Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The "self-publishing" business

is apparently becoming more common. Am I tempted? No.
I know writing needs editing. It needs an outsider to read it and say, "That does not make sense. You have repeated yourself. Grammar! Did you run out of commas?" That would be just a start. There would be plenty of other faults.
Of course I like to think that my writing does not have any of those faults but one look at this blog would tell an editor there is work to do. I cannot afford to pay a good editor to do a good job. I like to think my writing is worth a good editor.
All writers need editors. Authors with multiple books on the shelves still use editors so the idea you can do it all yourself is not for me. If it is good enough then someone, somewhere will want to help me with the editing - I hope.
There are also all the other things I know nothing about. There is the set-up technical side - of which I know nothing. How do you choose a font? What about page lay out? Those things are just the start. The rise of e-books may reduce costs but there is still a great need for technical know-how. I just do not have that know-how.
Just as importantly there is the marketing side - of which I know less than nothing. Our local indie bookshop has occasionally provided a "book launch" for a self-published book. They might sell in small numbers. I admire the courage of the authors but I avoid such launches because there is, rightly, an expectation that you will buy the book - and no book has yet appealed sufficiently to me. I cannot encourage others unless I believe in what they are doing. I could not ask others to buy something I had self published. If it has been published by a reputable publisher that will be different. It will mean someone else has some faith in it too. That is important.
Self-publishing may well be on the rise however, especially as e-books become more accessible. Editors, with varying degrees of skill, are already offering their services. Some of it may well work, especially for smaller books or specialised books. The author is still going to need a great deal more knowledge than I have.
Other writers will still get caught however. They will use vanity publishers. The latest scam by one of the biggest vanity publishers, "Publish America", offering desperate would-be authors the supposed opportunity to have JK Rowling see their work is possibly one of their worst yet. Rowling is not going to sit down, read and criticise the manuscripts of hundreds or would-be authors. There is no contract between her and this vanity publisher and there never will be. They know this. They also know how desperate some people are for acknowledgement so they say, "Come on, pay us. We will be your best friend."
Friendship cannot be bought and even self-publication has to be paid for. I know I need an editor - and that is just a start.


Alison Morton said...

Exciting as it is to live in times of change (and I feel privileged to have done the stretch from 1960s to present), we all need some anchors in our writing life, especially we newbies.

There is a bewildering array of platforms and channels to get your content out there and the desire to be published grows every day (especially mine!)

But some things stay constant: if you have to pay for it, it's not the real thing and if it looks too easy, then there's a massive catch.

Clichéd rant of the day over. But remember that clichés only arise because the situation has occurred many, many times before...

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of why I will never write a book. Ros

JO said...

Timely post, Cat. I've been drafting a post about how I've - gradually - come to see self-publishing differently. I think there is a parallel in the way indie music has evolved - challenging the traditional labels and allowing some great, and unexpected music, to emerge from the dross. Most self-published work is, indeed, dross, but the squeeze on traditional publishing (some getting rid of mid-list writers who don't make them enough money) leaves too many potentially exciting writers on the sidelines.

Mine is a 'niche' book (non-fiction) so it was never going to be easy finding a traditional publisher. So doing it myself is the way I shall go - and I hope to be able to say why, and blog about the hows (no, I don't expect it to be easy.)

And my first stop - an editor. I agree totally that it is impossible to see the flaws in your own work.

Jean said...

I know that there are some good self-published books and that some authors do the job well, and Well Done to them. But I personally wouldn't consider self-publishing for the reasons you discuss in your post, Cat. I needed to know that someone (ie. a publisher) had enough faith in my book to put their money into it.

As for vanity publishers, oh they sicken me and make me feel so angry. Some people blame the authors who go to them for being naive, but I think the blame lies with the vanity publishers for ruthlessly cashing in on people's hopes and dreams. How can they sleep at night?

Judith said...

Can I suggest looking here: Untitled Books, a Literary website and online magazine, author interviews, articles, book recommendations and new short fiction.
My daughter is the New Voices Editor there. I have no idea if this is what you are looking for but it might help!
Look at the about us and contact us pages.
She also has a twitter link!/search/lucyscholes