Saturday, October 01, 2011

Do It Yourself, Or . . .

By Keith N Fisher

When I started writing, I noticed a few ads in trade magazines for what we called vanity presses. There was even one company named Vanity Press. They offered writers an opportunity to see their book in print. There was a minimum order. So, it cost a small fortune. It was, however, a way of getting your work out, even after rejection by a publishing house.

Also, there was subsidized publishing which gave an author the prestige of having a publisher at a price. You could see your book printed if you paid a percentage of the cost. Book sales with a vanity press were entirely dependent upon the author. Subsidized publishers offered some service, but the author shouldered most of the sales burden.

Many fiction authors who went those routes never quite recovered from the stigma. Some rose from it and became superstars in their own right. The difference was in the quality of writing. Most of the poorly written books still inhabit shelves in the libraries of family members and relatives. A lot, are taking up space in the writer’s garage. Some get passed around at yard sales, year after year.

Now we live in a print on demand world. E-books have invaded the market and new books are coming from everywhere. Many, first-time authors are doing it themselves. It’s cheaper and easier then ever before. Sales still depend on the author, but the stigma of vanity seems to have disappeared.

Does do it yourself sound like a win/win situation? Personally, I like the idea of having a publisher. If for nothing else, it says my work is good enough, and there are down sides to self-publishing.

In the LDS market specifically, getting a contract from a publishing house hasn’t changed much. I need to submit a clean manuscript. If there are too many problems, it won’t be accepted. The days of mediocrity, however, are gone. Writers have raised the bar. The old stereotypes have fallen. Readers are taking notice.

The beauties of being accepted by a publisher are myriad. Most important is the editor assigned to your project. In the interest of delivering the best possible product, the editor finds errors for you to fix. There is no editor in self-publishing.

Many writers slave over rewrites until they’re sure the manuscript is perfect, but they don’t have the resource of good friends in the business. Friends who could read through and catch errors before its published.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do blog reviews. I get to read some of those self-published books, along with those from publishing houses. Many of the self-published ones could’ve benefited from the services of an editor.

I think that many writers finish a story and hurry to publish. They’re probably sick of reading through the manuscript so, they rush to get it out there. Some times they forget about that spot they were going to fix but never did. The book goes to press. The flaws are still there. The writer gets a bad reputation, and the market suffers.

In the past, because of a mediocre product, many readers wouldn’t read LDS market books. Now, because of impatience, some of the self-published books on the market are returning us to those days.

I don’t mean to imply that all self-published books are badly written. In fact, most of them are fine. Even those who could use an editor are good. They just need a little more polish. A line and content editor would help immensely.

The lesson is clear. Slow down and make sure its perfect before you publish. Look at logistics. Don’t have your character see something that doesn’t exist in the place you have written them into. Use a good friend or hire an editor. At the very least, it gives you someone to blame for that typo on page forty three. You know the one that makes you look like a four-year old author?

I have a friend who can open a book to the middle and tell if it was self-published without looking at the cover, or reading a word. The word wrap and layout are important. Don’t get sucked into thinking it doesn’t matter, because the point is quality, right?

Keep in mind you have to sell your book. There are marketers you can hire, but it still takes work and you won’t have a publisher to help you. If, after all, you sell a few books, wouldn’t piece of mind be preferable to always remembering the mistakes you made? Don’t give your customers a reason to pass you over when its a choice between your second book or . . .

As for me, I want a publisher. I think I have a lot to offer. I think we can work well together. Did I mention I cook in Dutch ovens? Just think of the great company Christmas parties in the publishing house. Hint. Hint.

Anyway, good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Unknown said...
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Kiwasi said...

Good points. In many cases self publishing is the easy way out.