Monday Writing Motivation: A writing and publishing revolution is underway

 In Monday Motivation, Publishing, Richard Beynon's blog

I’ve been indulging in a deep dive into cosy mysteries and police procedurals, many of them independently published by their authors, rather than by established, traditional publishers.

My interest has been spurred by the recognition that the publishing world is in the throes of a revolution. First, the great publishing houses – Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins and the rest of them – were struck a body blow by the advent of Amazon and the ebook earthquake.

Then writers both new and established realised they could make more than the generally modest royalties offered by publishers by becoming their own publishers, and marketing their own books; by becoming, in effect, small business operators selling the products that they themselves produce.

Writers have become less precious about their books, routinely writing not just one or sometimes, daringly, two novels a year, but six or eight or ten.

Now this raises a host of issues. Can anyone write a quality novel in a month? The old guard would answer emphatically and with some indignation, No, and no again!

But these prolific writers ignore the calumnies of the literary brigade and continue to churn out their series, and rake in their profits. None of them pretend to be anything but working writers doing their best to make a living by exercising their undoubted talents (you try writing a coherent novel-length story in a month or six weeks) and marketing the fruit of their labours to as many readers as they can. They love what they’re doing.

Some of them have enjoyed quite extraordinary success. You might not recognise their names. Why would you? Because they’re not traditionally published, their books are not, for the most part, available in bookshops. They sell their books through Amazon or one of very many online retailers like Kobo, Apple Books, Smashwords Store, Overdrive, Bibliotheca, Hoopla and more.

What do we think of this legion of super-fast writers who are feeding the insatiable appetite of readers the industry calls “whales” – consumers of books who read a book a day, every day? Do we condemn them for “lowering the standards of literary creation”? Or do we say: what can we learn from them?

Well, I have a little news for you that should come as absolutely no surprise. What makes these books popular is:

  • Great characters
  • A gripping story
  • Surprises and cliff-hangers galore
  • A clear sense of place
  • Short chapters
  • Clear writing
  • A spanking pace
  • A satisfying climax
  • The promise of more to come

Now, I’m not going to say that these novelists should be compared to Dickens, say – although, come to think of it, almost every one of the features I’ve picked out are also essentially Dickensian. But I do believe that readers can only be enticed to read stories characterised by these qualities.

The publishing ecosystem has been hit by a meteorite – and the disruption that has caused will take years to work its way through the system. What we, as writers, need to do is keep our eyes on the opportunities that are emerging, almost on a daily basis, at the moment…

… And be ready to pounce.

Happy writing,

Richard

P.S. In the last few days I’ve read novels by Rachel McLean, Debbie Young, J.M Gregson and Jane Bettany.

P.P.S.

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