"Move over Jane Austen, there's a new girl in town."
"I know you will enjoy this new coming of age...yadda, yadda, yadda."
You see it all the time over Facebook, Twitter, and in query letters. *ahhhh query letters* Writers touting their wares like they are the best out there. Nothing better. And they'd be right of course. We should be the biggest cheerleaders of our own work. Having friends on board is even better. Convincing agents and publishers is....rockin'.
But ultimately it's the readers who pick up our work that decide their fate. Whether or not it continues to flourish, be purchased, or even picked up through a free download (a totally legal one of course).
The value of a story is so suggestive, that as we're writing it we may find ourselves questioning its worth. As it fails to entice agents, we question it more. But that doesn't make it worthless. It's like buying or selling a car (or getting reimbursed when a school bus crashes into your vehicle on the first day of school--but we don't have time to go into that here).
Books...they have value. Value that is going to differ depending on who is buying. We go online and see what the bottom line is. Reviews are great, but can they be trusted? We weigh the facts, find people we trust, and ultimately make our decision and hope we were right. Industry standard for cars uses Kelly Blue Book. They give you the bottom line facts for what the car is worth. In the publishing world it's a little more subjective. But still, we have a few trusted sources. There's the New York Times list, Goodreads and Amazon (now...uh...one in the same?). Not exactly a perfect means by which to measure a book, but you can get a pretty good idea what you're getting. Even some spoilers if you're
So what are the best options for book shopping? Let's start by looking at the various options out there.
- Dealerships promise the buyer a perfect ride. No hiccups, bad editing or missing plot lines. They have that cool "NYT Bestseller" logo on the front that gives us all confidence that we've made the right choice and for writers makes fellow authors drool with envy. Of course that popular car will still fail to entice some. Too flashy. Too expensive. Not their style.
- Private sellers offer a more mixed variety, offering their wares for less because they've left out the middle man, but they'll still get you to where you want to go. Some are a little wary without the dealership gaurantee, but after driving it around a while you're confident that you made the right choice. They may even ask someone else's opinion first or check the reviews via the automechanic. Yeah the new paint job may seem sort of amateur, inherently dropping its value, but inside everything works just fine. You're totally happy.
- Even in the junkyard, where you dodge painful metaphors and may question the wisdom of your visit, some other shopper is going to leave there and tweet all about his awesome find. "I found the answers to life, the universe and the most awesome hubcap!!! Everyone needs this hubcap. Go buy this hubcap now!" (FYI: if all you do is tout your book everyday on Twitter I won't be following you. Just sayin' :))
Essentially I believe that many books have more value than people give them credit for, and that some well-touted books will never be read by me for various reasons. But what matters most is the beauty each of us sees in the created work. Finding the joy in the journey and in the stories we read. And you know what? That's good enough for me. That's what books are for. Getting paid for our work? Eh, it's a bonus.
So what frustrates you most about the publishing process? What do you love most about it? Do you ascribe to books based on public opinion alone?