This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks what you like or dislike about self published books.
Okay, to start with, I don’t review self published work here unless the author has a track record as a paid author in the regular publishing industry. The reason is that, while there is undoubtedly some wonderful work in that area, I really don’t want to wade through the rest to find it. It’s a bit like online fan fiction. Anyone can publish online now. The fanzines I used to read in the old days had a filtering process. Someone had to want to publish it. That doesn’t mean there were no awful fanzines - there were plenty, just as there is plenty of dreadful stuff being published by the big four. But there is less chance of finding badly written stories with poor grammar, punctuation and spelling. Someone had to edit it, and quite a few self published authors don’t want to pay an editor. I’ve received so many review requests from them and their marketing companies that give me a snippet which presumably is supposed to draw the reader in. All I can think of when I read them is, “If that’s the best bit, what’s the rest like?” My favourite of these was one who had written some horror fiction with a historical background, but clearly hadn’t done her research. A music box appeared in 17th century Salem! And the evil witch had that well known Puritan name of Natasha. Another had written a children’s book with eleven year old lawyers.
There are many reasons why people self publish. I’d like to mention that one of my authors in Andromeda Spaceways #60 had been self publishing, but submitted to us and made her first sale, and the last I heard from her, she had acquired an agent. She had discovered that publishers might be willing to pay her for her work, so decided to have a go at finding them.
Some do it because they want to keep their rights and their money. Usually they are people who have been published before, but not always. It might be a niche subject that regular publishers aren’t interested in. If you know what you’re doing, fine. Not everyone does.
I have to tell you, I’ve been blocked from the blog of an author who had been going on for years about how horrible “trad” publishers were and was a militant self pubber, though she hadn’t actually done it yet. My crime was suggesting, quite politely, that I hadn’t had any particular problems with them. By the way, the lady has still not done her first book, despite her carry on about the matter. I can only assume she had had a few rejections to make her so angry.
I know a few people who have done both. These are known as hybrid authors. Felicity Pulman’s wonderful YA Janna Chronicles were dumped by her publisher after Volume 4, despite there being two more books to go. Some of my students were reading the series at the time. She self published the rest and eventually another publisher took on the lot. By the way, I bought her self published books for my library so the kids could finish the series. She did it for a reason and has now found another publisher.
Patty Jansen is a highly militant self publisher of SF, but has also sold enough fiction in the US to be allowed into the Science Fiction Writers of America. She knows what she is doing, so does well in her sales of her self published work.
Another friend, Simon Haynes, started in self publishing, sold his series, then went back to self publishing. I haven’t asked him why, but I can guess one reason: publishing companies just can’t keep up with him. He is very prolific, and publishers who accept your book are unlikely to publish it for two or more years, as they have a list to get through. He knows how to put together ebooks and commission art and post them online, so why wait for a publisher to do it?
Tansy Rayner Roberts is another hybrid author who, I suspect, self publishes because publishers couldn’t keep up with her.
Michelle Cooper, author of the terrific Montmaray series, wanted to do a book about inventions. Her book, Dr Huxley’s Bequest, was written as a novel. Her agent didn’t think publishers would like it, so she said, “I’ll do something else next time, promise!” and self published. The book has done very well, even won a major award or two.
I should add that self published books have been short listed for the Aurealis Awards and the CBCA Awards. I am pleased for the authors. I suspect they were among those who knew what they were doing.
And that’s the thing - you do have to know what to do. You need to invest in an editor rather than a marketing company, which will take your money and spend a short time finding blogs and emailing the lot at once. There are good freelance editors out there, many with experience in working for publishers. Beta readers are all very well, but if they are friends they will try to be kind, and if they are in your writing group, you may decide to ignore the advice you don’t like. It’s not enough, by itself.
You need to find a good artist for the cover, and let them get on with the task, without messing them around. Don’t try to design your own, unless you have art talent. I’ve read blog posts by authors who are asking commenters’ opinions on what to do about the cover they are designing without any skills. Yes, I know editors and artists cost money, but those who want to be seen as professionals need to make their work look professional.
I don’t reply to anyone who sends me an inquiry but doesn’t address me by name and has clearly not bothered to read my guidelines. Please don’t tell a blogger you love their blog when you aren’t following it. I once asked nicely what in particular they loved and, as I suspected, the reply was vague. Just say that you have noticed their blog reviews the kind of book you have written and ask if they would be interested. Even a grump like me will answer that, and sometimes I even offer them a guest post, with the understanding that it’s not their press release. It may be something my readers would like, even if I’m not interested. I just don’t review it.
So, do I like self published work? Sometimes. Mostly, I just don’t read it.