Monday, July 16, 2012

Self-Publishing

It's a dark and stormy night for anyone who
doesn't hire and credit an editor on their
self-published work. Thank you, Charles
M. Schulz for creating Snoopy and
Woodstock.
I've self-published. I talked about this over at The Confabulator Cafe a while back. (If you're interested you can read that post here.)

I've thought a lot about self-publishing again recently and I'm working on a project that might be the one that gets me back in that arena. That project is not, however, what I'm talking about here today.

Interestingly, I've read a lot of self-published comics and listened to a lot of self-published music. (They call it independently released music, but it amounts to the same thing.) I have not, however, read a lot of self-published fiction. The advent of sites like Smashwords and lulu.com and even Amazon's CreateSpace are interesting and even good for a lot of authors who want to eschew the traditional routes to publishing.

This route is not for everyone and in fact it's not for most people. Self-publishing has a bad connotation to quite a few folks. Mostly because 95% of self-published titles don't go through very many, if ANY, filters before they're offered for sale. Typos and bad writing are just the tip of the iceberg.

Look, writing is a helluva lotta work. Anyone who thinks that writing is just sitting down and typing is misinformed. Woefully misinformed. Just like thinking that abstract painting is the bastion of pre-schoolers, writing is more than just words on paper. Like any profession, it takes a serious mind to do the work and too often I think that self-publishers believe they're possessed of that serious mind. They think their writing is good enough to pass muster at a major publisher.

Unfortunately, that's just not the case.

Most of the self-published fiction I've read over the last couple of years are things I can't get through. The writing is just plain bad, to begin with, and often the ideas are terribly derivative. By that I mean that too often what I've read is essentially thinly-veiled fan-fiction. It'd be different if these were meant to be parodies, but they just are not. These are serious writing efforts. Not very good ones, by and large, but serious nonetheless.

This is why I believe that if I were to self-publish something again, fiction I mean, I would definitely have to work closely with an editor that I paid to help me make the work better. I wouldn't want to just slap-dash something together and throw it up for consumption then try to market it somehow (usually very, very poorly) in the vain hopes that I would sell hundreds of thousands of copies. That's not why I write.

There has to be a standard of some kind for self-publishing stories. Something that gives potential readers the idea that you can browse the shelves and know that no matter what you pick, you'll be confident that the work will be as good or better than what you might find at a larger publisher.

Oh, man. I'm talking myself into an idea.

Philistines, in other words.
Taking a step back. If you seek out a self-published story to read for whatever reason, you need to know that the work is GOOD, right? Then look for a writer who works with an editor. Then find that editor's other authors and see if you might like one of them, too. Sounds like a simple formula, doesn't it?

Writing is a solitary thing, or it can be. Publishing, however, is a collaborative effort and any writer who thinks otherwise is fooling himself. Especially the ones who think they've been rejected because no one gets the ideas of their stories.

If you want to take a non-traditional route to getting your stories out there, at least set a standard for excellence and meet it. Or exceed it. Then you'll have done something you can be really proud of. If it's your dream to have a book with your name on it, then do that. By all means, do that. But make sure the work is absolutely the best it can be. Work it. Work it as hard as you can and make it GOOD.

Please.