Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why do badly-written books become popular?

I found out about a self-published author who has been doing really well. There's been some noise on the net about her lately, just because her success began through the medium of ebooks on and the media obviously find this fascinating, given the state of the book industry right now. Her name is Amanda Hocking.

From what I can tell, she isn't a very accomplished writer. At least not yet. Her books fall under the YA category, but I wonder if it happened by some kind of default due to the writing quality and the fact of young characters? The one and a half books I read came across as pretty juvenile in style and substance - some people incorrectly assume YA doesn't need to be particularly clever or deep. Being a writer myself, close to finishing my own first novel, I was curious. I mean hell, let's be honest, we all love a good news story about writers making it big. She offers her ebooks very cheaply on Amazon, so I downloaded Switched for 99 US cents.

I don't have room here to adequately describe all the flaws in this book. They seem to be the standard kind you find in the works of novice writers: simplistic plot twists, poor dialogue, shallow character development, bad evocation of setting and place. Terribly written action sequences. Lack of skill in creating a sense of anticipation and mystery, with information revealed too slowly, the main character strangely unaware of obvious things. There must be something to it that keeps you reading, for I did read the whole thing. It is an interesting concept at least (about Changlings), though not at all an original one. But there is so much lacking in the execution that it isn't enough to save the book.

People have a tendency to bring up Twilight whenever another successful YA novel comes to light. But in her case, there are clear parallels, simply due to the poor writing quality. The above could be said about all of the Twilight books. The only difference that I can see is I am not offended by Amanda Hocking's politics. I don't feel particularly wonderful writing a harsh critique on her stuff, only because I think she's quite awesome. She writes pretty candidly about her experiences as a writer trying to get published on her blog, and she seems like a fairly cool person.

But I don't know if I will ever get it. Why do badly-written books do so well? It makes me think that all my effort to write beautiful sentences and evocative setting is for nothing. That I could do just as well if I spun a lot of cliches together and had the girl get the guy in the end.

Questions, comments?

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