Perhaps it’s not that serious. Maybe it’s just thwarting unwanted advice. As a self-published (or sp) author I’ve found there’s a lot of detractors and critics who dismiss any book or author that’s self-published.
Naturally the traditional industry would rather you didn’t self-publish in the first place. But it still surprises me that such an industry would then go on to create certain expectations instead of either ignoring the self-publishing arm of the industry or helping it to improve. Consequently it’s become an increasingly credible alternative for authors fed up with long waits and excessive loss of creative control.
Discrediting the sp industry with claims of low quality writing, editing, and production is becoming a hard sell as self-publishing companies continue to improve. Yep, the scammers are still out there just as they are in every other type of business. It’s up to the author to find a legitimate publisher.
I’ll admit that some of the sp books I’ve personally looked at lack any serious editing. A simple spelling and grammar check on a word processor seems like a common deficiency. I shudder to think perhaps these writers are still using typewriters.
While grammatical errors are the fault of the publisher with traditional publishing, they are to be blamed on the author where self-publishing is concerned. This is almost always the result of faulty editing or editorial services, where the author still has the responsibility for quality control. However, within the past few decades I’ve found an increasing number of similar errors in books printed by traditional publishers. Once I was left wondering which character was supposed to be speaking.
Supposedly someone using a self-publishing service or company should not write a sequel since the second book is going to be far better as the author learns to edit. While it’s true that I had much shorter editorial evaluations with my second and third novels, there were other reasons for it. First, I learned it was better to use Microsoft Word than Microsoft Works as the word processor. Then there was the suggestion of the editorial evaluation team to turn the story into a series instead of just the sequel I had planned. I was going to wait until Been Blued and Martian Blues had been out a few years before adding additional titles.
Okay, I admit it: Martian Divides is possibly the best title in the Martian Symbiont series so far. It’s strange saying that when I feel the same way about the fourth novel, which I’m currently writing.
Perhaps they assume a self-published author has never written before. Not only have I been writing non-stop since becoming accustomed to computers, I’ve got several older manuscripts lying around from when I wrote by hand. I suspect most serious authors have their own personal slush pile. When did I start writing science fiction stories? When I was four…they were significantly shorter back then.
Some people treat self-publishing like it’s the alternative for bad writers who keep getting rejected. Frankly, I never bothered to contact a traditional publisher. I didn’t like the standard commission percentage and I hated the idea of losing most author rights. Create a universe and what does it get you—eight to ten percent? I held out for a better deal and eventually discovered self-publishing had grown up. Want to option Been Blued? Call me.
So how does an author avoid all the bad advice and still put out a great book? It helps to be brilliant…but don’t assume you are unless real experts say so. It’s the first part of getting a perspective outside yourself, something even mere mortals should do. Next, make sure writing is your passion—if that’s not possible make sure your topic is your passion. If neither of these is true, put the pen down, walk away, and get on with your life.
Choose your team. If you decide you want a traditional publisher look for one that prints your genre. Check out your local library for books on writing proposals. It’s much quicker and cheaper to send or email a book proposal than to mail a manuscript. Publishers will appreciate a briefer contact that they can respond to quicker. It may also be easier to get the initial acceptance if you can mark your manuscript as requested material. An added bonus may be a bit of advice you can use to improve your manuscript before sending it in.
If you choose a self-publishing company, make sure you do your research. Try to find copies of books they have published. This will allow you to decide if you like what they produce. Make sure you’re aware of commission rates, author rights you may be giving up, and the potential for reprints and future editions. Ask what support services (editing, promotional material, etc.) they provide and what they cost. Find out if they have affiliations that may be useful to you, such as the ability to make your book available online.
If I had one rule for all authors it would be this: use the most up-to-date equipment and reference material you can afford. Language changes over time and you don’t want to put anything archaic in your book. Back when I learned to type the standard was two spaces after the end of a sentence. Now it’s only one, something the editorial evaluation team pointed out to me.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly