This is going to be a touchy post. Not uncomfortable touchy-feely like your creepy neighbor, more touchy-feely like you’ll probably get mad. At me, at my thoughts about the indie-publishing industry, whatever.
Indie writers are famous (infamous?) for not liking being told what to do. They don’t like being told to write every day, they don’t like being told not to genre-hop, they don’t like being told write to market. No head-hopping, no weird 1st person to 3rd person shifts in the middle of a novel, no using their artistic license to do what they want.
And that’s really great–up to a point. Yes, write what you love. For sure. Use 100 POVs in a novella because you think they fit, do that crazy cover because you want to stand out. Do whatever the hell you want because it’s your book, you’re self-publishing it, and you don’t have to answer to anyone.
There’s disdain for the traditional publishing industry. I know there is because I’ve felt it myself. When I attended the Minnesota Writer’s conference I went to a workshop on how to self-publish your novel. That she ran her own self-publishing firm seemed a conflict of interest to me, but anyway, her firm hired out everything. She hired out the editing, the proofing, the formatting, the cover. They did it all for you for a hefty tune of $5,000-$10,000. I could hear dreams shattering around me like fragile champagne glasses thrown against a stone fireplace mantle. (Romantic, yes?) Having already published 1700 for free (I only paid for my ISBN number) I sat there shaking my head.
But between then and now I had a realization. She wasn’t trying to rip anyone off. On the contrary, what she was actually trying to get across was that when you self-publish, especially when you self-publish, you are in charge of the quality of your book. You are in charge of how good the story is, you are in charge of how eye-catching the cover is. You are in charge to make sure the inside of your book is not a hot mess. The speaker of that workshop discouraged a lot of people from ever trying to self-publish because they didn’t know where else to look for information. They didn’t realize that you could self-publish for free (or for cheaper than $5,000!).
It’s too bad because the only thing she was trying to press upon the attendees of her workshop was that a certain standard is expected when a reader opens a book.
Traditional publishing is under a lot of fire lately for not being flexible and not changing their ways to adapt to what the publishing industry is turning into. I agree that to keep up with the output of indie authors they are going to step up their game and do things differently. But while distribution and output may change, the point is, quality is something a reader can always expect from a traditionally published book. And whether you want to believe it or not, a reader is going to want that same quality from your book, too.
Oh, I know, you’ve found typos in books. I read a book recently and a whole speech tag was missing in a sentence. I don’t know how it slipped by an editor, but it did. There have always been typos. And there will be more as the publishing industry has to tighten their bootstraps and make budget cuts. But for every little mistake that slips by in a trad-pubbed book, there things a reader can expect to get from a book they bought from a big publisher:
- A story that makes sense in terms of plot, characters, and POV.
- A cover that looks nice that will hint at what the book is about.
- A blurb that also makes sense and makes a potential customer want to read the book.
- Formatting inside that doesn’t distract from the reading experience.
An author who is traditionally-published doesn’t have to worry about that stuff, and unless they go hybrid and self-publish as well as have their books trad-published, they won’t have to.
But you will. Not knowing isn’t a valid reason. If you want people to read your book, and read the next one you write, and the next, you have to take ownership of your work. It isn’t unheard of for indie-authors to revamp their first books as they publish more and learn more. I redid the cover for 1700, fixed typos, and fixed some formatting errors.
Anyway, the point I’m getting at with this post is that you are responsible for the quality of your book. Going rogue in the name of artistic license may feel good at the time, but how good is it going to feel if it ultimately means giving up sales and maybe even sullying your reputation as a writer?
The best way to know how to format your book is to look at one. Check one out at the library, or go to the bookstore and look through several in your genre. When I wrote my front matter for 1700, I took the book I was reading and copied it. You’ll notice in a trad-pubbed book the margins are justified, there are pages numbers, the book’s title and author name in the headers. There aren’t any spaces between paragraphs (this is a big pet peeve of mine).
There’s no doubt that the publishing industry is changing. But like anything that changes, you want things to get better, not worse.
Tell me what you think! Am I being too picky?
Other articles on self-publishing quality:
Summer is here!
Summer is here and the kids are out of school. Maybe you can sleep in a little more, and dinner is certainly easier to make—just throw some steaks on the grill and open that container of potato salad you bought yesterday at the deli.
You would think that with the arrival of summer you would have more time to write. Right? The days are longer making it easier to stay up at night; the kids don’t have activities they need to be driven to every afternoon. Maybe the workload at your job is a little lighter.
This all sounds good in theory, but the reality is, summer takes up a lot of time. Things don’t change much if you still need to get the kids to daycare or summer day camp, and your evenings are just as packed as they used to be with getting everyone home, dinner, bath, and bedtime. If things in your day-to-day routine haven’t changed, and you still want to do summertime fun stuff—going to the pool, the lake, the cabin, the beach, the parties at the park, the parades around the 4th of July—your weekends are even busier than they were before. Never mind fitting in family vacations.
So what does this do to your writing? My kids have only been out of school for one day, and already my writing schedule is out of whack. Did I get anything done their first day off? Nope. Would I have? Yep.
It’s important during these next three months to guard your writing time. If you used to be able to write one or two hours a day, try to keep that going. It’s easy to let the time go by taking the kids to the park or sitting on the porch with the neighbors sipping daiquiris while the kids play in the water sprinkler.
My daughter is asking to go to the zoo, have playdates, have a movie night with me. And I absolutely want do those things with her. For sure! She’s eleven, and soon she won’t want to spend any time with me. But you know what else I want to do this summer? I want to publish Summer Secrets. I want to finalize edits in Running to Love (not the title anymore, but still) and get that ready for publication (formatting, book cover and writing the blurb) this fall. I want to keep writing this blog and figure out the mysterious newsletter thing everyone says authors need to have. I want to keep writing my 3rd Tower City Romance book. I need to edit the second one. No, I’m not going to be able to fit all that into the summer, but I’m not going to fit any of it into these next three months if I allow them to slide by in a haze of bug spray and suntan lotion.
I think of writing as my (second) job—I have a publication schedule I want to stick to. I don’t want to take a three-month vacation from writing.
So, it’s best for me to remember that when I’m tempted to stay up until 2 am and sleep until noon. I’ll remember that when my daughter wants to watch Moana for the second time that day.
Time alone is good for kids, and it’s good for me, too.
Only, I’m not alone—I’m with my characters, and it’s a nice place to be on a sunny summer afternoon.
Photo credits: Pixabay.com
Thank you for participating in #smutchat. Here is the link for the giveaway of Jennifer Probst’s book, Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success
Good luck and stay tuned for the winner announcement!
(This contest is open internationally!)
Probably the best advice I can give you about publishing is not to rush.
I’ve always promoted doing as much as you can yourself—especially since your first book is pretty much a loss until you write more and have more books available for purchase. When it’s when it’s your only book available, you’ll never get back what you put into it. (Unless you have a tangible way to measure pride and satisfaction.)
Combining the fact that this is your first book with doing it all on your own is dangerous. You’ll never be sure if your book bombed because you’re an unknown author and this is your first book, or if it’s because your book sucks. Publishing a superior product rather than a POS will take some of the guesswork out of the question.
You want to put your best work out there, so when you have more books available you don’t have to waste time fixing it. Being it is so easy to update files in Kindle Direct Publishing, you may get into the habit of updating your files and covers all the time. It’s a waste and you’ll never move forward. Fixing your files in CreateSpace is easy too, but your book isn’t available until your files are approved, and CreateSpace’s approval time is longer than KDP’s. People still can buy your Kindle book while the new file is being approved, but it will be your old file.
Here are some tips to not rush:
Never publish your first attempt at making a cover. Make many covers. Many, many, many. Try different pictures, fonts, and color themes. Take your best two or three and turn them into a contest on Facebook or Twitter. Enter all the names of the people who chose the one you decided to use into a drawing and give a signed copy of your book to the winner. Ask for lots of feedback. There are plenty of people online who are willing to give you an honest opinion.
Research your genre, watch picture manipulation videos to learn how to do what you want. If your idea is too much for you to do on your own, or you just can’t get your vision from your head onto the computer, ask for help. Don’t publish your first attempt. Keep it clean, keep it professional. One day you may change your cover to bump up sales, or because your skills have improved, or because you found a better picture. All I’m saying is, don’t make it a habit. You’re supposed to be writing more books.
The inside of your book needn’t change much. As you grow your library you may want to add those books to a list in the front or back matter letting your reader know they are available. Maybe you’ll want to fix typos, but don’t get caught up with this. You’ll never stop editing, and I feel it’s disrespectful to the people who previously bought your book before your fixes.
CreateSpace takes 12-24 hours to approve files, and your book is not available during the approval process. You can lose sales going into it to fix to too many times.
KDP takes five hours, but don’t use this as an excuse to fix every little thing. Plus you want your paperback and Kindle files to match. Publishing your book as close to perfect as possible will save you lots of time in the long run.
Changing your book’s description is simple enough, but if you offer a paperback you’ll want your product information to match the blurb on the back of your book. Again, CS has to approve any changes and this takes time. Blurb writing is difficult, every writer loathes it. I find it easier to write blurbs for others than for my own books. Research how to write one and get plenty of feedback from people who both have and have not read your book. The people who have read it can tell you if it’s accurate. The people who have not read your book can tell you if the blurb makes them want to read it.
I’ve written a lot about editing in my publishing series, and in two prior blog posts. Editing is the worst because of all the waiting, waiting, waiting. For other people. To read your work. You’re waiting on someone (or hopefully many someones) to read your work and you can’t say anything or you’ll seem rude. If you pay someone, hopefully, you come to some kind of a time agreement. If your friends are doing you a favor, you need to be patient. I’ve edited for people who have published before I was done. Please don’t do that—especially if they keep you updated and they are finding things. It’s rude, and frankly, it hurt my feelings. What I advise you to do is forget about publishing it. Work on something new. Work on your cover—can you make it better? Work on your website, or write a few blog posts and schedule them out so you’re ahead. Try to get into a blog tour, or ask some of your friends who run blogs to interview you. Beta-read or edit for someone else. There are plenty of ways to fill your time and still feel like you are moving forward career-wise.
Don’t rush into publishing. It will save you a lot of time down the road, and a lot of regrets, because you’ll never now how many sales you lost because of a poor cover, or your first 20% in the Look Inside feature has typos in it and a potential reader didn’t want to take a chance on the rest of your book.
It took a year or more to write your book. Waiting a bit longer won’t hurt.
What’s your biggest publishing regret?
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I’ve been a part of the Twitter writing community for a couple of years now. I’ve met some wonderful people, and they have been instrumental in helping me publish On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton. Without my friends, my journey would have been harder, and certainly not as much fun.
I follow and am followed by writers who write in all genres, but I am an erotica and romance writer. There are a lot of writing chats on Twitter that I sometimes participate in, but I’ve never participated in one that primarily chatted about romance, or “smut.” When I searched #smutchat, I saw the hashtag hadn’t been used for a Twitter chat, and I took it as a sign. Finding a hashtag not in use, and one that is short, is half the battle in hosting a Twitter chat or writing game.
But before I announced my intentions, I did a bit of research. I participated in a couple of chats before, but hosting a chat is different. I had to decide how often I would host them, and on what day. There are a lot of popular chats, and I didn’t want anyone to have to choose between mine and another. I had to think of questions, and I wanted to find sexy pictures to grab people’s attention and draw them into the chat. I want to convey that #smutchat is sexy and fun, but informational. I read a lot and used the writing books to make up thought-provoking questions about the world of writing and romance.
I also wanted to set my chat apart from the other chats, so I decided to give one of those reference books away at the end of every chat. Each chat will have a theme, and each book will hopefully support that days’ theme in some way. Some of my writer friends caught wind of that and offered their books up, too. If I do give away a friend’s book, it will be paired with the reference book I’ve chosen as well.
If this chat takes off, fingers crossed, I have enough questions for a whole year if I host one every 2-3 weeks.
I would love to host one every week, like some chats, but I first and foremost am a writer, and I have a few books that are very close to publication. While #smutchat will be a fun way to connect with the Twitter writing community, I can’t lose sight of the fact of why I am part of it in the first place.
#smutchat highlights will be posted on my blog, time permitting.
Join me, tomorrow, Thursday, April 20th at 7 pm Central, USA. (I do plan to mix-up the times so my Twitter friends who are not in the USA and Canada have an easier time participating).
Come have a good time, make some new friends, and maybe win book!
See you there!