Monday, March 10, 2014


Not going to bore with the changes in my life again. At least, not today.

Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about the changes to the publishing industry as they pertain to the romance genre and to me.

The publishing world has never been more author friendly than it is right now. Authors finally have some power. With the growth and advancements of the Internet, authors can self-publish their books with just the click of a button. An aspiring author no longer has to pay their dues, if you will, writing book after book all the while honing their craft and learning the industry until they can get their work in front of a gatekeeper, also known as an agent or editor. Although, if they're smart and realistic, they will take their time to learn their craft.

When I first joined RWA in 2003, one of the largest writing/genre specific organizations in the world, an aspiring author entered contest after contest getting feedback on their work, learning from those who had gone before. If they were good enough, perhaps that final round editor or agent requested a partial or full manuscript for consideration. If they were super lucky, they got a contract and became a published author.

(The logo for my writing group's annual unpublished works writing contest.)

Sadly, many people think they can write a good book. It's not really as easy as it looks, at least not for most people. Sure, the stars align for some authors and they can bang out nearly perfect prose in a single try, but most writers require critique partners, editors, and several rounds of revisions for the end product to be fit for public consumption.

And while the changes in the industry are mostly a good thing in general and for authors as a whole, I think something's been lost.

Since aspiring authors can become published authors on a whim (this is what fan fiction is for, people!), the plethora of bad books out in cyberspace is a sad commentary on just how easy it is. Since pretty much all the books I read are free, I don't feel sad or guilty about not finishing a book should it not live up to my standards.

Am I too picky? Are my standards too high? Am I fighting a losing battle? The answer may well be yes to all these questions, but my time is limited and I'm not wasting any more of it than necessary on reading badly written books. But I digress.

I generally judge two contests a year, including ours. It used to be that decent first chapters were the norm, and I'd come across a truly awful entry every other year or so. The rest were okay, showcasing various levels of experience and proficiency both in a sub-genre and with grammar, spelling, and punctuation in general. Now, the awful entries are the norm and the even the decent ones only come along once in a great while.

The impetus for this post was the awful contest entry I judged this weekend. It was sad. When I read entries like this, I really want to ask: DON'T YOU READ ROMANCE NOVELS??? Of course with the glut of so many bad books available, maybe they do. And this is the result.


Regina Richards said...

Perhaps the people who are writing poorly and publishing anyway will eventually wander off to other endeavors when they realize how hard they are working and how little they are selling.

Jen FitzGerald said...

Maybe so, Regina.