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Should You Self-Publish?

There is a lot of discussion about self-published books in the media – social and otherwise. The discussion seems to swing widely between two quite distant poles. There are those who are for it: generally self-publishers, and those who are against it;  generally conventional publishers. Both sides are exchanging a great deal of (digital) lashes – from their various platforms.

Stepping into this fray means that you may yourself receive a digital lash, or two, and from what I am reading, some of these lashes are just as cutting as the rope variety, as well as being deeply personal.

Drawing of an angel illustrating an article about self-publishingARGUING ABOUT GRAMMAR

When both sides begin to correct each other’s grammar and argue over the correct use of the comma, then the danger is that some very valid points are sacrificed on the altar of pedantry.

A COLOURFUL SPEECH

A recent article by Alison Flood, writing in The Guardian newspaper referenced a colourful speech by Andrew Franklin of Profile books: “The overwhelming majority [of self-published books] are terrible – unutterable rubbish,” said Franklin. “They don’t enhance anything in the world.”

UNUTTERABLE RUBBISH?

Unsurprisingly, this in particular has attracted venom by the bucket load on the forums.

So is it true? Are self-published books full of unutterable rubbish? Worse, are they lowering the standard by daring to stand beside ‘real’ books and therefore bringing about the digital downfall of conventionally published books?

Actually I do agree with this to some extent. It is undeniable that there is a huge amount of rubbish shining brightly alongside the ‘real’ stars in the digital stratosphere and it can be very difficult to tell the rubbish from the good.

I have fallen for the great covers and reviews myself and literally bought myself a book that revealed itself to have only one chapter and thousands of addresses that brought the page quota to the seemingly respectable 200 – matching the 200 or so five-star reviews. I have bought others with hundreds of great reviews yet they lack even the most rudimentary editing or proofing and contain stories that don’t even make sense.

 THE DECEIT IS COMPLETE

The truth is that badly written, confusing and confused tomes are easily hidden behind great covers and when they are garnished more than liberally with hundreds of five-star reviews and thousands of ‘likes,’ the deceit is complete.

It is also true that the social networks are drowning in ‘buy my book’ posts with no reason given why you should take this action other than that the author wants you to.

Yet, I think there is a place for self-publishing but I also think a writer has to earn that place by building a decent record.

I have recently self-published, however, my self-published stories have already been conventionally published and broadcast on national radio. In fact, I have been conventionally published, many, many times. I have also had my work broadcast on radio, television and screened at film festivals and I have won various awards as well. This is not idle boasting – this is my writing CV.

Drawing of a woman reading. Illustrating an article about self-publishingI am not rushing and throwing up the first book I wrote to see if it will ‘stick.’  I have spent many years writing, rewriting and learning as much as I can about the ‘work’ of writing and I have a small forest worth of stories in my reject drawer as well as a lot of successes.  I am still writing simply because I love to write and I have to write.

A MILLION LITTLE LIKES

So my advice to beginner writers is to keep writing and don’t try self-publishing until you have been conventionally published in some form or other. You don’t have to have had full length novels published but if you have had some short stories published or won some writing competitions, your writing has been judged to be of a certain standard and you are doing the work it takes to build your writing CV.

I know there are successful exceptions and you might even be one of them but remember this, exceptions are few and far between – how many ‘million shades of something similar’ have been throw up by writers hoping to share in its success?

DOWNFALL

I don’t agree that self-published books will bring about the downfall of the rest. The rise of the eBook is too powerful to reverse.  Neither should we underestimate readers. Most are very discerning, and as they become more familiar with digital books they will become even more so. Once a reader has been bitten by a ‘bad book’ they will find ways to distinguish them from the good.

One of the obvious ways is to check out the record or biography of the author. Benchmarks will evolve. A book where the writer states with confidence that they have been already conventionally published will soon be shining a lot brighter than the ‘bad books’ with the million ‘likes.’

Best of luck with your writing.

Grace

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2 Responses to Should You Self-Publish?

  1. Roger Decker August 5, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I am one of the many ‘unutterable rubbish’ writers. Although to my credit, the novel I wrote was awarded a gold medal of excellence by the US Book of Reviews. The debate of whether to self-publish or traditional publish has been long and arduous since the internet has made it easy to publish. It is no longer a long and tedious process of rejection upon rejection from a publisher on whether or not your work is accepted and then put in print. But not all self-published work is rubbish. And not all of it is stellar material that could change the world. But also the same conclusions could be said of traditional published material. Not all writers and/or authors who have been accepted by traditional publishers can be said to have the ability to change the world and receive awards for excellence. A lot of the ability of writers to achieve success is due to luck and good fortune. I have talked to many authors and writers alike who can’t stand the book Fifty Shades of Gray. Yet, someone in the entertainment industry must have liked it, because it is now going to be produced as a movie. If you base your achievement on likes and dislikes, that one would be a bust. Yet, it is still being picked for a movie. Go figure. Luck and the ability to get it in front of the right people at the right time makes it a success. THAT is why saturation of ones work is important to any writer; the ability to get it in front of a wide audience can make a huge impact on one’s bottom line. And sadly what we as a people base the bottom line on is not the beautiful prose of the written language but the thickness of one’s checking account.
    If one values such success, there is another to consider, whether or not one is a writer if you have never actually published. Would you consider yourself a writers if everything you have put on paper is stuffed in a drawer and no one but you have read it? Debates as these have long lasting effects in a world in which anything is possible and nothing is out of the ordinary any more. Especially when you put in the advent of the internet and the development of the digital age we live in. Anyone with a computer and the ability to get on the net can publish. But should they? If you take your work and spread it throughout the net, and a million people like it, does THAT make you a writer? If no one likes it, are you still a writer? In every writing endeavor, one takes the chance of someone critiquing what you have written. Writers must, and should, grow thick skins to do what they do. You cannot please everyone. But the one person any writer should be worried about is the one writing it. You have to please yourself before you can please anyone else. If you don’t love what you do, no one will follow what you have to say, be it fiction, poetry, or short story. Passion for what you love shines through in what is put on paper.
    Writers and/or authors cannot judge from critiques. One has to judge from the work itself and if others actually read what has been written.
    So, when it comes to self-publishing or traditional publishing, which is better? I’m still trying to figure that out. For now, I’ll simply keep doing what I’m doing, and wait for my traditional published works to show up, hopefully, by Christmas.
    One can do both.

    • Grace August 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      Hi Roger,
      Thank you for your considered response. You make many good points and yet there are still so many unanswered questions for the ‘thinking’ writer. There is nothing wrong with unanswered questions – it encourages us to explore.
      Many congratulations on your gold medal of excellence. I believe writers should explore all avenues and most of all keep writing.
      Best wishes and good luck with your work.
      Grace

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