The reason I chose this subject today is that there is a very heated discussion going on between some other writers I follow in regards to some remarks made by Sue Grafton about self-publishing.
Most of you have probably heard of Ms Grafton, the mystery writer of the Kinsey Millhone series (A-Z). The summary of her interview with the Louisville Author Spotlight stated that she thought self-published authors were LAZY. Of course, this started a firestorm among the self-published authors I interact with on a regular basis. Her feeling was that many self-published works needed a good editing, among other things. I agree that some books need more editing, but some books from traditional publishers also fall into this category. In reading, I’ve found many errors by big name publishing houses. Self-published authors should not be lumped all together in one big unworthy group. I’m sure that when Ms. Grafton started out, she also struggled before landing that publishing contract.
All authors strive to be successful at their craft. The readers ultimately decide which books are worthy, no matter how that publishing came about. Some may consider mainstream books classier than the self-published titles, but, along with the good stuff, there is plenty of trash published by the big publishers.
Many of the authors publishing today, through the big publishers, are celebrities and media people, who have their stories ghostwritten by us regular people. Generally, the publishing house gives these people a substantial book advance to get their stories, so I’m sure they would never go the self-publishing route. The big publishers are eager to get these books they consider instant moneymakers, it means big bucks for the publishing house. They’re willing to take the gamble on these books, rather than unknown people like you and me.
Choosing self-publishing is extremely difficult and a lonely road we must travel in order to get our name out there in the marketplace among the jillions of books. It is not for everyone that’s for sure. I wonder how many of the big names would make it without the army of professionals behind them, when they are left hanging out there to get it all accomplished themselves.
The big names may have the prestige of having a big publishing house behind them and perhaps this is worth more than the royalties they receive, but if you have the wear with all to self-publish, you are in control of your own destiny in the publishing world. We are the entrepreneurs who can spot new opportunities, seize them, and use that to make an impact in this new world of writing.
In the course of all this, I read that the NY Times bestseller list is possibly starting to do what the music industry is doing: reporting how many CD’s they contracted to booksellers (record stores), not actual sales to the public. This is not confirmed and has to be checked out, but this could shed a different light on things.
All of this reading and thinking led me to do a bit more research on this. I ran across a few blogs that offered some worthy information on the self-publishing industry. The rumor about the NY Times list will have to wait if I want to get this posted today. After all, I’m supposed to be working on a freelance project right now.
I wanted to summarize what I read on the blogs of Kristen Lamb, J.A. Konrath, and Bob Mayer. These blogs contain some interesting info for self-publishers.
In general, self-publishers make five big mistakes.
1. Jumping in to self-publish before your book is ready.
According to Kristen, many writers don’t understand the basics of a story, or the need for editing. She believes writers don’t spend enough time reading fiction or self-help books about the craft of writing. We don’t understand the role of the antagonist in a story, or the three-part structure of story (beginning, middle, and end).
I tend to disagree with some of this thinking, as most books I’ve read by self-published authors do seem to have a clear idea of where the story is going. The characters do struggle with inner demons, addiction problems, weaknesses and insecurities, or some of those as they deal with the problems in the story.
According to Kristen, the characters faults are the arc of the character and different from the plot arc, where the character tackles the problem, grows, and changes from the conflict. I think most of the books I’ve read do a good job with this. Nevertheless, it never hurts to be mindful of the rules of writing. We do become true artists at our craft by knowing and understanding the basic rules and using those in our writing everyday. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
My biggest issue has been with editing errors, but I find these in all books, whether traditional or self-published. In my mind, you can never edit enough or have too many eyes view your work. Many authors fall short in this area. I can’t ell you how many books I’ve read with words missing, extra words left in, missing punctuation, etc. This is quite annoying, but is fixable if you have a good story.
2. Self-publishers jump in before they know the business side of business.
I’m with Kristen here. There is some expense involved with editing, formatting, and book covers. This is all-important stuff, and depending on your time and expertise, you may be able to accomplish some of it yourself, but it is still probably worth a second set of eyes before you submit those files. The first thing a reader sees is the cover so it is important that it be eye catching and reflects the books contents.
After all this is finished to satisfaction, there are still tax issues to consider because you are in business for yourself. In addition, don’t forget about copyrights for your book.
3. Self-published writers believe if they write it, they will come.
It may be fast to get your book out there on the market, but there is still A LOT of work to do. How will people find you? There are tons of books out there. You had better be ready to venture into the world of self-publishing because hours of work lay ahead of you unless you are already on the NY Time’s bestseller list and people know who you are.
Not only do you need a well-written book, but also you need to be prolific writers. We must work our butts off on social media. Self-publishing is not for everyone. We need a big platform for success, not having the NY Times behind us. We have to spend many hours working in getting our name out there and be willing to sacrifice almost everything to achieve that dream.
4. Self-publishers misuse FREE
I couldn’t agree more with this one. There is never any need to give your work away unless you have another goal in mind. This act needs to serve our longer-term business goals, as Kristen puts it.
This is something to think about in a serious way. If a reader downloads a free book and they like your work, they are likely to go back and purchase some other titles. We have nothing to gain by giving away a freebie IF we have no other titles for sale. We have no idea if that reader will even leave a review of our book once they’ve read it.
For this reason, you can only do so much marketing. It is IMPORTANT to keep writing. We all need to have multiple titles if we are entertaining the thought of giving away free books.
Kristen goes on to mention the use of bundling to give away free books. That way it is a win for both the writer and reader. I couldn’t agree more. I’m not a believer in giving away any of my hard work for free, but it does make sense to offer a book for $4.99 and give away a freebie with that purchase, perhaps a short story. The reader will probably jump on that in a minute. This way your work retains its value even with the free status, so it is a win-win situation. You could also say something like this, buy two books at $4.99, and receive free shipping, etc. Doesn’t this make sense?
5. Don’t be guilty of shopping one book to death.
Personally, I see this done all the time. I follow many writers’ threads and I get so sick of the same messages in, my inbox on a daily basis. Yet, I know these fellow writers are desperate to get their message out there.
According to the aforementioned blogs, we should never write one book and then push the hell out of it without sitting down to keep writing. Pomos and blog tours, etc. are good, but the only thing that will sell more books is writing more books. You can’t promote to death until it becomes a spam issue.
The thing to remember is that it takes a few books to get your name out there. One thing in the self-pubs favor is that they own their own schedule and are not under the control of a traditional publisher; therefore, it is easier to get more books out there quicker. Supposedly, it still takes a minimum of three titles, but the ability to offer more than one title should enhance your success.
It is vital to keep writing. The more you write, the better you’ll get at your craft. Once people discover your work, and if they like what they read, there will be multiple books for them to choose from, thus enhancing your success. This will also help you to maximize the FREE tactic, as discussed earlier.
What are thoughts on this? Please check out the other blogs for writers I mentioned. I found a lot of useful info there and tried to share a summary with you all.