NINCThink Roundtable: What
Does Quality Fiction Mean?
BY SYLVIE KURTZ
Industry Guests: Jen Talty (Cool Gus Publishing), Lisa Stone Hardt (LSH Editorial Services), Kim Killion
(Hot Damn Designs), Carrie Feron (Avon), Pam Headrick (A Thirsty Mind E-Book Design)
NINC Authors: Vanessa Kelly, Shirley Hailstock, Karen Tintori
Q: Is quality the storytelling or the way you tell the story?
A: This seemed to be a difficult question for the roundtable to tackle, because quality, they agreed, is subjective.
For some it’s about a splash, for others it’s about the reading experience.
The roundtable explored a detour about word crafting and voice and decided that neither of those defined
quality. What works in terms of voice and turns of phrases for some readers won’t work for others.
“That’s just taste. Some things aren’t going to speak to everyone.”
“Is there a dichotomy of storytelling and word crafting?” one panelist wondered. She gave the example of
one book in which the writing was not professional, but the storytelling resonated, so it got picked up in
print. Another panelist mentioned that some viral e-books have been picked up and polished for print.
“I have different ideas of what quality is depending on what I’m reading or what I want from the experience,”
said one panelist. Another said, “Overwriting sometimes looks like quality fiction.”
Another panelist said, “Overwriting isn’t the same thing as beautiful writing. A beautiful phrase should
stay there. I still underline things that are beautiful.”
“A beautiful story sticks in your memory, but in the moment, it should be part of the overall story.”
“Voice is different than quality. Voice comes through experience. Voice has demonstrable qualities. It
takes effort to make it look effortless.”
“It’s harder work to tell a good story beautifully.”
Q: What is the importance of the reader as gatekeeper?
“Readers are the new gatekeepers,” said one panelist. “If they don’t like something, they’re not going to
buy that author’s next book.”
Books have always risen and gained momentum over time. Readers talk to readers. They make recommendations.
It takes 8,000 readers reading a book to create a buzz. Readers have always been gatekeepers as
to what they like; not as to what was published. Word of mouth has always been important and will keep
One panelist said that her role as gatekeeper is different now—more subtle. She works for the author
rather than a house. “I owe you something for what you’re paying me.” She can suggest that a client isn’t
ready to throw something out there, but she no longer has the power to say that it can’t go out there.
“If sales are digital,” said another panelist, “you don’t have to take a certain account’s tastes into consideration.
You have more freedom digitally, because you’re not catering to one account. You can keep the
reader in mind.”
Now a writer can tell her original story rather than change it to fit house requirements or conventional
“rules.” The great part of indie publishing is that a writer can keep the story’s original energy. Authors feel
empowered to write the story they want to write rather than story they felt their editors wanted. One panelist
thought this meant quality would rise.
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