If you’ve been following the publishing industry at all lately, you know it’s not all wine and roses. It’s far, far from it. Borders is done, mid-list writers are being shown the door, and many agents are reluctant to take on new clients. It means your local bookstore (if there are any left standing) will be chock-full of books from James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, and Patricia Cornwell. You know, familiar authors who generate sales.
Where does that leave you? You’re probably a little like me. I’m barely an author. I’ve had my novel soundly rejected by several agents. I’ve had a few short stories published in admittedly obscure places. I have a modest blog and about a hundred Twitter followers. I’m fairly certain 60 of them are Ukrainian spambots. The others are my brother’s various, web-based alter-egos.
So what about ebooks?
You know…those things you can buy and read on a Kindle or Nook or iPad. The royalties are pretty good…authors get 70% for each sale from the Kindle store (as long as you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99). Maybe you think it’s time to explore the Nook Store or Smashwords. Maybe you want to experiment a little.
But is the timing right? What about the stigma of self-publishing? You do know self-published works are of inferior quality, right? After all, books from the big publishing houses go through several rounds of edits. If you were to put one of your books up for sale, you’d be the only de facto editor. The possibility remains that you’ll misspell a word or fail to see some giant logic gaffe that kills the entire story.
Fortunately, that stigma is disappearing. Self-publishing is now a viable career path, although it’s not going to print money. Consider becoming a forward-thinking author/entrepreneur unshackled by the bonds of major publishing houses. After all, no one ever gets to read something perpetually stuck on your hard drive.
If you have any inkling of diving into the choppy self-publishing waters, heed the following advice.
Get beta readers. These are people of varied expertise whose insights would prove invaluable in refining you work. You’ll need some adept at grammar, others attuned to plot structure, some good at both, and a few unafraid to rip the work the shreds propose hundreds of potential improvements.
Even better, get an editor. The biggest downside to self-publishing, in my opinion, is the lack of editorial oversight. Writers fall in love with their own stories and can’t see their flaws. If you’re REALLY going to do it, let a freelance editor go at it. Sure, you have to pay for the editor’s time, but it will be worth it in the end because you’ll have a finished, polished product that can stack up against any professional work.
Don’t rush it. Last year, I got a full manuscript request from an agent. Obviously, I was very excited. I ended up rushing a book edit in hopes of giving my book a quick coat of polish. Instead, I mangled my manuscript by making the kinds of mistakes you’d find in a seventh-grade term paper. As you can imagine, the agent rejected my book. After re-reading my efforts to “improve” the work, I can see why. Take your time. Otherwise, you’ll scare off your readers—whether they’re agents or customers.
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