As things usually go around here, a brief discussion with my wife (author Tracy Madison) about some publishing stuff sparked a, “oh, that would make a great blogpost!” We were talking about self-publishing in some fashion or another (I believe it had to do with covers) and she brought up the fact that many self-published authors, those who eschew the traditional publishing path entirely, miss out on seeing exactly what the whole process is like and the benefits publishing house can provide.
It brought up the point that we might have a whole new generation of writers who fail to gain an understanding of the process beyond the actual writing of the book. Don’t get me wrong, self-publishing has a great many benefits for those who have the talent, skills, and knowledge to make it work properly. Knowing that books get edited, covers get made, manuscripts get copy-edited, is a far cry from actually experiencing that process through working with professionals in these areas.
There are a lot of authors out there fresh into the publishing arena that have never seen any of this stuff at work. They’ve written a story, spent a lot of time and effort to create something they hope readers will enjoy, and can’t wait to get it out there and into reader’s hands. Self-publishing is viewed as a way to get it out there now as opposed to later. Don’t get me wrong, this is a benefit as well as an issue. Traditional publishing is SLOW. They are also very selective. They have to be since there is limited shelf space out there. One can spend months or even years attempting to find an agent and finding an interested editor at a publishing house. While faster, even e-publishers take time. They reject a lot of material too. It can be very frustrating and in the end, very futile.
Getting a first book published is rare. Very rare. It’s quite understandable that after putting all of that effort into it, that it might indeed go nowhere. Self-publishing can remedy that situation. With little effort, one can put it out there for readers to see. This is a huge draw. HUGE. Unfortunately, it also puts a writer in the position of not having the benefit of seeing just what a typical book goes through to get into reader’s hands. Now, while it is certainly possible to educate oneself on this, to learn about what can and should be done with a book once it’s done, the sad truth is, many don’t and/or just aren’t aware enough to actually look.
The simple fact of the matter is, the vast majority of writers, experienced ones included, are not great editors, can’t make good covers, and don’t know the rules enough to be a copy-editor. The result is a poor product that very few people will want to read. Sadly, and I’ve heard this more than once, is that readers don’t care enough about this for it to matter. Worse is the implication here that they aren’t actually savvy enough to know the difference.
Talk about insulting. This is the last thing you want to present to the reader. Unfortunately, I think there is a subset in the growing tide of self-published authors that don’t get this. There’s the thought that you just have to put it out there and they will come. It just doesn’t work that way. The fact is, books need editing. ALL books. They need copy-editing. They need good covers. If, mind you, you want any chance at succeeding. Without ever having seen the process before, however, not ever having experienced it, and seeing the potential cost incurred to get professional services in these areas, new writers balk. They can’t or don’t want to invest those kinds of resources in their work.
Going forward into the future of ebooks, as more and more potential writers see self-publishing as an easy way to get their book out there, we’re going to see a growing pool of writers who do none of the things they should be doing, because they either can’t, don’t want to, or don’t understand what it takes. They’ll suffer the frustration of never seeing their book go anywhere. Readers will suffer wasting their money on poor products. In the end, it will cause more harm to publishing.
So, please, new writers out there, work hard at gaining an understanding of what it takes to make a book good. It’s more than just putting words on the page. There are so many other writers out there willing to help. There are tons of resources out there. More importantly, you have to be willing to invest in your work, if you want a chance to succeed. Personally, I’d like to see you all succeed. I don’t, however, want you to hurt the industry by putting out a product that nobody wants, and makes readers feel that writers don’t care about what they’re paying money for. It takes time, effort and investment. Be willing to invest yourself in your work.
I don’t say any of this to harp on new writers. We all started off at a place of not knowing, and it’s our job to learn as much as we can, not only about how to tell a good story but to polish and package it in such a way that it is also a good experience for the reader. The learning never stops, no matter how many books you write. It’s very difficult to explain the difference between doing everything yourself (or trying to) and having the assistance of professional editors/copy-editors/cover-artists. It’s a night and day kind of effect, at least I think it is. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can easily do it all on your own. The skill set required to do all of these things well is extremely rare. In the end, the readers can tell the difference. Don’t let them down.