So I am currently in the process of publishing my book Valdivia:A Family Dynasty (available tomorrow on Amazon folks!) and I have to say, “hard” isn’t cutting it. I’ve made about every rookie mistake that you can imagine, and still have a long way to go. The good thing however, is I’m not alone, and I have decided to write this on-going thread on my blog for suckers like myself. I figured I can use myself as a guinea pig to test out what works, and what doesn’t, and pass that information on.
So the first part in this series, “hard as hell” is sort of like a warm-up for burgeoning creative minds. Like all idealistic suckers, I thought I had done my homework. This was before I realized that I suffered from a mild brain defect of I’m-so-happy-I-wrote-a-novel-that-I’ll-put-any-junk-out-there, syndrome. This disease, especially amongst the newbie writer, is widespread, and has the ability to cloud the thinking of most level-headed folks. You forget that the publishing industry is first and foremost—a business—and NO business functions on naivety and idealism. If you are truly serious about what you are doing, you have to think LONG and HARD, and begin perusing and analyzing as much information as possible. Since there is a lot of information and mis-information out there, it can be very difficult; but if you have any common sense—USE IT! Other than that here’s a few tips, I’ve learned so far.
Avoid The Money-Pit
There’s no such thing as free publishing. I know some of you may have heard of these POD (print-on-demand) sites like Lulu and CreateSpace (which I’ll get into in a future post) but if you want your book to be professionally published—i.e. I actually want someone to buy this thing—then you have to recognize that you are going to have to invest quite a few dollars. A good chunk of that will go into an editor, which I’ll speak about momentarily, but there are also other essential fees such as getting the cover designed; possible book formatting fees, especially for kindle; obtaining ISBNs (note if you plan on having your book in print, and electronic, you will need separate ISBN’s for each format you use); as well as having your book officially registered at the Library Of Congress. These basic fees can run you around $2,000 – $3,000. You might be able to get it cheaper, if you have some personal connections, but that’s a rough ball-park range of what you are looking to spend to get your book in tip-top shape.
Now once you’ve covered the essentials, then you enter the world of, if you pay me I can make things happen for you baby—and you want to avoid that world at all costs. An example of this, are pay-per-click ads, or other services promising to advertise your book with banners and such on the web. When you encounter stuff like that, your common sense needs to start kicking in. Have you ever, in your life, bought a book, or have friends who buy books, based on a banner or ad on a website? Come on—most people view those things as spam, if they don’t outright ignore them, so what makes you think yours will be different. See yourself as a reader first and foremost. If this is not how you go about buying books, chances are most people won’t either.
This goes the same for sites who will promise you placement of your book on websites or blogs, or run online book tours for a fee, and guarantee you easy success. The key word here is “guarantee”; if anyone, promises you that magic work, remove yourself quickly, because you’re dealing with some serious bullshit. In addition to that, if it is a matter of just posting your work online, then why do you need someone else to do that? If you do sufficient enough research, you can do that yourself—the internet is pretty much free game. Paying someone for doing something that is researchable is like giving away free money, and if you’re not playing Monopoly (and even if you are) then don’t do that. It’s not an intelligent move. You want to pay people for the things you can’t and don’t know how to do.
In reality when it comes to book promotion, most people tend to base their book purchases on: word-of-mouth, recommendations from reputable sources, or by browsing through their local bookstores, and being intrigued by the blurb. These three things are the single hardest thing for a self-published author to obtain, and honestly there is no magic formula out there, that can show you how to get it.
Hire A Damn Editor
Let me just say—editors don’t come cheap. Getting a full-length novel edited can run you around $1,500 – $3,000, and a substantial more, depending on who you go with, and their level of expertise. Most also charge per word, not by page. An average novel can run anywhere from 70,000 – 120,000 words (if it’s any longer, you’re going to need to cut it down). Some editors also offer different services, like a basic copy-edit, which is the cheapest, and largely consists of proof-reading, and basic grammatical edits. The general rule-of-thumb is the more you need done, the more you have to pay—nothing is done complimentary. If you choose to go with an editing company, I would also recommend that you check to see if they are on the Better Business Bureau, and check out their ranking before you pay anyone that kind of cash—especially online. BBB, has a ranking from A+ to F, so obviously you want to go for the A. But bear in mind, that an A doesn’t mean a company has never had complaints; it simply means that they successfully resolved those complaints. A company could have 25 complaints and still get an A, while another has 6, and can get an F; it’s all based on how they were able to address the issues presented to them.
Now, some of you reading this may gawk at this steep price, and say to yourselves –“I know how to write well, and have a mastery of English. I’m positive I can edit this myself.” Well I’m here to tell you –RESIST THIS TEMPTATION NOW! I’ve been there, done that, and know where that leads. Unless you are a top-notch professional editor who has been doing this for years, it is almost impossible, to edit your own work, no matter how good of an English student you are. I graduated cum laude, and have a Masters Degree in English, and still couldn’t get it edited correctly, no matter how many revisions I did. I know the ego thing is tough to get over, but having clarity of perception, and ability to acknowledge weaknesses is the key to success.
If you unfortunately do not have the money to pay for an editor, then I’d advise you to hold onto your work, and save until you do, before you attempt to publish it. Rarely does anyone, but especially books, get second chances. When you are competing against thousands of professionally published works, who have gone through all the spot-checking and professional man-handling out there—you will stand little chance if your work falls flat. People naturally assume that a book should be edited, so don’t risk turning off and alienating your audience if it’s not. You can either come correct—or don’t come at all.
The Industry Is Against You
And a final painful bit of info, that I’m starting to comprehend quite clearly, the self-published author, like Rodney Dangerfield used to lament about, gets no respect at all. Whether it be from book stores, or reviewers, there’s an assumption that if you’re not with a major publishing agency—your stuff isn’t worth reading. Not to mention, most of our industry is geared toward proven-successes. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to get an agent, and even get your book published through the mainstream industry, because most, do not want to take a chance—which means invest MONEY—on someone who they are not sure they will get it back on.
Also, due to the sheer volume of people self-publishing, thanks to certain channels opening up, and the fact that many, though not all, don’t get their work professionally edited, many in the industry are prejudiced against them. This is one reason why so many top reviewers won’t even look at a self-published author. I found this to be one of the most frustrating and disheartening aspects, and while I came across a few sites, with some general advice, I wasn’t and am still not, entirely satisfied.
The good news however, is that when it comes to reviews at least, there are some other possible avenues. In reality most mainstream readers don’t purchase their books, based on what a top-reviewer has recommended. A vast majority go on average customer reviews, and in this arena, you have some flexibility. Establishing a presence, especially through social media, is a good resource, or forming or becoming part of groups. Also getting a reviewer from Amazon is a possibility, and could be enormously beneficial, as many people do actually take those reviews seriously.
This is just the beginning of the conversation for now, as I’d like to continuously post information that I feel will be useful to hopeful writers like myself. If you have decided to take the road less traveled, plan on the long run, instead of the short run. Success comes only after many repeated stumbles, falls, and at times failures. But if it’s worth something to you, then the pursuit is not in vain.
Here’s a couple of useful links I found.
http://www.firstediting.com/ – This was the site I used to get my work edited. They had an A+ rating on BBB, and I found them to be very professional and reasonably priced. Overall I had a good experience with them.
For finding reviewers.
I recently came upon another great site, that has a large list of reviewers who review independent authors/ self-published. Some do this exclusively. Here’s the link http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/
Please note–pay careful attention to the reviewers, review or submission policy, and the types of genres they review. Since several of them receive a large number of requests, they tend to look for reasons to reject as opposed to reasons to accept. So don’t waste yours or the other person’s time by sending in something that will most likely get kicked back to you.