I’ve been talking a lot on TIPM recently about The Rise of The Self-Publishing Experts in the self-publishing field and the need for authors to have an eyes-wide-open approach before embarking down any publishing path. As a publishing consultant, far too often, I talk to authors after they have already made critical decisions about the right publishing path to take and sometimes their books are tied up with poor self-publishing service providers, or they are disillusioned and frustrated with constant rejections from agents and publishing houses. It is not always easy to fix a bad situation or change the mindset of an author after some decisions have been made or certain actions taken.
What am I doing wrong?
It’s a desperate cry I hear a lot from authors. The modern author has learned to be pretty adaptable, robust, thick-skinned, resourceful, and driven by a never-say-never approach in the world of publishing and selling books. Often, they are doing more things right than wrong. A closer look at the path and early decisions a writer takes will usually reveal a great deal about the point where they will flounder, give up, or accept the limitations and consequences of those early decisions. As a writer, before you become an author, if those first few steps are misplaced, it can be hard to accept that you may have to do a great deal of backtracking in order to make the next step forward count.
The two most common words I find myself uttering to writers are STOP and BE PATIENT.
For writers pursuing a traditional publishing contract:
… sending manuscripts out to agents and publishers which have not been through some form of professional or peer critique system, whether that is a group of trusted beta readers, a writing workshop group, or a professional assessment service.
… sending manuscripts out to agents and publishers who do not deal with the appropriate genre of work you write in. As a writer, like it or not, you need to understand the marketplace of the publishing industry, as well as the readership marketplace. If you don’t, you are wasting their time as well as your own.
… sending query letters to agents and publishers which don’t finitely explain what your book is about, why it is good, and who you are.
The traditional publishing business remains, at times, slow and antiquated. If you have written a good book, a strong query letter, sent it to the right agents and publishers, you stand a stronger chance of getting a positive response. Concentrate on agents and publishers who allow email submissions rather than snail mail. It is likely these ones are far more progressive and in tune with the pace of change in the modern industry. Use your time wisely while submitting and go and write an even better book. Agents and publishers look favourably on writers who have built up a body of work rather than just a one-off book. It shows you are serious about your work as an author.
For writers investigating self-publishing service providers:
… and do your research before submitting your book to any service provider. Don’t just use Google as a method to find out about a company or service. Yes, there are good online resources and experts in this field. Take a look at the extensive review section on TIPM and our RESOURCE links. Try and contact other authors who may have used the providers you are investigating.
… and understand YOUR needs as an author and what makes a reputable self-publishing service provider.
… and understand that self-publishing is not the poor relation of traditional publishing. It’s a business, and whether you use a self-publishing provider or set up your own imprint and contract out individual services with freelancers, your book will become a product for sale to the reading public. It needs to be professionally edited, designed, distributed and marketed.
It takes time as a self-published author to understand how publishing works. Even using DIY self-publishing services like CreateSpace or Lulu require certain skills. If you don’t have these skills then seek out professionals. DIY self-publishing is not about banging up an unedited book file to an online retailer like Amazon or a self-publishing platform like Smashwords. Never succumb to impatience and the NEED to have your book out there with the public as quickly as possible. There are many good reasons why traditionally published books take longer to reach sales channels, and while I believe traditional publishers need to improve the turnaround time of pre-production, it should never be an excuse for self-published authors to leave out critical pre-production stages like good editing, design and a robust marketing plan.
An author emailed me recently and asked why some of the articles over the past few months in TIPM were ‘beating up’ on self-publishing experts while I appeared at the same time to be presenting myself as a self-publishing expert and the services my company provides to authors. It is a fair observation, but my core argument over recent months is that I am a publishing consultant and there are now far too many experts in the field of self-publishing offering a deliberate bias towards DIY self-publishing services, as if it were the only legitimate and valid way to self-publish.
DIY self-publishing is a very specific approach to publishing and requires authors to have an understanding of good formatting and design, a skill set to undertake this, or the ability to contract and manage all aspects of a publishing project. It is not a path for every author, no matter how easy, quick or cheap this option is presented to an author by an expert. In fact, the DIY self-publishing options are often presented as the ONLY or RIGHT way to go. This flies in the face of reality because most authors I meet want to primarily write and they don’t want to become full time publishers and authors. Traditional publishing remains the ideal path for many writers and there is a great deal of benefit to be gained starting out at this point for an author and their craft before ever embarking on the self-publishing path. Too many self-publishing experts present the traditional world in a very grim manner. The result of bias towards the DIY model of self-publishing is also that good self-publishing service providers (and they do exist) end up getting tarred with the same brush as all vanity and publishing service scams.
First and foremost, I’m an advocate for authors and publishers, not just self-published authors. It is the fundamental reason I set up The Independent Publishing Magazine five years ago and became a publishing consultant. Whatever you believe about the history and folklore of self-publishing; it is now a part of the wider publishing industry and the same standards must still apply to the published book—reading tastes aside. More than half my author clients are traditionally published and too many self-published authors publish books for the wrong reasons without carrying out even the most basic research.
So, remember… STOP; do your research as an author whatever publishing path you choose. By all means get advice and contract the service of experts and professionals. Consider if their advice feels RIGHT for YOU, but above all, BE PATIENT, doing something the RIGHT way for YOU takes time.