Poorly done books hurt writers and readers alike

By Gabriel Dinda

I see a lot of pressure among upcoming writers to write and publish. This is coming at a time when it appears that if you are a writer and you haven’t published, then you are ‘intellectually challenged’. The pressure to publish comes at a very high cost.

Quality is being thrown out through the window. I have seen people, taking manuscripts or spoken articles and publishing then as they are, without any editorial input. This pressure is also leading to a ‘stubborn generation’ where the authors are not willing to listen to any input from professionals. Some believe they know it all, and they almost don’t need any external eye.

This pressure makes some writers rush through the publishing  process and end up with a substandard work which becomes hard to market. The books, once published-or released,  are hardly accepted by bookshops. The writers then become a bother, asking for pity and riding on ‘support a young author’ to make sales. The books, once bought, don’t inspire the readers, instead the readers are discouraged and they start resisting any attempts to buy or read books sold in this manner.

Badly done books are a hard sale. They require great persuasion to sell. Beyond family members or close friends (who are compelled or ‘blackmailed’ to buy), they attract few new readers. Therefore, the writers don’t receive media interviews, their books are hardly discussed in the book clubs or anywhere else. With this frustration, they begin lamenting on  how there are no readers . Apparently, according to them, no one supports ‘upcoming writers’.

Such books, on close interrogation are hurriedly done, as if on a deadline. The launch date has already been set before the manuscript is vetted to be fit for public consumption. Many writers seem to be in such a hurry you’d be tempted to think there’s a finish line to publishing. As Mr Peter Nyoro, a revered editor and Publishing Consultant once said at one of Writers Guild writing workshops, “Publishing is not an emergency.”

A good book on the other hand, is like a good food. The chef does not need much efforts to market it. Once someone has bought it, they will talk about it to others. In a short while, people will be crowding the place looking for the food. Like good food, a good book does not need much effort to market. There is a great amount of energy and resources saved by riding on people’s recommendations and ‘natural marketing’.

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Publishing a good book enables the writer to walk with shoulders high. It makes it easy for book clubs and other set -ups to support the author. It pays in the end to publish a good book. It doesn’t help to introduce yourself as a writer of ten books (whose quality is compromised). It helps to take as long as it takes, but ensure you publish a good book. The goodness starts from the quality of content, the nature of presentation and the thoughtfulness and professionalism that comes with it. Do not take short cut(s), it will be a longer route in the end. The readers will blacklist you and even when you publish a book of good quality, they will not forget. They will be hesitant to trust you again.

My wife, Vera bought one such book and she said,  “I might not know everything about good writing, but I know a lot about bad books and bad writing. This is not even a book but a manuscript printed off word document.”

Take your time and publish a good book. It will make all the difference in the end. Respect your career as a writer and respect the reader’s time and money by doing a good book.


Talk to us through:  write@writersguild.co.ke

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