The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Friday, February 3, 2012

Writers: Steer Clear of Self Publishing ... Unless

There are all sorts of outlets on the electronic frontier out there ready and willing (for a fee) to publish your book, no questions asked. For a writer desperate to see her or his name in print, this seems like the dream come true. But, dear friends, for all but a very few, it is a con.

Here's why:
  • No editor: For most writers this will seem like a blessing on first glance (editors can be so annoying and make you feel like a kid waiting for the teacher's grade all over again ... I know, I both edit and write for a living), but this is a real danger for any author. I don't care how good you are, the simple truth of the matter is you are going to be blind to your own mistakes. Your brain will tell you that what appears on the page is what you intended rather than what is actually in front of your eyes. Mistakes will be missed (there are always a few, even with an editor's help, but the number and seriousness of the mistakes are greatly reduced). Factual errors will be overlooked. Worst of all, issues that will get you into legal hot water will not be corrected (the copyright laws shift regularly AND authors who have gotten used to posting whatever they please on the Internet quickly discover their opinions in print in a book go from something overlooked to a potential libel case ... think governor of Arizona here for a recent example).
  • No invested publisher: When there is no publisher with money invested in your book project and nothing to lose, there is no one to tell you your book [this is hypothetical mind you, YOUR book, reader, is fantastic] is not worth the paper it is printed on. Your friends and family will not critique you harshly ... they are your friends and family and their investment is in their relationship with you, not your book. 
  • No marketing department: This is the big kicker. If you self-publish AND manage to edit well AND have written a wonderful book, YOU and YOU ALONE will have to market that book. Tell me, honestly, how many hours do you have in a day? How strong is your ego? Can you sit for 4 hours at a book signing with no one buying a single copy and walk away with your ego intact? Do you know where to offer your book? Do you know how books are distributed? Are you prepared to ship, IF you get a buyer? Do you have the money to finance a marketing campaign? If the answer to any or all of these questions (and these are just the few that occur at 7 in the morning to a sleepy writer's mind) is no, do not go down this road. Oh yes, by the way, blogs do not equate to free advertising. Sales based on blog postings are bloody miserable. Not to mention the hours you'll spend trying to get the thing connected to sources that might want to read it.The blog platform might be free, but your time and effort are not. (Just so we're clear here, I write this as someone who thoroughly enjoys blogging.)
  • So, steer clear of self-publishing UNLESS you are a fantastic writer, an amazing editor, have the brutal clarity about the quality of your work only an investor is capable of providing, AND you are a marketing pro. 
Here's my advice for what it's worth: Writers, pack away the desperate feeling that you will NEVER get published, get yourself a copy of the Writer's Marketplace, and get down to business the old fashioned way. You may publish far fewer books, but you'll have a far better chance of having what you do publish and have worked so hard to write actually read by appreciative readers. Good luck on your journey.

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