The Self-Publisher’s Dilemma

Tempting...very tempting...

Like everyone else, I’m very interested in how ebooks are going to change the publishing world, especially since I hope to be a part of that world in the near future.  Lately one of the things that has been coming up is the idea of self-publishing.  With ebooks on the rise, and easy-to-use self-publishing platforms readily available, why not just self-publish and cut out the middle man? That way, you make more money per book, and can sell your books for less.  Seems like a win-win-win situation.  But…

There’s always a but.  In fact, in this case there are two “buts” that I’ve noticed when it comes to self-publishing.

First, now that anyone can pretty much put anything up on the kindle, there is a lot out there.  And, I hate to say it, but a lot of it isn’t very good.  I have nothing against self-publishing; for some people, it’s a better way to get their stuff out there, and I’m sure there are a lot of great stories available that wouldn’t otherwise be.  But there’s also a lot of not-so-great stories available.  What this means is that trying to find a good self-published story in the murky sea of words out there is difficult.

True, there are some traditionally published books that aren’t so great, either.  I know I can think of several times I’ve read something and wondered how it got published.  On the other hand, writing is so subjective, that those same books were highly recommended by other readers, so again, personal opinion plays a large role here.  But, back to the point, with traditionally published books at least there’s some kind of filter.  With self-publishing, that filter has been torn off so it’s up to the reader to figure out what’s good and what isn’t.  Which is exciting, yes, but also difficult, and leads to my second issue:

How do you make your self-published book stand out from the rest? This is something I argue about with my husband all the time.  As I’m researching agents and working on my query letter, he’s asking me why I don’t try self-publishing and bypass all that, and the reason is, I know my own limitations.  Would I be good enough at marketing myself to become well-known? Probably not.  True, in today’s world authors are expected to market themselves anyways, but in going the traditional route, they have some help.  A lot of help, actually.  If you self-publish, you go it alone for everything.

This means marketing, finding an editor, scheduling your own book signings and talks, everything.  Amanda Hocking, one of the kindle millionaires that everyone has been buzzing about lately, says it best in her post here when she explains, “I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book.”

On the other hand, it’s clear that times are changing.  There are some great comments on Nathan Bransford’s blog about all of this, and how mid-list authors will be the first to switch over.  Already Barnes and Noble announced it will welcome self published authors through its self-publishing platform, PubIt! Shari Lopatin took a look at this platform and the issues it raises over at her blog, if you want to check out her post.

As for me, I still want to go the traditional publishing route, if only to prove that yes, I was good enough to get in that way.  But I have a feeling that, as things change, more people will turn to self-publishing and not as a last resort, but as just another option.  What do you think?

Advertisements

Writing Limbo…

If you read my post Tuesday, you’ll know that I finally finished my current WIP, and I’m now waiting for one of my “trusted readers” (ie. the poor sucker I conned into reading an early draft) to finish going through and giving me helpful feedback.

pic courtesy of Cheezburger.com

This puts me in a strange sort of limbo because for the past couple of months, I’ve worked very consistently on that one story, and now I’m not able to work on it anymore.

I’ve been debating about working on editing one of my older first drafts, but I’m not sure I want to invest that amount of energy in a new novel when I know I’ll be going back to my other WIP as soon as I get some criticism on it (should be back within a month).  I’ve also thought about attempting to write some short stories again; the last one I wrote was two years ago, so it would be a good exercise, if I can just think of a fun idea.  Or…well, those are the only things I’ve thought of.

My question to any of you writers out there who read this is, what do you do when you finish a draft? Do you immediately start something new? Go back through said draft? Take a long, much-needed break?

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 6:50 am  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , , ,

Hey, I finished writing a novel! Now what?

Alright, after months of silence I’m back.  Today is actually a pretty momentuous day for several reasons, and not just because I finally got off my lazy butt and started blogging again.  I also…<cue the music>…finished my third draft of my current WIP (work in progress)! Exciting, I know.  And while it still has another half dozen drafts to go (probably more than that, if I want to be entirely honest), I now have what I refer to as a “readable draft.”

A “readable draft” means that the plot makes sense throughout and the story is basically finished, so I can now have someone else read through it.  I don’t like to share my WIP with anyone until it gets to this point because honestly, my first drafts are just a confused jumble of words, full of inconsistencies and terrible dialogue.  Now, at least, these plot fails are surrounded by bits of story that makes sense.  Yay!

What happens now, you might ask? Well, first I need to con someone I trust into reading this draft and giving me some good feedback.  Actually, I like to get two people to read it at this point so I can get a good variety of criticism.  The list of people I will let read a first readable draft is very small, which is how I think it should be.  All you prospective writers out there, don’t let just anyone read an unfinished piece because it’s really not going to be your best work yet.  Find someone who reads a lot and can take a look at your story as a reader and let you know what works and what doesn’t.  It has to be someone who knows you well enough to be brutally honest, but who’s opinion you trust enough not to get angry and take it personally.  These are tough qualifications, which is why my own list is so small.

Another thing I’ve learned is to give my first readers plenty of time.  They are doing me a huge favor, so I don’t want to rush them, but I also find it’s helpful to give them some sort of timeline.  Most people operate much better when they know they have to get something done by a certain day.  Otherwise, your manuscript might just sit in a corner of their rooms for the next three months.  Generally, I give them a month, which accomplishes two things.  First, that’s more than enough time to read a manuscript and give some general critiques on it, and two, that gives me a month away from my story so when I do get it back, along with their suggestions, I can look at it with a fresh set of eyes.

When I hand over my glorious manuscript, I have also learned to be clear about my expectations.  I don’t want any line editing, or paragraph by paragraph notes, or anything ridiculous and hugely time-consuming like that.  No, these kinds of critiques should come later from your writing group.  Don’t have a writing group? Join one! I’ll talk more about why in a later post.  But getting back to this topic, what I want from a first reader is just this: Is my story interesting? Why or why not? Does it make sense? What doesn’t work in it? Any suggestions to make it better? Those are pretty much the only things I ask at this point.

When I get back my feedback, that’s when the real work begins.