Watch Me Rant (just a little) About Self-Publishing
Posted by Kathrine Roid
I swore to myself I wouldn’t address hot, volcanic topics and spread their lava to my blog, but I am a reader as well as a writer, and as a reader I have something to say about self-publishing.
Namely: HELP! You’ve given me a bunch of low priced books without giving me a way to tell if they are a pile of bird poop or not!
This rant comes to you courtesy of a certain self-published book that has a great premise and base plot, but whose writer obviously never read anything about creative writing. Neither did the writer learn how to punctuate. I gave up on the book midway through the first chapter – and after several poorly written scenes – when I started seeing three typos glaring at me on every single page. I wasn’t even looking for them. (I thumbed through the rest of the book, and the writing quality didn’t go up.) Want to know what sort of reviews this book got? Six 5-star reviews on Amazon plus one 4-star, and two 5-star reviews on goodreads. Not getting into the making-friends-and-family-to-review-your-book rant, not getting into the making-friends-and-family-review-your-books rant…
Did I mention one of the character’s names turned out to be misspelled on the back cover? I kid you not. Abbey instead of Abby. Hence rant.
Everyone talks about how great self-publishing is for a writer. They get control over their baby and a higher cut of the price too. Occasionally you’ll find someone shouting, “And the readers have to pay less, so they love it!” That’s great. It really is. Especially for someone who is as cheap about buying books as I am. But that’s not the end of the matter for readers.
I, as a reader, am scared to buy a self-published book. The problem is a quality guarantee. By no means does the traditional publishing industry absolutely guarantee quality either; however, it makes a guarantee of some sort. It guarantees an agent, an editor and various committees at a publishing house, people who see much more of the industry than most readers ever will, all thought it was good. In fact, the entire industry self-publishing advocates often bash is wired to create a quality bar. You know what else that industry does? They help make your book better.
Interestingly, the above system also supplies a guarantee to the the now self-publishing author who has been traditionally published before. The book they are self-publishing now may not have made it through the gauntlet, but the author has. The guarantee: the author knows what they’re doing. They know what professional level of quality is expected. My post is not addressing these traditional-turned-self-published authors.
Most self-publishing authors – those without a prior career in traditional publishing – don’t have that quality gauntlet. This doesn’t <em>automatically</em> mean the self-published book is poor, it just means the reader has no idea what to expect. And you must admit: a lot of self-published books are of inferior quality. That’s why I hesitate.
That traditional-publishing gauntlet – that at-times painful, slow gauntlet – ends up helping you create the best book y’all can. Not you can. Y’all. (I’m Texan, sorry.) The agent and editor are both there to help create a better book. Whatever you may think of their job, they want the same thing you do: a good book. Readers can tell the difference between someone who has done the best they can on their own and maybe with their friends help and someone who has done their best and had professionals guide them to do even better.
The rule of thumb in this business is you are never as good as you think you are. That applies to you, me, and my cat.
No, honestly, my cat is writing a novel. She’s been typing it a few characters at a time by walking across my keyboard whenever I have a word document open.
She’s not as good as she thinks she is.
Now, before you jump on me like a pack of starved wolves, I know not every self-pubbed book is bird poop. In fact, there’s a certain friend reading this post right now whose self-pubbed book is most certainly not bird poop. More of a golden egg, actually. I, too, see self-publishing having a glistening future. But be honest about the present. Self-publishing has opened the floodgates. Anyone and their cat – whether geniuses or overly-enthusiastic beginners – can sell their work. We readers don’t know if we’re getting scammed or not. This helps no one.
I don’t have answers – I wish I did. There would be more of a point to this post. But I’ve not seen the reader’s story of self-publishing told, and it needs to be told, often and everywhere.