Thursday, April 21, 2011

S is for Self-publishing

S could be for so many things, of course, such as syringe-feeding George, one of my handsome Bengal cats. The poor guy has been through a lot lately and faces an uncertain future, but for now he's perked up considerably after a few days of force-feeding by his owners. But more on my feline pal in another post.

So much has already been said about self-publishing. Whatever its merits, the practice is certainly shifting the publishing dynamic by weakening traditional publishers and booksellers and devaluing the literary market. Agents have served as gatekeepers by screening out work that's unready or even unreadable, so what does reach traditional publishers meets certain standards.

Today, all you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and a word processor, and you too can be an author. Standards? Who needs 'em?

It's not that simple, of course. The standards are still out there, but if you self-publish there's no one to hold  you to them. More than once I've heard people say they'd self-publish first, then get the story "picked up" by an agent or publisher, who would clean up any problems with the manuscript.

Um, no. Not on this planet.

So as one who has three self-published books (after having three agents and no traditional publishers), I'd like to offer an incomplete, unordered list of tips to potential self-publishing authors:

1. Don't hurry your work. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. And no matter how inspired you feel, your words are not gold. Be willing to revise.

2. Write because you love to write. Don't write to get rich. With the former, you'll generally be happy; with the latter, you'll generally be disappointed. (I know, J. A. Konrath is an exception, but your name isn't Konrath, is it?)

3. Get objective critiques. Don't ask for comments from your parents, sibs, spouse, lover, or anyone else who has an emotional stake in making you happy. That gets dicey.

4. Read the masters in your genre. Observe how they handle dialogue, description, transitions. Analyze their plots.

Oh, wait...that advice applies to writing in general, doesn't it? Yeah, it does. You have to be your own gatekeeper. In other posts I'll offer more specifics; meanwhile, if you stick to these basics, your self-published book will be superior to 90 percent of the self-pubbed stuff out there.


Wanda said...

Hi Bob, really great tips for anyone indeed. It can be hard to be objective about our own work.

Amy Wood said...

Great advice. I think you're right, it applies to writing whether your self-publishing or not. Looking forward to reading more as you go into specifics.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

You are the expert, Bob, and I appreciate the great tips as I'm actually looking into self-publishing my collection of A-Z 50-word stories, after being strongly encouraged by my readers to do so.

I love the #2... how clever!


Anonymous said...

love your tips, Bob! So inspiring!!

Mezo from Jakarta, Indonesia