Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish? | Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman gives really great advice on whether to self-publish or go the traditional route. Here’s a key point:

I see some writers self-publish mainly because they lack patience with the querying and submissions process of traditional publishing. Or they want the instant gratification of getting their work on the market. But again, this is one of the worst reasons to self-publish. I find many authors on my doorstep because they thought “Why not self-publish now and shop it around later to agents/editors?” — and ended up disappointed with the results. If you have any interest whatsoever in traditional publishing, exhaust all your agent/publisher options first. Get thoroughly rejected (as much as that may hurt), and then self-publish. It’s very, very hard to go in the other direction successfully.

Source: Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish? | Jane Friedman

Hard truths about writing…

This is really such a great post by Chuck Wendig that every aspiring writer should read: 25 More Hard Truths About Writing And Publishing. Pursuing writing as a career is so full of contradictions. It’s an art, it’s a craft, it’s sales and marketing. You’re venerated, you’re reviled. You probably make crapola, even if you’re relatively successful, yet people think you’re rolling in dough. Everybody wants to be a writer, but weirdly, there aren’t that many readers. And readers are fickle and can turn on you for the weirdest reasons. I think the only really good reason to be a writer is that you like telling stories. If you sell and find an audience and maybe even get rich, that’s all gravy, but it should not be the reason you write.

For writers who want to self-publish…

I’ve been reading a lot of self-published books lately for a freelance gig reviewing independently published books. I am not opposed to self-publishing. I think it’s terrific that technology is allowing more writers to get their work out there and have the opportunity to be read.

BUT… (you knew that was coming, right?)

A lot of readers are turned off of self-published books and refuse to even consider reading them, and I think that’s only going to get worse. There are many reasons for this that I could get into, but the major one that’s been bugging me, that I see time and again in the books I review, is sloppiness.

Sloppy grammar, sloppy spelling, sloppy storytelling, sloppy characterization. It’s as if the writer is in such a rush to publish that s/he forgets to slow down and take care with this thing s/he is making.

Traditional publishing does provide one important thing that self-publishing does not: time. It takes time to get through all those gates the publishers are keeping. It takes time to prepare a book for publication. During that time, the writing can be polished, edited, corrected, cleaned up. It results in a better product.

Readers can be notoriously picky about little things like grammar and punctuation. Sometimes I think we readers are more particular about these things than many writers. You have to remember that we read primarily for enjoyment. A book riddled with errors does not make for an enjoyable read. A sloppily written book will not be worth the time readers have to put in, much less their money.

If you are a writer who intends to self-publish, and you want to make it big a la Hugh Howey or Andy Weir, you have to be more perfect than everyone else. I can direct some criticisms at Howey’s and Weir’s books, but at least they were free of egregious grammatical and spelling errors, which meant I enjoyed the experience of reading them.

The best advice I can give to writers who want to self publish is to reread your work many times and mercilessly eradicate all the errors you find. Better yet, invest in a thorough copy edit by a professional who really knows their stuff.

Above all, don’t be sloppy. If this is something you really feel you want to do, as a profession or even as a calling, then take your time and make your writing the best it can be.

In future posts, I’m going to be offering specific advice about the most common errors I’m seeing in the self-published manuscripts I’m reading. There are many ways to follow me (see the sidebar) if you’d like to improve your writing.

Wow, Ursula K. Le Guin gave a great speech at the National Book Awards…

Here’s just an excerpt from Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards, but you should really go read the whole thing–it’s short and completely inspiring:

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

If you haven’t read any of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, why not?

Crowd-sourced publishing is The Cat’s Pajamas…

This week, I  got the opportunity to attend an author reading at my local bookstore, Flyleaf Books. The book is a children’s picture book, The Cat’s Pajamaswritten and illustrated by Daniel Wallace, who wrote Big Fish and is a local-to-me author.

What I did not know is that Wallace’s picture book is the first book to be published by a new crowd-funded publishing company, Inkshares. What they are doing is a new model for publishing that gives different kinds of writing the chance to be funded and published, and also allocates a greater share of royalties to writers. Because publications are funded by audience interest, Inkshares can take risks and bring books to market that might not otherwise see the light of day.

If The Cat’s Pajamas is any indication of their products, Inkshares is going to be a great source of high-quality books. Both my 6-year-old and I enjoyed the reading and loved the book (it was my son’s first author signing!).

And, oh yes: “itty-bitty kitty underpants!”

One of us, one of us…

I’m thinking about joining Amazon Prime. I usually have to think about things for a long time before I do them, especially if any amount of money is involved. I got a Kindle for Christmas, and I think it would be nice to have access to their lending library. I also want to check out their movie streaming options. You get the first month free, so I don’t know why I’m thinking about this for so long. Maybe because I know that once you’re in, you can never go back.

People who join Amazon Prime say that they stop having to think about shopping. Whatever they want, they just go find it on Amazon and order it. That’s because shipping costs are no longer a factor, and you’ll get your stuff in two days. Without worrying about shipping, it doesn’t seem that big a deal to order something that only costs $5, especially if the alternative is an annoying trip to a big-box store or searching for just that one thing you need.

It seems that Amazon is on the track to dominate many major industries, including book publishing and selling, perhaps even all of retail. Like Google, they are positioning themselves to take over the world. When Amazon and Google become huge and there is literally nothing left, what will happen next? I see three possible futures:

a) Corporate war to end all wars (the apocalyptic scenario)

b) Hostile takeover (the depressing dystopia scenario)

c) Corporate merger (the blissful utopia scenario)

Anyway, I thought this piece on Amazon Prime was a fun read: The Cult of Amazon Prime.

Are e-books the new content farms?

Laura Miller has a great article called Spamazon at Salon.com, which explains how e-book spam is clogging the Kindle. I was toying with the idea of getting an e-book reader, maybe for Christmas, but this new development is enough to put me right off of it.

It seems that these e-book spam operators are repurchasing cheap content, or are stealing the content outright, and posting them on the Kindle store as 99-cent e-books. Even worse, the same content may be repackaged into several different e-books with slightly different titles or publisher names. Often, this content is the product of content farms like eHow.com, and therefore not even worth almost a buck to buy, but the low price may lead to impulse purchases.

All this spam should make it hard for readers to find legitimate books worthy of spending their money on, which makes self-publishing e-books a dicey proposition. It will probably disillusion many readers, like me, from even considering purchasing e-books. And of course, writers are getting ripped off again, as they find plagiarized versions of their content bobbing in the spam soup.

I have to wonder why people are so quick to fill everything up with garbage. Amazon doesn’t seem willing to clean up its own store. Until it does, though, I won’t be investing in a Kindle.