Self Publishing–The Buck Stops with You.

Despite the fact that I don’t think I would ever go the self publishing route I’m not actually ANTI self-publishing. I should say “never say never” because you never know (hur hur) what the future holds, who knows, we may all be publishing our own books in 20 years time, downloading them directly into people’s brains.

I understand why some people go down the route because it can make more business sense. In a genre where you aren’t going to make a lot of money from your 10-50 percent royalties, you can earn a lot more. You retain control, get a much much larger slice of the royalties and as long as you know your onions marketing-wise, and perhaps have some money to throw at it, you might sell as many copies in self publishing as you would do with a publisher. If you are really lucky, as a few people have been, a major publisher might spot your work (they obviously do crawl the self publishing sites) and offer you a contract, so you get the best of both worlds.

BUT (and it’s a big but).

What a lot of self published authors don’t seem to realise is that the spotlight is glaring in the SP world, there really is nowhere to hide. The buck stops with you. You can’t shrug and blame the typos in your manuscript on your publisher. And if you know – as I do – that you are notoriously blind when it comes to homonyms and commas and grammar then you need to do something about that BEFORE YOUR BOOK GOES LIVE.

The thing is, that a self-published book (no matter that the rabid supporters will shake their heads and deny this fact until they are blue in the fact) sends messages.

It can say:

I’m a savvy, mildly rebellious, independent author and I don’t want to kow-tow to The Man. I’m taking my PRODUCT and I’m going to present it in the best light possible, and you’re going to buy it and I’ll make more money on Smashwords or Lulu than you ever made in your mid-list publisher.

Fair Enough. I like that kind of confidence.

It can say:

Well, I shopped it around a few publishers, and it was accepted but they wanted to make changes to the plot and the characterisation that I simply couldn’t get in line with, so I am going the self publishing route to maintain control of these elements.

That’s OK. I can grok.

It can say:

I sent it to one publisher and it was rejected and I haven’t got the guts to send it out again because I’m not good with rejection. But I’ve had several beta-mates look at it/I paid for a professional editor and I’m pretty chuffed with the results and it’s done wonders for my confidence. It’s selling pretty well.

And – because there still is stigma about the medium – it can say.

I’ve been rejected dozens of times. I don’t know why. My family loved the book so I thought it would be easy to be published. Self publishing makes it easy for me.

or it could say:

I’m such a fucking Diva no one understands my genius. I’m not changing A WORD. Publishers are facists. No bugger will work with me, I’ve been sacked from six publishers so sod publishers. I’m going the self publishing route.

These two really depend on whether your product is well edited and well written.

And there you have it. It doesn’t matter which scenario the self published author comes from (and I’m sure there are dozens of other reasons) me, and hundreds or thousands of readers have read self published books which read like the author had simply uploaded the first draft to Smashwords, stuck a cover on it and sat back and waited for the money to pile in. I’m NOT referring to any book in particular here, but over the last year I’ve read SP after SP book which was riddled with typos, misused homonyms, and by riddled I don’t mean “one or two.” “One or two” would be an expectation from a major publisher. I mean every page. Every time a certain word is used, it’s used wrongly. Several on each page.

I used a word up above which clarifies what a book is. It’s not your baby. It’s not some Picasso, it’s a commercial product. A PRODUCT. And you owe it to your product (and to the consumers of your product) to produce the best product you can produce.

Say you had the genius inspiration for The Best Mousetrap EVER. You get onto Dragon’s Den and you have one shot – one shot to get yourself all the funding for that project and it could—quite feasibly—make you a lot a money. If you approached the Dragons and you said:  “Well, ok, here’s a drawing of the mousetrap. I didn’t draw this myself, but I got my seven year old to draw it because it looks cute. We didn’t have time or the funds necessary to build a working prototype but I’m sure you can get the general gist by this crayon sketch?  Business Plan? What’s one of those?”

Do you think you’d get the money?

A self-published book represents YOU, you as an author and a potential investment. An investment for those punters who click on their paypal accounts and send you their hard-earned moola, and even a possible investment for a potential publisher who likes the blurb and takes a punt on finding whether your plot is as good as it says it is.  You need to show respect, for yourself, and for your reader—whoever that reader is.

Present your reader with a shabbily produced product, the equivalent of a fashionable jacket held together with tacking stitches, one that will unravel the first time they wear it then you aren’t going to impress them. Many readers will forgive you a few errors. When it comes to self publishing, they will forgive you for making more errors than in a professionally published book. But they can only be pushed so far. If they suspect that you’ve bunged them your Nano novel without even doing a spell check on it (and yes, I’ve read some that bad) then you might as well change your pen name and start again. Readers don’t like to be ripped off, and once burned, it will take something special to get them to trust you again.

so why not give them something special to begin with? Anything worth doing – even self-doing – is worth doing WELL.

© Copyright 2012 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes
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3 Responses to Self Publishing–The Buck Stops with You.

  1. Tina says:

    I’m a total fucking Diva and no one understands my genius!

    Publishers are fascists, and in my genre, they’re broke fascists! No bugger will work with me, I’ve been sacked from (at least 2) publishers, so sod publishers. I’m going the self publishing route.

    My name is Tina Anderson, and I approve of this message. :)

  2. As an author who has self-published with a pen name, you can be sure there are, indeed, many other reasons for doing it than you mentioned. And, what you mentioned just touches the tip of what self-publishing is all about. Published authors who have had bestselling novels are now self-publishing on Amazon (where most e-books are sold at this point in time, which is why they go to Amazon) and finding excellent results. The problem with a good deal of self-publishing is that readers have to vet their books now before they buy them because there is a lot of junk out there. If there isn’t much information about the author, especially with regard to past experience, it might be a red flag. I’m not saying in all cases. But Amazon offers free samples that are long enough to know whether or not the book is any good. So with these free samples it should be possible to vet a book in a basic sense. I’ve always known by the first five pages whether or not I want to read a book.

    The main reason I self-published was because I was tired of years of listening to questionable advice from publishers, editor, agents, and other so-called professionals. Right now literary agents are scrambling to figure out what to do next, or how to find the next Fifty Shades of Grey. And trust me, self-publishing is not for the gentle timid soul. It is the same thing as starting a new business and all the angles must be learned. The downside is it takes away from writing time. But I have a feeling many of the small presses we see today will wind down eventually because they can’t make money and all we’ll have left are big publishers and self-published authors. It stands to reason. Frankly, I know how e-book sales work and I don’t know how some small presses are still in business. A lot of what they say on the Internet in interviews and blog posts are just embellishments of what they hope will happen, not what is actually happening. It also stands to reason because e-book sales are still small compared to print sales. This will change I believe. But right now we’re getting a lot of hype from small presses about how great things are. Even those Amazon genre bestseller lists are misleading. It looks as if the authors on those bestseller lists are selling tons of books, when in reality they aren’t. Same goes for Amazon sales rankings.

    There is a boom happening right now with self-publishing…it’s a trend. People will grow bored and they will move on to the next trend. But the established authors who pioneered self-publishing will continue to write and publish for years to come, working as both authors and businesspeople. Right now small presses are reaching a peak, especially as authors discover self-publishing and move into their own arena. I know editors at small presses who are begging for submissions for anothologies because authors are not submitting to them anymore for $25.00 and a free copy…which at this point is an insult to the author. And it’s high time that happened.

    So I wouldn’t say never to self-publishing, because unless there’s a boom in the gay/lesbian fiction market, with a mainstream audience, the only way to go in the future might be self-publishing when there aren’t any small presses left. And I don’t think readers care anymore. Most don’t know a small press from a self-published book. They just want a good book.

  3. Erastes says:

    I’m very happy that it’s working for you – and I’m sure that you put out the best product you can. I wish more people were as fastidious, that’s all.

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