Posts tagged “Leprosy

THE LEPROSY OF SELF-PUBLISHING

Let me get this in the open right from the jump:

I am ALL ABOUT self-publishing.  I LOVE self-publishing.  I  AM self-published—twice.

My name is Matt, and I’m a self-published author.  (Hi, Matt…)

Do I think it’s the ONLY way to go?

No.

Is it a VIABLE way?

Yes.

But—BUT!—not for everybody.

There is a certain stigma about self-publishing, and a lot of you writers out there know what I mean.  You may be a writer who’s doing their due diligence, (i.e. riding herd on yourself, keeping your butt in the chair, and putting out the best quality work possible by making sure the manuscript itself DOESN’T SUCK a turd-flavored lollipop), and still you get patronizing comments (Oh, self-published?  Well, that’s all right.”  Unspoken comment: “You’ll get there one day.”)  Or you answer the question “Who’s your publisher?” with “You’re lookin’ at him,” and the person winces like they just gulped a 44-ounce Thirstbuster of curdled milk, sets your book back down like it’s a two-headed, napalm-spitting spider, and slowly backs away, whispering  “Don’t touch me…!”

(Actually, a two-headed napalm-spitting spider sounds pretty cool.)  *jots down for future reference*

Hyperbole?  Maybe, but both of the above have happened to me, and I’m betting some of you other due-diligence pen-jockeys have had similar experiences.

And before we feel high and mighty in our super-scribedom, there is a definite reason for this preconceived notion:

It is insanely easy to self-publish these days.  Anyone can regurgitate onto the page and upload their vomit to Amazon, B&N.com, or any number of internet venues and charge whatever they want.

Within the open-ended system of Amazon’s Create Space and the eBook off-ramp of soiled baby diapers in the guise of “novels,” there is absolutely no system of checks and balances.  There could (and probably should) be some sort of filter through which Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every other self and eBook publisher runs the steady stream of bilge-water that passes for “published” work.  And I’m talking about just the basics—grammar, spelling, punctuation.

After that, the Sargasso Sea of shitty book covers needs to be addressed—by which I mean taken out back and shot.  You!  Yeah, you–the one who is so in love with Papyrus and Comic Sans?  The one who can’t create a relevant title to said book?  the one who thinks Photoshop covers a multitude of sins?  Hire a cover artist/designer and at least make it look like you care about putting out a professional product.  That whole don’t judge a book by its cover thing?  Crap and double-crap.  If your cover is half-assed, mediocre, or downright awful, and your title is incomprehensible or just plain nonsensical, guess what?  I’m thinking the inside is the EXACT. SAME. WAY.  I worked for two major bookstores as a Receiving Manager for 10+ years, and let me tell you:  we knew when a self-pub came down the pike.  You could take one look and tell.

So that’s one-half of the key to self-publishing (or hell, any venture in life):  Put your best foot forward; first impressions matter.  Even if you clean up your Comic Sans funk later on, the stink will never wash off in the minds of prospective readers, and they are the ones for which your book (and consequently you) should smell like a Yankee Candle factory.  Otherwise, readers will associate you with the endless morass of warm garbage that already exists out there and it’ll be over before it starts.

The other half, again, is you actually writing something that doesn’t suck.

Yeah, I know, right?  Pretty simple, yeah?  You wouldn’t think so, browsing through Amazon.  A few tips:

1.)  Develop a good story idea:  This doesn’t mean writing your Star Wars/Strawberry Shortcake erotic fan-fiction, either; it means you need to develop a strong idea that can be built upon.  Influence is fine, but know where to draw the line.  Even if you change the names, we can still tell that Boba Fett and Peach Blossom are getting it on, while a sexually exploited Blueberry Muffin in a slave girl outfit takes out her bottled-up rage on Jabba the Hutt during a private dance session, and meanwhile on Bespin, Lobot has come out to Lando, expressed his long-repressed feelings for him, while also admitting to an affair with Huckleberry Pie during the last podraces on Tatooine…

…not that I gave that much thought, or even wrote a six-book series, available individually or as a bundle on Amazon, under the pen name “Wedge Antitties.”

2.) Know your craft:  A buzz word a few years back that really dragged a cheese-grater over my scrotum was “artisan.”  Suddenly, every fast-food joint in the nation was sporting “artisan” bread.  There were artisan knives, cakes, houses, yachts, bongs, Nikes, water…you get it.  Supposedly the term lent greater value to the products and let their purveyors charge more for them.  Personally, I had artisan underwear and they hugged me like they were painted on, brother—wait.

Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, artisan actually means a craftsman—someone who knows their shizzle about their shizzle.  A craftsman is someone who others come to because he can do a particular thing like no one else.  (At one point in my life, that thing was breakdancing; now, it’s pencil-fighting.)  People know they can get a quality product from this guy or gal, and will pay for the privilege of having it.  That’s what you should strive to be as a writer—what we all should strive to be.  People should see your name in the Kindle Shop or on a bookstore shelf and practically wet themselves getting to the Buy Now button or front counter.  You should strive to produce work that makes people get that “have to go to the bathroom from excitement” feeling, not the “can’t make it to the bathroom fast enough to paint the toilet with my lunch” feeling.

3.) EDIT YOUR CRAP!  EDIT YOUR CRAP!  EDIT YOUR CRAP! : Speaks for itself.  Edit the work.  Read it out loud.  See how good or craptastic it sounds, then edit it again.  Rinse and repeat.  Still concerned?  Hire an editor (Psst!  It’s what they do.)  They can either revamp your existing work, or tell you why it’s awful.  Either way, the feedback you’ll get is absolutely valuable.   In some ways, editing is my favorite part of the writing process.  If the actual composition is the hammer beating out the manuscript, then editing is the scalpel, slicing away the cancerous parts until the story is healthy and whole.  EDIT.  YOUR.  CRAP.

4.)  Get a test reader. Or eight.  It can be your wife, husband, girl/boyfriend, sure.  Most writers start with these, but move out of your comfort zone—of course Granny’s gonna think her Wittle Pumpkin’s story is the best thing since bunion cream.  (And let’s be honest, has there really been anything that good?)  Go out.  Leave your PC, typewriter, chalkboard, human skin and bone pen, and get out there and meet people.  Coworkers, writers’ groups ( a post about these guys later), friends, friends of friends, hobos under freeway bypasses, whoever.  Just let it fly out to readers and get the honest feedback you desperately need, not the ego-stroking you desperately want.

5.)  Do everything in your power to NOT make your book look self-published.   Editing.  A strong, awesome cover.  Good back copy that reads like a hook from a movie trailer.  A barcode and ISBN (both of which can be bought individually or are already included in Create Space’s publishing options.)  A formatted interior, preferably an existing template.  Break your back to make your book look like one that’s already on the shelves professionally.  To paraphrase Crash Davis’s advice to Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham:  “Your manuscript has multiple errors. You’ll never make it to the bigs with errors on your manuscript. Think classy, you’ll be classy.  If you sell a million books, you can let the errors stay and the press’ll think you’re colorful.  Until you sell a million, however, it means you’re a slob.”

This all sounds mean, I know, and I’m not trying to discourage people from writing—just from writing crap.  When you upload and/or publish your serial killer unicorn-urban fantasy-epic-cop drama and it looks like something that bubbled back up the garbage disposal, you RUIN it for the rest of us who are trying to produce quality work.  That stigma I mentioned earlier?  It’s because of the lack of quality-control on the writer’s part, first and foremost.  How could anyone want to hang anything less than their best out there for the world to swing at like a piñata?

And, as I said, the venues are equally responsible.  Amazon, B&N, and all the rest are throwing a house party for crappy books, no cover for the ladies, and not even bothering to card anyone at the door.  They need a filter—some sort of literary three-headed Cerberus at the gate to drag the shitty books down to Bad Book Hades—but that won’t ever happen; there’s no money in it for them.  We, as writers and readers, have to demand more of ourselves and the writing community; we have to police ourselves.  What do you think?  Your responses, rebuttals, and experiences—forthwith!

And seriously—quit with the Papyrus and Comic Sans, okay?

May I introduce you to Times New Roman and Garamond?

Yeah—I’ll just let you guys talk.