There was a time in which I would have NEVER read a self-published piece of literature. I admit, sad to say, I was a literary snob. I had heard the saying, “The great thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it. The bad thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it” and so I became leery of anything self-published for that very reason. At writer’s conventions, authors would set up tables with their self-published works and I would simply walk on by. Rude I know, but I felt justified in my smugness.
Self-published, in my mind, was equal to crap. Before you throw rotten tomatoes or come after me with pitchforks or flaming torches, just realize, I’m not the only one who’s had these thoughts. Many people, those who plan to go the traditional route, tend to roll their eyes at self-publishers. This isn’t something new. This attitude has been around for a long time and it is still a battle that goes on today.
The reason: A lot of self-published books look and read very amateurish. That’s the plain, hard truth.
Lately, with the explosion of ebooks and the ability to self-publish them at such a quick rate, I’ve actually had the great pleasure of reading several ebooks by Indy authors, and I do say pleasure.
I have been pleasantly surprised. The stories were great, and I’m honored that someone would give me the opportunity to read their work. I have yet to read a self-published story I disliked. That’s a good thing
The bad thing: most I received for free. A few I paid 99 cents, but only a few. But if I had to pay $2.99 or more for these same books, I probably wouldn’t have. (Now you can throw your tomatoes if you like, but I hope you’ll read on and hear me out).
I’m not a gambler and for me, if I’m going to spend $2.99 or more on an ebook, it had better be polished. Since there is no guarantee of that, I’m not willing to take that risk. And seriously, that’s exactly what it is—a risk, a gamble. Will I get a great book? Or will I get a book riddled with missing words, jumbled sentences, and mistakes that should have been picked up in the editing stages? Ebooks are exploding like crazy. Amazon sells for ebooks are higher than paperback and hardback book sells combined. It’s a crazy market. And the opportunity for self-publishing has never been greater than it is right now.
The problem, it just makes it even easier to get a whole lot of crap into the market quicker.
Now, the self-published books I read aren’t crap by any means. As I said, the stories were great. A few, I even wondered why they didn’t try their hand at the traditional route—they’re that good. I could see them on bookstore shelves.
But even saying that, these books were still in need of more revisions and more editing.
The sad truth of the matter, I fully expected these books to have issues with misspellings and typo’s. I went into it judgmental and with lowered expectations. And sure enough these books delivered the typos and mistakes just as I figured they would. Some books more than others.
I would think, with the prejudice that self-publishing experiences, that someone contemplating that route would do EVERYTHING, going above and beyond what is even necessary, to prove people wrong and produce a perfect, polished piece of work. But they’re not.
Why settle for mediocre? Why would you want to put your name on something that was anything less that the absolute best it could be? I guess I don’t get that.
I do think self-publishing is a trend that is changing and shaping the publishing world for the better. Traditional publishers need to wake up, fix their broken machine, and realize they need to make some changes or authors will skip right past them—authors are doing that very thing right now. The gatekeepers are losing their control, which in some respects is a good thing.
But if you plan on self-publishing or have self-published for that matter, make sure your work is as close to perfect as it possibly can be. Otherwise, you’re just feeding into the prejudice that is holding self-published works back, keeping it from being viewed as a respectable means of getting books into the hands of readers. Which is a shame. I would love to see self-published books start kicking traditional books behinds (oh, there’s a few out there, but not nearly enough).
A couple of tips:
1) Don’t rely on yourself to edit your book. You can’t. It’s your baby and you will always think it’s beautiful. If you have the means, pay for a professional editor to do a line edit. They will catch things you will miss. They will provide you with ways and opportunities to improve your work. Why wouldn’t you want that? Now, I understand this can be pricey. I get that. I also understand some writers simply can’t afford it. Then either a) you wait until you can afford it or b) you find some really, really smart writerly friends to proofread your work and then you take their advice. And I’m not just talking one or two people here. I’m talking several. If you’re going to skip out on the professional editor, then you better believe you have your work cut out for you. You find the meanest person in your circle of writer friends, the most blunt, and you give it to that person to edit. Put yourself in the line of fire and take the bullets—this will make you better. I promise.
2) Get a great cover. Don’t judge a book by its cover, well, we do. People will look for any reason to diss your self-published work—don’t let the cover be the thing that keeps them from ever opening your book in the first place. If you can afford a graphic designer, do it. Again, pricey, I know. But it will be well worth it. Do what you can to make your book look as traditional published as possible—I’m sorry, but that is the standard. And DON’T have your name be bigger than the title of your book. You’re not famous. You can’t get away with that, so don’t do it.
3) Don’t forget your interior layout. This is important as well. There are rules for the way the interior of your book should look. Check out books. Look at the way they are set up. Look at the type font, page number placement, headers, etc… Again, it needs to look like the books you see on the shelves.
4) I think the most important thing to remember is not to rush your book. I know we get excited when we’ve worked so hard to complete a novel that we want to share it with everyone. Take your time. Be careful. Do your edits and rewrites. Because here’s the thing, once you put your book out there for the world to see, it’s hard to go back and fix the mistakes. Oh, you can. But people will remember and it’s hard to get them to change their mind once they’ve made their opinion. You only get to make a first impression once, so make it the best it can be.
Check out this article. I think she makes some very valid points to consider.
The Pit and the Pendulum By Cynthia Robertson of Self Publishing