Good vs. Bad Book? Don’t Judge

K.M. Weiland is an excellent resource for writers of all types. Her website Helping Writers Become Authors should be on everyone’s shortlist of helpful websites. Also, her books on writing are excellent and merge well with Agile Writer theory. But in a recent site article titled “Why Do So Many Bad Books Sell on Amazon?” she steps over the line from advice to judgment.

In the article, Marsh explains that Amazon has started promoting e-books that are newer—like only 30 days old. This has allowed “ghostwriters” to churn out new stories using a template from a previous book (replace princess with enchantress, replace castle with mansion, etc.). Thus, these writers are producing a book a month and getting (presumably) good sales.

Ms. Marsh argues that this promotes bad books. At Agile Writers, the definition of success is getting your book into the hands of readers who want them. If readers are buying these copycats, then they are probably satisfied. Otherwise, they’d return them (you can return e-books, you know). Therefore, these are not bad books. They are finding a home with people who crave the same plotlines with different characters and locations. The romance genre is rife with this sort of churning.

And that’s, okay.

It’s the responsibility of the author to work the system—to play the game—to get their work into the hands of readers who want to read it. Knowing how the game is played and then playing the game well does that.

Ms. Marsh goes on to lay out a plan to deliver good books (in her estimation) by splitting a novel into segments that are released every 30 days. This is a brilliant strategy the uses the Amazon system to the author’s benefit. There is no need to qualify good vs. bad.

The READER determines what is good or bad, not the author—and not the algorithms at Amazon nor the publishers in the ivory towers of the Big Four publishing houses.

I heartily recommend Ms. Marsh’s article because it lays out the information you’ll need to get your book in front of more readers’ eyes.

However, this should be only one arrow in your quiver of promotional tools. Remember – Amazon is a destination site. People go there because THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR. Impulse buys on Amazon are far less likely than in a brick-and-mortar store like Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. People go to bookstores, newsstands, drug stores, and others without knowing precisely what book they want – if any.

But because the self-published author doesn’t have the advantage of in-store sales, we have to rely on self-promotion. And by self-promotion I mean social media and search advertising.

Learn the rules of the game. Then play the game well. The definition of a good book is one that finds its reader. Make sure your book finds its home in the hands of the reader waiting for it.


Greg Smith is a writing coach, editor, and publisher. He founded the Agile Writer Workshop in 2011 with the mission of finding a method to help beginning writers complete a first draft in six months. The Agile Writer Method is based on the writings of experts in mythology, screenwriting, psychology, and project management. His seminars on the Agile Writer Method have informed and delighted thousands of writers, scholars, and university students. Agile Writer authors have written over 50 first draft novels and 10 published novels. Greg is a developmental editor for novelists and memoirists. He also coaches authors through the self-publishing maze. Greg runs the popular Agile Readers Book Club where new writers can get a beta read from a dozen or more readers.