So you’ve decided to take the plunge and self-publish your book. Perhaps you’ve already gone the traditional route and received only rejection letters. Well, you are not alone. Unless you are a celebrity who has hired a ghostwriter or you are solving the mystery of JFK with polaroid photos, you are going to hit a stumbling block.
Publishers are scared. Bookstores are closing their doors across the country while online book sales continue to climb. Companies like Amazon are providing the tools for authors to take matters into their own hands and get their work out there. Before you go rushing off into the world of self-publishing, there are a few caveats.
Beware of carpetbaggers
With the impending demise of any institution, there is a window for opportunists to grab the money and run. In this case, it’s your money.
Amid this uncertainty, a flurry of online companies have been rushing to create a demand for their services. What services, you ask? Good question. According to many of the claims I’ve read, they will help you find a designer for your cover, find an editor for your manuscript, and direct you toward the best way to market your work. In other words, nothing you can’t do yourself with a little research. They do not do any designing or editing. As for marketing, they will tell you about Facebook and Twitter and a few other things like that. Why on earth would you pay these people 15% to do nothing but point a finger in ‘a general direction’ (Monty Python fans will know the implications there)?
Yes, you need a graphic designer. Yes, you need an editor. Look for people with credible recommendations. You don’t need to pay anyone 15% of your profits to point a finger.
Yes, there are some legitimate companies out there who will provide a real service but start at the beginning. If you are publishing on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, start there. Check out the services they offer before handing your money over to a company you don’t know. Talk to people who have self-published. You have written a book so you know how to research. This time, it’s for you so make it count.
We are all newbies in self-publishing
It’s a term that describes all of us at this point because it’s a brand new experience exploring the mix of independent publishing, self-publishing, and the Internet. I’ve been following discussions and watching for trends and this is one that seems to be picking up speed so grab your keyboard and get set for an interesting ride!
Who should try it?
We all have a story to tell. If the only people who ever read it are members of our family, so be it. We’ve done it. We have written a book and that is no small accomplishment. Where we run into trouble is in expecting the world to beat a path to our door asking to read it. With one or two exceptions, that is not going to happen.
First things first: Why are you writing your book?
That is a serious question and one I ask myself every time I sit down to create something. If it is coming from a passionate drive to put into words all that burns and yearns within us, or makes us laugh at ourselves, we may have a chance at readership. Self-indulgence is another matter, although it does seem to work for a couple of best-selling authors who shall remain nameless.
Writing for financial gain is ‘literary suicide’
Yes, I have first-hand experience with that approach. Years ago, I tried writing romance novels in collaboration with a dear friend who was unfortunately of the same mind. We bought a book on how to write a romance (yes, odd how that works, isn’t it?) and got as far as the chapter on Phrases to Avoid. If I’m going to be truthful, we jumped ahead to read that part. By now, the wine was open and we took turns reading from the chapter until we were both laughing hysterically and rolling around in our own delicious sense of superiority that is inherent in Canadian writers with no real sense of direction. American writers with no sense of direction are different; they tell you they have direction and offer it for sale, raking in lots of money from Canadians (remember the aforementioned book). I still recall the point at which we realized we would not get this book written. It had something to do with not using the term “damp vestibule”. You can figure out the rest on your own.
Back to the task at hand: sharpen that pencil!
If you have managed to create a work from the heart and are ready to publish it, you can certainly edit it yourself. Of course, it will be obvious that you did. Why? Because you are not looking at your work with a critical eye. You are in love with it. The old adage that says a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client has a wisdom that can also be applied to the writer who edits his own book. Not that we shouldn’t edit at all; of course we should. I’m talking about after we have edited and revised countless times and after we have used spell check and the dictionary.
A line editor is an artist in the editing world and will find things that we can’t see; things like voice, unnecessary or annoying adverbs, and redundancies that can take our wonderful story and make it painful for others to read. Sending our book into the world unedited is like sending a child to school in mismatched socks and his grandmother’s polyester suit. What are the chances he’ll come home from class unscathed?
If you can’t afford a professional editor (and remember what I said about enterprising people with no direction of their own), hire a teacher, a tutor, or someone with impeccable credentials and some serious experience.
This is your baby. Take good care of it!
The video below is a great piece on self-publishing – don’t miss it!
Darryl Sloan speaks out about self-publishing