Sunday, April 28, 2013

Soap Box Sunday: Advice for Writers Who Self-Publish

*Steps on Soapbox*

I understand your desires, writers. I really do. I'm a writer, too. I understand.

You don't want to wait years to find an agent. Then wait years to find a publisher.

And it's so easy to do now. Go online, and you have a hundred places at your fingertips that will walk you through, step-by-step, the formatting and online publication of your manuscript. You can even jumble together a cover for it, and then there it sits, gleaming like a new promise, online.

You are published.

But not so fast. What are your goals for this little book? To get ten people to read it? Ten of your relatives, who will all write glowing reviews of it online and entice hundreds of others to read it? But what about those other people, people who buy it for a steal at 99 cents? What about those people who put it on their Kindles so that your book is walking around electronically all over the world?

Before you get all giddy and giggly, please realize that these new people are not your relatives. They paid for this book hoping it would be worth reading. They may have even assumed it would be edited. By a professional editor, not your mother.

But it wasn't. Nope, you were cheap and in a hurry. You wanted the book up NOW, dammit.

So these new readers get, for whatever price, a rough, lame book. The first 75% was boring (they didn't get any farther to know whether the last bit was). Commas are either every three words or nonexistent. The thing is impossible to read. Or at least difficult. And nothing really happens except that every character goes wandering around moaning and groaning, just for the angst of it.

If your goal is to chase readers off and make sure they don't TOUCH any future (crappy) novels you post up, then you are well on your way. So stop reading this blog entry.

If you want to gain a following, a true following, people who await your next novel with desperate longing, people who buy one of your novels, read it, and then buy every other thing you've written because they LOVE your stuff, then you need to do some things. Even if you have novels up, sitting there and getting a couple of people to buy them each month, you need to do these things. You MUST do these things.

Don't think you have some mojo that makes these not a requirement. You are not special. You are just like all the rest of us. And even if your stuff is good, you need to do these things to make it better.


1. Revise. No really, revise your novel. If you read through it the first time around, and it sounds great, then sit on it for a month or two.

2. Make other people read it. And don't pick your mom, not unless she's an overly critical mom. Moms do not make good readers, for just seeing your by line on the novel makes them all teary-eyed and they can't see anything else. Not friends, either, unless you have a VERY honest relationship where they can tell you anything. Choose readers carefully, and pick the ones who are the meanest. You don't need a cheering section. You need criticism. Especially if you are still rereading your work and thinking it's brilliant.

3. GET AN EDITOR. Not your mother. Not some friend of yours who writes poetry. Someone you have to PAY to edit your novel. And if you think you're getting a steal when the editor costs $100, you aren't. No real editor would work for so little. If it doesn't cost you at least $500, you aren't going to get what you need. Better yet, the editor will cost $1000, and will work on your book for a freakin' month. And fill it will comments, and tell you when characters are discussing nothing, or are being stupid, or when your descriptions are non-existent. This is the most important step. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS. 

Even better, you need to LISTEN to what the editor says. If he says the scene is unclear, it is. If he is confused, your working is making him confused. If a character's motivation doesn't make sense, listen. And fix it, for God's sake. No, for all our sakes. The editor says these things, not because he's a big fat meanie, but because he reads a LOT of other books, too, and he doesn't want sucky books out there in the marketplace.

I'm not just trying to drum up business. I could edit non-stop if I took all the jobs I was offered. But I can't tell you how many torturous books I've read on my Kindle that might have been readable if someone had just edited them. Yes, it costs money. I know. And it will take time to make that money back once you put the book up for sale. But it will also keep readers like me from giving your book one star and saying we can't really review it because it was UNREADABLE. Those non-friends who pick up your book and hate it will post their hatred online, and people surfing through the books will NOT BUY YOUR BOOK because they read that review.

But it's your decision. Be cheap and in a hurry if you wish. Just hope I don't wander across your novel's page and buy it. Hope no other stranger who likes GOOD, READABLE books does, either. It won't be pretty. Then again, it might be a learning experience. Learn the easy way, and pay for it up front, or learn the hard way, and pay for it in the end. You pick.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

*Steps off Soapbox*


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