In the last few years self-publishing has gone from being thought of as only something for the unpublishable (and by definition second class) to being a real choice for new authors. It is so easy to format and produce quality e-books that anyone can do it and if you’re still worried about the technical side there are companies that will do it all for you for a reasonable fee. No longer does the decision of what constitutes a ‘good book’ lie with agents and publishers who would normally reject the vast majority of manuscripts they receive.
You may be appealing to a small audience or perhaps they simply don’t like your style. But if you’re convinced there are people who will enjoy your work you have the opportunity to put it out there yourself, and why not? There are now authors that have turned away from traditional publishing so they can stay in control of their works. Also agents are looking for successful self-publishers.
However, having read many self-published books I believe with this freedom comes certain responsibilities for the self-publishing author we can’t ignore if we are to continue to grow in stature and challenge the world of traditionally published books:
1) The first and most obvious is quality. I have read well written and presented e-published novels (mainly science fiction in my case) that would be hard to distinguish from those of a traditional publishing firm. However I have read a number that are either badly written, and I don’t just mean in a style that I didn’t appreciate, or are littered with typos and formatting errors. And often if you find a publication with one of those you will have the other as well, as if the writer just doesn’t care. I know it is not easy. I revise my books many, many times before I send them to a professional proof reader (who goes beyond just proof reading) and yet I know, as soon as I press the publish button I’ll find an error.
So to my mind your story can be as ‘left field’, whacky, off the wall as you like (see below) but we have to produce to the highest quality possible. I have said in previous blogs that as self-published authors the readers may be prepared to forgive us a few errors, but beyond that I know myself I just stop reading.
2) As self-published authors we need to commit to reading, reviewing, helping and promoting other self-published authors. If we’re not prepared to do that for each other why should the general reading public choose our books? At the beginning of the year I blogged my writers resolutions for 2015, I now think I should add this to the list.
3) We need to be responsible in how we promote ourselves. Social media is full of ‘read my book, read my book’. I don’t know about you but if I see too much of that it has the opposite effect. I’m a member of ‘Books Go Social’ which, yes, helps promote your books but also encourages its members to read, review and help other authors in the group.
4) Following on from 2) we also need to be honest with each other. By that I mean not just give a 5 Star, everything is wonderful review, if it isn’t, in the hope of getting a reciprocal 5 star review. If we keep doing that, what value do they have? I am not saying we should publish ‘rubbishing’ reviews, but rather that we should go back and in a constructive manner explain where we think the work needs improving, why and give encouragement i.e. treat people with the same curtesy we would like to receive from them.
5) As self-publishers we should applaud people who push the boundaries, try something new, tell a story in a different way. By their very nature traditional publishing houses are less likely to take risks. As self-publishers we have so much more freedom. We can write the stories we want to write. We can then replace ‘I don’t think it will sell’, with ‘give it a try’. On the proviso of course that it is well written and as free of error as it can possibly be.
So those are some of my feelings on the subject. You may have others, let me know. The bottom line for me is that if, as self-publishers, we want to be taken seriously along-side traditionally published authors, then we need to take ourselves and our work seriously (as I know many do).