Last week, the Huffington Post published this article about why indie (i.e.: self-published) authors still aren’t taken seriously, despite runaway successes like Christopher Paolini or J.A. Konrath that we hear so much about. The reality is, many self-published authors end up with a basement full of books they can’t sell (something that, at least, self-publishing ebooks can bring to an end). The number one reason HuffPo lists for this lack of credibility is … bad (or no) editing.
And although I know in my heart there are probably lots of self-published gems out there just waiting to be discovered, I often pass by self-published books entirely due to this massive lack of quality control. And although I’m a “finisher” who often reads through books that I’m not enjoying at all, I often can’t get myself to sit through the grammar errors and inconsistencies in a self-published book, no matter how much the subject matter entices me. I read unedited work every day for my job — when I’m off, I want to read a book that someone else has already done the hard work on. (And here’s a word to the wise for all writers: you should be doing the hard work so your readers don’t have to.)
If more self-published authors took themselves seriously enough to hire editors, I think they could gradually begin changing self-publishing’s bad reputation, especially as people become more and more frustrated with a few book publishers having all the power. Yes, I know that money is often an issue when self-publishing, and yes, professional editors do cost money. But in addition to lack of feedback and experience, I think another major problem with self-published books, especially with the explosion of self-published ebooks, is that a lot of writers read the “success stories,” think, “That could be me!” and invest in self-publishing as some sort of get-rich-quick scheme. And anyone who thinks writing is a get-rich-anytime scheme is majorly deluded (in fact, anyone who thinks writing is a do anything quick scheme is deluded; I can write a passable novel draft in a month, but it can take me up to two years to revise said draft after that.)
But even after all that, I’m glad that self-publishing is now an option for authors. I’m glad writers have more platforms for reaching readers. I’m glad that Random House and Penguin are no longer the only ones who get to decide what the public reads. And I actually love working with authors who are planning to self-publish — and take themselves seriously enough to work with an editor and through multiple drafts — because most of these writers DO have talent, and they only need a little refinement for that talent to be taken seriously. And if your goal as a self-publisher is to gain readers (not to make a huge monetary return on your time and talent investment or to attain critical acclaim), then you’ll probably feel perfectly satisfied with the results.
Although e-readers are new, electronic publishing is not. In fact, as soon as people were getting online, they were posting their stories. My own humble beginnings were as a fan-fic author who posted online — I self-published. And I remember thinking, at the time, that posting a story on the Internet was just as good as being published because people were reading my work — even people I didn’t know! That’s still thrilling as a writer, and I give kudos to all those who take the time to write and have the courage to share, who want no reward but to have real readers. I’m entertaining serious thoughts about returning to my roots as an electronic self-publisher myself if this year’s worth of submissions doesn’t achieve the desired results.
So, if you also want to self publish something that’s had a rockin’ editing job to boot, you know where to find me.