Should you? Or shouldn’t you?

18 Jan

We’re talking about self-publishing here. Even ten years ago, self-publishing was really considered to be ‘beyond the pale’ by the literatti or literary elite. “If it’s good enough to warrant publishing, there’s an editor who’ll buy it.” How many times have I heard this statement, or one very close to it? TOO MANY.

The proliferation of computers made it so easy for anyone who wanted to be published to just DIY it, then sit back and wait for the dollars to roll in. Mostly that didn’t happen. The dollars didn’t cooperate for several very good reasons, many of which have still not been attended to.

First and foremost, too much of this material was simply not readable by anyone other than the author’s family and best friends. There is a reason for the existence of editors and proof-readers, and it has never been more clearly demonstrated by the majority of self-published books. Not that commercially-published books are perfect. Not by a long shot! Some of them are a total disgrace to the concept of publishing.

It’s a well-known fact that it’s nearly impossible to proof your own stuff. If you’re fortunate enough to have an eagle-eyed friend who is fluent in the language used to write the book – good for you! You’re at least one step (if not more) ahead of the rest of the bunch. If you’re not, or if you have doubts, for goodness’ sake, hire one! Be sure to get one who knows the language however, (at least for proof-reading) and possibly ‘style’ (as in the Chicago Manual of Style or something similar) for readability purposes.

Punctuation is used for a reason. Without it, you have mush. Unreadable mush. Sentences were created with a specific purpose in mind, and while this philosophy can be thwarted occasionally, it can’t happen every other sentence, or again – you have mush.  For the most part, a sentence consists of a noun, a verb and an object. But not always. A good editor can sort out these situations, and make the mush into something intelligible. A good editor will NOT (or at least should not) try to re-write your story. It’s quite possible that suggestions for tightening or otherwise altering portions of the text will be made, and while nothing says you have to do this, you should certainly think strongly about it. (Especially if there’s a contract in the offering.)

There are no such rules in self-publishing. Oh, to be sure, some publishers may offer suggestions, but it still is pretty much a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of operation. Whatever you submit is what you end up with—warts and all! It can be painful to discover this.

There are certainly any number of success stories out there – the popularity of ‘social media’ with followers in the thousands can be responsible for great sales numbers. Some of these numbers are consistent with future efforts by the writer. Some aren’t.  Some few times, an editor has discovered a great writer/story-teller and offered a contract. This might not have happened had the writer not first believed enough in her/his own talents to take the risk and self-publish.

I, for one, say – Bravo to those hardy souls. I’ve not done this yet myself with any original material, but that day is fast approaching. Will the book sell? Who knows? Will I enjoy the process? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing I do know – the sense of pride in seeing yet another book with my name on the cover as author doesn’t diminish, regardless of the identity of the publisher.

Two of the best books I’ve read in the last year or so are by the same author – who self-published both of them. They are well-written, exciting and compelling stories about a conspiracy set in the modern-day world of politics. They’re breath-taking in scope and audacity, and absolutely un-put-downable!  So why are both these books self-pubbed? Simple. They’re big books, but not unnecessarily so (I have no idea what the author could cut from either of them, but I wouldn’t say it couldn’t be done, either.) The major problem is they’re just simply uncategorizable. In other words, they’re too hybrid to conveniently fit into any of the convenient niches designed by the publishers—for their convenience.  It’s also quite possible that one of the things I most liked about both books would be considered a hindrance by some editors – NO four-letter words to be found. In other words, no ‘street language’.  How refreshing!  But the characters are intelligent, well-educated folks who are perfectly capable of expressing themselves without first stepping into the gutter.

If you want to know the name of this author and his two outstanding books, just send me an e-mail and I’ll be more than happy to share that info with you.

If you intend to self-publish, good for you! But be aware that in addition to your AUTHOR hat, you’ll also be juggling the ones that say PUBLISHER, EDITOR, PROOF-READER, ARTIST, STYLIST and (possibly most important of all) MARKETING/PUBLICITY. Think you can handle it all? Come back in the next few weeks, when I’ll try to explain the duties of the person under each of those hats, and throw in some other tips, as well.

Are you sitting there, trying to figure out if you have a book or not? There is always the possibility that I can help. You have but to ask. Write to me at: bookmechanic@gmail.com      Cheers!

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3 Responses to “Should you? Or shouldn’t you?”

  1. Judy January 18, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    I am so glad you are back. I missed your blogs.

    • Cathy Jo February 1, 2012 at 3:59 am #

      Same goes for me! 🙂 I missed her blogs too!

  2. Robert W. Birch January 31, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    I have done some self-publishing and I have to tell you – a competent editor is invaluable! I can read my manuscript a dozen times and miss a multitude of typos. I use Kelly’s services and highly recommend her. The Book Mechanic is fast, but thorough. Her pricing is reasonable, and well worth the expense. If you are going to self-publish, don’t go it alone. Contact Kelly. You’ll be glad you did (and your readers will be too).

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