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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What I'm passionate about: Protecting authors from bad publishing decisions!

Back in the old days (2008 and before) authors were at the mercy of two types of publishers.

First were the traditional print houses who misunderstood the impact of the 2007 release of the Kindle and went on with business as usual. Their sales began to slip, their revenues dipped, and they circled the wagons. And by that I mean, they started buying only what they already knew would sell. Literally, "Give us something different, as long as it fits these boxes."

OUTCOME: You don't fit in the box, we won't buy your book.

Second were the vanity presses; self-publishing at it's absolute worst. Vanity presses print anything they are given, regardless of quality, because they make their money from the authors who pay them thousands of dollars to print X-number of books, which the author is then responsible to sell.

OUTCOME: Awful books, bought and sold at exorbitant prices, and authors losing quite a bit of money, not making it.

Ugh.

Then Amazon bought a company called CreateSpace, and expanded its offerings to print-on-demand books. In 2009, Amazon signed a distribution agreement with Ingram, and now those books can be ordered by bookstores.

OUTCOME: Without any upfront investment, authors can get their books into print at a decent per-copy price, and sell them internationally through Amazon.com. (Ditto for eBooks on Kindle, Nook, etc.)

Yeah!

Um, yeah?

Just because we can, doesn't mean authors should run out and upload their latest gem. As shortsighted as many of the traditional publishers have been in this shifting business, they provide some EXTREMELY important services:

1. They tell authors if their writing skills are good enough.

OUTCOME: Too many self-publishing authors fail to get honest feedback before they publish. Their writing makes me wince. These authors will not have repeat customers.

2. They edit the manuscripts. They looked for mistakes in spelling, grammar, pacing, continuity, characterization, plot, punctuation, etc.

OUTCOME: I have seen self-pubbed books which were such a hot mess that I wondered if anyone looked at them at all. These authors will not have repeat customers, either.

3. They promote the authors.

OUTCOME: If no one knows you exist, they can't buy your books! Self-publishing authors have a long, hard, expensive, time-consuming, and discouraging road ahead of them.

So, what's my point?

Be patient.
You can do this.
Don't publish prematurely.
Know what you are getting into.
Take yourself seriously as a writer.
Be willing to take the hard criticism.
Get professional opinions about your manuscripts.
Be dedicated to learning to write better and doing your best.
Don't spend more cash on promotion than you can make back in sales.
Quality, quality, quality, quality; details, details, details, details, details.

Don't make a bad publishing decision. Because digging out from under the fallout will take exponentially more time, effort, and expense than if you step back, regroup, and do it well to begin with.

11 comments:

Suzanne Lilly said...

Your thoughts are so true. Writers need to think about their careers, and not just getting the next book out. They need to ask if their novel is so good that readers will be waiting impatiently for their next book. If self pubbing, hiring an outside editor is essential.

Paty Jager said...

Exactly, Kris. The only way self publishing will work for a writer is if the writer has a people to check their writing and make it the best book it can be, not just throw out something once they hit "the end" the first time.

Quality is the only way they will get repeat readers.

Good post!

Sarah Raplee said...

Truer words were never spoken! Your books are an example of self--publishing done right, Kris! I'm reading the second book in your Hansen series now and loving it!

Congratulations on the release of book #6, A Discrete Gentleman of Discovery. I can't wait to read this one!

Judith Ashley said...

A great Soap Box, Kris. Quality is important for many reasons - repeat customers being a major one! And feedback from someone else is vital...I thought my first draft of my first book was wonderful, now I wince and shudder when I catch sight of it. (Yes, I do keep it around to remind me that going through my latest WIP is essential if I'm going to be successful in this business).

Kris Tualla said...

Thanks, Sarah! :)

And to Judith: I kept a "what-I-thought-was-clean" PROOF of my 4th novel to use as a visual aid when I speak about self-pubbing. About 2/3 of the pages are dog-eared, indicating mistakes.

There is NO short-cut. Period. TAKE YOUR CAREER SERIOUSLY, DAMMIT!

*Kris steps off soapbox*

derekd said...

Just because we can publish, doesn't mean we should. I regularly troll amazon for cheap historicals. There is some real drek out there. And there is some, with a bit of editing, could be really good.

I've developed the opinion, without a 3rd party professional edit, self pub authors are hurting themselves and their readers. So, I agree with you completely, Kris.

Sandy L. Rowland said...

I'm glad you covered this. I've been tempted to do the e-book thing, but I sent my ms to a requesting agent first.
She has it now and we shall see.
At the least, I might gain some great feed back. Is it ready or a hot mess?
Love your terminology. I want only good work out with my name on it.

Thank you for the post.

Judith Anne Horner said...

Agree that hiring an editor is essential.

Libby Banks said...

Great advice Kris!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Kris, if everyone who thought about self-publishing read your advice FIRST, we readers would have a lot more fabulous books available!

Laurie, who's gotta remember this URL :)

Robin Kramme said...

Kris...Is there room for me to join you on your soapbox? Great post. I know it is a cliche, but too many writers forget they only get one chance to make a first impression. If a writer wants a following, she should view her published work as a job interview or an audition. Develop your skills and seek professional help before going on stage!