The Imperative Wow

"I want to implore you to remember to dedicate at least as much effort, if not more, to craft than you did before you started taking on so many of the business functions in the industry. Simply never lose sight of the fact that readers expect you to bring your A-game consistently, and they have more incentive than ever to walk away if you disappoint them." -- Lou Aronica, publisher, Fiction Studio, in his last letter as president, to the membership of Novelists, Inc.

Estimates are that in 2012 more than 32 million books were available -- the explosion thanks to the ease self-publishing, 2013 could see even more titles grace our virtual bookstores! That means we are going to be awash in covers and titles, plot descriptions and characters. That means we are going to be pushing harder than ever to break through the crowded marketplace and doing it without any new methods or magic.

It means that now more than ever we can't be writing just another book. We can't be rushing through a draft.

There are those who say the way to win the game is to write fast and furious, and fill up the virtual shelves with as many books carrying your name on the spine as possible. In the past there's been some proof that it was a viable strategy.

But there's more proof that the future isn't about endless quantity.

With so many millions of titles available, the books that will get talked about are the books that make readers talk about them. Now is not the time to try and write two okay books a year as opposed to one really gangbuster book in the next 12 or 18 or 24 months.

I'm not really talking about good vs. bad books. Not talking about quiet vs. noisy books. I'm talking about books that whatever their genre or sensibility are exceptional. If it's a romance or mystery or literary fiction it has to stand out. Way out.

Not even the few hundred branded authors with built-in fan bases are exempt.

The playing field isn't level; it's so overcrowded we can't see it. Whether we are writing about serial killers or heroines who engage in bondage or National Book Award fiction we need to be writing that "WOW" book. That book that makes readers go "Oooo."

We need to write books that publicists and marketers and booksellers and book club leaders and librarians and readers can get excited about. That have something about them that makes them stand out. That makes them shine.

PR and marketing doesn't sell books. It gets attention for them. It sends readers to bookstores and websites to read a few pages. We need to make sure those pages grab the reader with talons and won't let him or her go.