Sunday, April 29, 2012

Don’t feed the stygmas!

Mind your toes, people. I have big feet today. One of the things I hear often lately is how self-publishing on Amazon is going to do away with contract publishing. Several reasons are put forth for this.

#1. It’s easy to get your work published. Acceptance is automatic. You don’t have to suffer through any form rejection letters, and it hits the market right away.

#2. You get to pick your cover art, and you don’t have to fight with an editor who wants to change your work.

#3. You don’t have to share royalties with anyone besides Amazon. Plus, you get to dictate your pricing.

I’m sure there are a hundred other reasons I haven’t listed here, but let’s be blunt: 98% of the self-published material out there is sheer, unadulterated crap.

I have been turned on lately to the Page 99 Test at It’s a way for people to take a random sample of a work and simply state whether they’d turn the page or buy the book, based on only Page 99 of the manuscript. And out of the fifty or so Page 99’s I’ve read, maybe two or three show any kind of polish. Now granted, the samples include unpublished material as well as published and self-published. Some of the contract-published work there needs work as well. In some cases it’s hard to tell the difference.

I know two people who self-publish and do it well. They’re both top-notch editors as well as writers. Even they are careful to get their work reviewed and chewed thoroughly before publishing it. And they are the miniscule minority.

Look. I have nothing against independent publishers. If you can put a good book on the digital shelf like Victorine Lieske or Chrystalla Thoma, more power to you. You are what make the contract people look twice, and the market force you exert means better deals for authors. If you can put a good book on the digital shelf.

I don’t care how many times you edit your work, how many revisions you make. A good editor is a priceless resource when it comes to putting your brand name on a professionally-finished product. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You are too close to your own work to be impartial. Of course it looks good to you. But if you don’t know how much adverbs are killing your action, or you are mixing one character’s dialogue in the same paragraph as another’s actions, or you have five thousand homophone errors that your spell-checker missed, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You may sell a hundred copies at 99 cents, but do you want them to buy your second book as well?

So what do you want? Do you want to keep selling yourself cheap, or do you want to turn out high-quality work that people will want to follow? Yes, a contract deal is hard to get. Publishers want the best work they can get their hands on, and look how many people want to be Stephen King or JK Rowling.

This is a highly competitive industry. Less than 1% on average of manuscripts submitted will even generate a contract. A writer better get a tough skin and get used to rejections. I have enough rejection letters to paper my bathroom walls, and one submission was rejected in the time it took to note the submission date in my worksheet. About two minutes. So don’t tell me I have it easy. I paid my dues for seven years before my first contract, learning my craft, fixing my mistakes, improving my voice and making it clear. Even after the contract was signed, my editing team got hold of it and we went round and round the mulberry bush about a dozen times, fixing, polishing, trimming, cutting, adding and whatnot. But when the smoke cleared, we had a product that I was proud to put my byline on. An award-winning product, I might add.

So bottom line is this: my only beef with self-publishers is the quality of the product. Yes, I know there are good self-pubbed works out there. Chrys Thoma is one of the best authors whose work I have in my library. But I know Chrys Thoma. And most of the self-pubbed authors out there simply ain’t her. I know I ain't. That's one of the reasons I don't self-pub right now.

1 comment:

  1. I sometimes wonder if we don't have a Pinnacle-type organization pulling the strings. Who pays for our politicians' campaigns? Who are the lobbyists that push bills through Congress? Where are the real checks and balances that are supposed to be built into our system? Long gone. But most important--when is your third book coming out? ;-)