The Self-Published

by RS on March 23, 2010

Sounds a little like the undead, doesn’t it? Late January I received an email from an author’s assistant asking if I was interested to review her boss’s book; the first thing I looked at was who published it and what were the initial reviews. I’ve been very picky about certain publishers, but when I saw it had been reviewed by Publishers Weekly I figured the publisher was an indie, so I emailed back and said to send it.

I won’t write about the specifics of the story, but I will address the writing. It’s terrible. The grammar is a mess and the research is sloppy.  I was dismayed the reviewer from Publishers Weekly liked the book, but didn’t comment at all about the writing.  So I did a little research on the publisher (which I should have done right from the start, shame on me).  When I looked at the site, I couldn’t tell whether it was a vanity press or not, but after some digging I found Writers Beware. If you go to the post dated March 18, 2009, you’ll get the answer about the publisher and why it appeared in PW.

I don’t want to be too hard on self-published authors because they have completed their books, while I still struggle with Julius. We all know all about the agony, the self-doubt, the insecurity that comes with writing a book. Kudos to those who have slaved over every word; debated the use of a semi-colon or a period; know the difference between passive voice and the past perfect progressive, and so forth.

But I will be hard on writers who don’t understand the basics of editing, and who take short-cuts to getting published with a vanity press.  Here’s my advice: Don’t do it. They just want your money.

Make your novel perfect and exhaust every possibility to get published the traditional way. In other words, workshop it. Revise, revise, revise. Workshop it again. Revise, revise, revise. When it’s reached the point that you don’t know how to rework it–and you can afford it–go to a professional editor–one that does both developmental and line edits.  Make the suggested changes. Once you’re done, it’s time for the dreaded query letter and contacting agents. When you’ve received at least a hundred rejections that’s when you might want to consider the self-publishing route–personally, I would either have a blog and post it or do a podcast of your book-but if you choose the self-pub path, research all the presses.

Finally, if you insist on self-publishing without following any of the advice from above, don’t be too surprised when you read a bad review. You could have spared yourself the embarrassment if you had taken more time to think through every chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word. Not every story deserves to be published–believe me, I know–no matter what Mom, the wife, or your kids say (support from the family is good, but you need to be more critical of your own work).

Wow. I’ve motivated myself. Maybe I should read poorly written books more often, and follow my own advice.

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