OK, I’ve had about five years to think about this, and I’ve decided that Chuck Wendig was right.
You might be thinking “who gives a shit?” but hear me out.
Way back in 2012, a frustrated journalist working on a couple of humor essay collections stumbled across a blog post entitled: “Why your self-published book may suck a bag of dicks.”
Out of my desperation to be a rich and famous author after like five minutes of effort, I was furious at Wendig’s assessment of some self-published books.
And, I reacted like a butt-hurt jerk on the internet tends to react—I left a nasty comment attacking Chuck’s writing ability.
See nasty comment here:
December 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM – I hope no one is taking writing advice from an author who is incapable of proper use of colon, semi-colon and long dash. But, to be fair, you lost me when you tried passing “bludgeoning shame” off as coherent. Then again, what do I know? I’m not a big fancy novelist/screenwriter/game designer. If you are going to pass yourself off as a worthy critic you may want to go back and improve your skills. Try reading B.R. Meyers’ work “A Reader’s Manifesto” to see what adroit criticism is. If anything, you should be elated with the large number of poor writers in the world—it only makes an apparently superb scribe like yourself seem all the better.
I know. I know. Still makes me cringe.
I had forgotten all about it until recently when I found myself grumbling about how many bad self-published and traditionally published books there are out there.
I Googled a phrase, something along the lines of “why are there so many bad self-published books?” and once again came across Chuck’s article re: bag of dicks.
About halfway through the article, I remembered that I had already read it … a long time ago.
By this time, I was a fan of Chuck’s blog. (Little Ferrero Rocher nugget of fucking irony, no?)
Also by this time, I had been asked to buy, review, and critique hundreds of books in both my capacity as a small-town newspaper editor and as a frustrated writer.
Because struggling writers seem to be attracted to one another like moths to a flaming ball of crack cocaine.
While reading along, I remembered the nasty comment I left on a certain someone’s article. (Why, internet, why?!)
I found myself agreeing with every line he wrote. Ninety-nine percent (my number, not his) of these books are terrible. They are laden with gross misspellings, grammatical errors, ridiculous prose, and juvenile premises.
The covers do look like they were designed at an academy for blind chimpanzees on Bring-Your-LSD-to-School Day. (Note: write YA fantasy series set in chimpanzee academy. Heroine allergic to bananas. Hero secretly half-orangutan. Both hooked on smack. Yes, I know LSD is not the same thing as smack. Can we focus?)
When it comes to failed books, I speak from experience.
Heck, I took the time and expense to have my books professionally laid out and edited and they still bombed. Yes, I designed the covers. Yes, they could have been better.
The real problem was my utter lack of book marketing know-how, zero platform, and a severe deficiency of stick-to-it-ive-ness. Not to mention that I since learned humor books, even for famous authors, are a tough sell.
Now, as I revise and edit and pray for the death of the manuscript for a historical adventure novel I plan on querying agents over the head with, I have those self-published stinkers hanging around my neck.
Would an agent have been interested in my previous work? I’ll never know because I took shortcuts.
Which brings me to the real point of this piece (other than fulfilling my blog’s need for content and trying to assuage my guilt over something no one probably even remembers) and that’s: be patient!
I’m not one to give book-writing advice because I’m far from an expert. (You want tips on how to make a great pot of bean soup or craft a sufficient nut graf or overuse asides in parentheses? I’m your man.)
I caution anyone looking to become a professional writer to be patient and focus on craft and don’t be in such a hurry to get to the finish line that you sell your soul to the first vanity press that shows a little leg.
Trust me, under that skirt is nothing but pinball machine parts and the sawdust they use to soak up your dignity once it’s run down your leg and onto the billiards room floor.
Sure, there are some self-publishing success stories—the guy who wrote The Martian, that one chick with the humiliating sex fetishes—but for the most part it’s yadda yadda yadda.
To misquote dying Darth Vader: “Chuck Wendig was right. Tell your sister he was riiiiiiiiight.”
Seriously, if you’re not already following him, go check out terribleminds.com
And, Chuck, if you do happen to read this, I am sorry for taking a cheap shot.
On a somewhat unrelated note, that book I referenced earlier that I found so clever back in 2000 or so, “A Readers Manifesto” … well, I have since read all the books criticized within its pages and loved almost every one of them. So, here’s to open minds and maturation.