The Mad Expectations of Self-Publishing

The Mad Expectations of Self-Publishing

In my last post, I wrote about the expectations for traditional publishing. As promised, this post will speak of the expectations you as a writer should be aware of should you decide to self-publish.

Self-publishing allows you to bypass the long process of trying to find an agent who then has to find a publishing house for you. However, this does not make the process any easier and it should not be any easier.

Yes. You get to bypass gatekeepers like this.

When you decide to go at it alone, you should expect to be doing most things on your own. If possible, do the cover art yourself. You can find fabulous stock images that are either free or you may not be paying that much for a stock photo. Do some research on how to do attractive cover art for self-publishing and just do it. Have others involved in the decision of what type of cover art you should go with and what the design should be like. This will at least save you money–because you will need it for other things.

Beta readers are great to have, but they’re really only critical if you’re going the traditional route, as they help you prepare your book for the eyes of an agent–who will then do the heavy editing if said agent offers this service. Skip the beta readers and go right toward an editor. You will need one. Traditional houses have editors for a reason and so should you.

I have had beta readers before, and they were good, but they cannot do what editors can do. Beta readers are trained readers. Editors are trained, well, editors. They will, more often than not, be able to see what beta readers often cannot catch. They know grammar to an absurd degree (as an editor myself, I am often shocked by the lack of grammar knowledge within the average person) and they can shred your story to pieces and make it much stronger than many beta readers can. Editors are great for hacking and slashing because they will find things wrong with your story that beta readers cannot. Beta readers are great AFTER the editing, but it’s best not to use them before. Beta readers can pick up on the excess dirt that needs cleaning, but if you’re going to self-publish get an editor. You can find reasonably-priced editors, and then there are your editors who are not so reasonably priced. Do your research before choosing. Your editors who charge a lot have experience. Your editors who don’t charge too much are trying to build rapport, but this does not mean they are not qualified. 

I myself have a reasonably-priced editor, but she was recommended to me by a friend who has used her services before, and her qualifications are satisfactory. I also had a previous editor who charged $1.00 a page, and she was fantastic. But she already had a reputation, was trained by someone highly-qualified in the field, and was recommended by many. She just did not charge more because she wanted to build rapport. So if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced editor because you can’t afford more, make sure you do your research on this person. 

Overall, as far as editing goes, I don’t care if your beta reader is an English teacher or professor. If he/she has never had experience editing a novel, get an editor. There is a world of difference between editing an essay and editing a novel. Seriously. I can’t stress how crucial editors are for those going the self-publishing route. 

Book formatting is also crucial. If you can format the book yourself, great, but realize if you’re going the e-book route, you’re going to want to format for the Nook, Kindle, and possibly Kobo, so don’t just do PDF. I know how to format books, but I’m going to pay for someone to format it for me because formatting is like tearing out my teeth. I already do it for The Corner Club Press and hate every moment of it, so I’m going to take a break. I can afford it just fine without running my bank dry. 

Should you also decide to self-publish, marketing is all on you. Unless you hire a publicist. But publicists are expensive and I would recommend just doing intense research and doing it all yourself. I already mentioned the many ways you can market in my last post, so no need to reiterate here.

The last thing you need to expect when you do self-publish is that, for some reason, your reviewers are going to be more critical. There are plenty of traditionally published books with typos and myriads of other errors, but reviewers don’t really point those out. They stick to the story. However, if the same thing occurs in a self-published book, reviewers are quick to jump on those and point them out. I’m not sure why this is. I suspect some want to prove that the traditional route is still the best way to go because an editor would have assured those errors would not have existed in the first place. But that isn’t the case because, as I’ve said, such errors can occur in traditionally published books. Perhaps not to the degree of self-published, but there are more people self-publishing than traditionally publishing because they don’t have to wait on contracts or edits. They can just do everything themselves and get things done when they want to. I’m certain if the traditional route were churning out just as many books as the self-publishing route does, we might see an equal number of books littered with typos and other errors. Just my guess. 

So expect to go over your book with a fine-tooth comb if you want to prevent reviewers from jumping on only your errors–because they will point out only those and ignore the story entirely.

The Madness of the Traditional and Self-publishing Routes

The Madness of the Traditional and Self-publishing Routes

In today’s post, I am going to talk expectations here because many writers need a reality check–or some need to be reminded of essential things before going either the traditional or the self-publication route. I am not here to talk about which route is better or the goods and bads of either route. I am simply here to tell you what to expect when you go either route so you don’t jump in blindly thinking you don’t need to do much.

Don’t anger this dear girl by not following this advice.

Let me start with expectations for the traditional route. I will have to touch on the expectations of the other route in another post.

Don’t expect it to be easy. That is such obvious advice, but many writers are flummoxed by a few rejections, and I just think ‘Expect your average to be around 50 or 100 before you land an acceptance. Also, expect that the agent or editor may not even be looking at your work. It is very possible a slush pile reader or an intern is looking at it first. You might even be going at it for a year or two for one book.’ For my literary magazine, I am the one doing the final vetting so the ones Mariah rejects (Executive Editor Extraordinaire) probably haven’t even been looked at by me. Don’t be upset. It saves time so you’re not waiting even longer than you would be without those readers and interns, and the slush pile readers or interns or whoever do have some skill in knowing what works and what doesn’t or else they would not have been chosen.

Also, even if you do hire an editor to work on your novel and that editor gets back quickly, expect it take a little while longer before you can start querying or whatever because if you find a good editor, that editor will tear your manuscript to shreds. I know many writers who hire editors, the editors get back to them within a month, and the writers are subbing the next month. That tells me either the editor didn’t do a good enough job or the writers were in such a hurry they didn’t bother really delving into their editors’ critiques (and some just work super hard, but many writers do have other jobs). Because a good editor will make you reconsider your story. It is very rare a writer can implement an editors’ suggestions flawlessly (it does happen but not a lot of writers can do it. Writing is a process, after all).

Now, of course, if you find a critique group and that critique group is just dang good, an editor might not have to tear your book to shreds. In which case, you probably don’t need one. You might just want one for proofreading.

What did you expect? This is an insane world.
What did you expect? This is an insane world.

This next point ruffles my skin in many ways because I can’t believe the nauseating naivety of even those writers who do study the market. Many will choose the traditional route because they don’t want to do the marketing themselves. Well, guess what? You’ll probably have to. Unless you’re a big name or your book has money-making promise, you might have to do it yourself.

I dare you to go into a bookstore and show me a book the author didn’t have to market him/herself. Many books I never would have heard of unless I scrounged through the bookshelves. Many books I would not have heard of without the authors marketing the books themselves. Oh, sure, some books get marketing bonus points because they’re shoved to the front at your chain bookstore, but that might not be your book. Most authors are mid-listers, and those ones will have to do the grunt work of marketing themselves.

So have a website, make sure it has a good following a year before publication; Twitter your fingers raw; Facebook, with a fan page; join writers’ forums and prepare to be involved in those; blog tours are amazing; press releases; perhaps your publisher will set you up with book signings, or you’ll have to set them up yourself; be prepared for the verity you may have to spend your advance on marketing. Some smaller presses have marketing packages, but you’ll still have to be involved in social media. Regardless of how much a publisher helps you or not, expect to have a presence in social media unless you’re rich and can hire an assistant to do that for you.

Now if you’re the lucky one with an entire package from your swanky publisher, the above is not for you. In any case, have any expectations to add, feel free to comment. I’ll have the next post tomorrow.