enjoyed it. Perhaps we should all be more adventurous.

    You are quite right, that a good book is a good book...

  10. There are changes rolling down the road no doubt. And as always, there are those who will insist the new vehicle has no wheels and possibly doesn't even exist at all and will keep on making those claims even after they have been passed by and left them in the dust. You, dear Lexi, are proof they are wrong.

  11. Alan, I like a good metaphor. It's an exhilarating if uncertain ride, and I don't know what's round the corner.

    (Note I made no mention of rollercoaster rides. Boy, do I get sick of that phrase in connection with publishing. Or with anything else, really.)

  12. Lexi, I just found you through Joe Konrath's blog. (You posted just before me.) I just wanted to say congrats on your success and wish me luck! I'm editing my first YA, and hope to follow in your footsteps in the next few months! As we say in the U.S., you go girl!

  13. Fran, thanks for dropping by :o)

    I wish you every success with your YA novel (what's the title?) and don't neglect the small but growing UK market...

    The Kindle is heaven-sent for indie writers - we are so lucky it's around.

  14. This is a fabulous post. I agree wholeheartedly.

  15. Hi Cheryl, thanks for taking a look at my blog.

    Always nice to be agreed with :o)

  16. Nice post. It's definitely a little nerve-wracking waiting for those first comments from people who aren't your relatives or crit buddies!

  17. Hi Lindsay!

    I hadn't thought of it like that, I suppose because I had Remix on YouWriteOn, and Authonomy in the early days, so got used to comments from strangers.

    Interesting blog you have.

  18. Hi Lexi I reached your site via a somewhat round about route via your comment on Nathans' blog. For a start I am very impressed, I haven't as yet checked out your ebook but certainly plan to. I myself have recently gone through similar agent/publisher struggles. Though being in the furthest Antipodes it included a deeper level of angst and cultural isolation, truly worthy of the old penal colony of Botany Bay. Anyway I agree whole heartedly with the concept of the reader deciding on the quality of a writers work, not the agent or the publisher, since they so frequently get it wrong. I've just written about this in a somewhat satirical fashion on my blog. As well I too will soon be in the land of the epublished on Smashwords. About time authors got a decent reward for their work! Good luck!

  19. Gregory, hi - for some reason Google thought you might be a spammer, and put you in a holding pen.

    Ah, agent/publisher struggles - I used to be too discreet to blog about them; now I no longer care.

    Good luck with your book. I hope you will also publish on Amazon. Most authors find they do way better there than on Smashwords, for some reason.