After my last outburst or blog post, you’d think I’d back my shit down, but I’m still finding a lot of dubious advice regarding self-publishing being touted with CAPS and insults.
It seems that if someone allows their work to be edited, formatted, proofread then it is no longer their story, and they never had faith in themselves as authors. GIVE UP NOW! You can’t compete with the accomplished authors (like the authoritative poster) who knows what they’re doing, and you noobs will save yourself a lot of money and heartache.
What do I know? Any response to that hooey, and I’m rec’g different versions of ‘@SHARON I’M CAPPLOKKING MY REPLY SO YOU READ MY RIGHTEOUS RAGE OVER YOUR TERRIBLE ADVICE – YOU CAN’T SWIM WITH SHARKS’ Oh, are those ‘pro tips’? Given that they’re someone I should pay attention to, I wonder what genre they write in. Ah, it appears they are using a pseudonym somewhere, or they are principled individuals boycotting Amazon. I better not cross these guys, or I’m doomed. Oh wait, that’s really DOOMED, eh? Hey, my caps lock key works. Should I use it more to sound like I’m an authoritative person accomplished at writing, rather than a noob? I really thought people trolled on political sites, fan fiction and gaming boards – not LinkedIn, ‘the world’s largest professional network’.
Although I have been told parasites in cat pooh make me bat shit crazy, I keep my game face on while I’m posting on LinkedIn. My author blog – well, I have to show some of my personality. I am not writing IT or PM manuals; I write fiction. Maybe somewhat strange fiction, but the parasites help me think (or so they tell me).
What I really know - Anyone can self-publish. Write, upload, choose some options, and ‘Bam!’, you’re an author. Congratulations?
Am I trying to be facetious to keep everyone from becoming rich and famous as authors? Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. Many authors keep their day jobs, and possibly their second jobs. I have. That’s why I can’t afford to go putting a CAP in someone’s ass all over LinkedIn.
Someone referred to an article that claimed the average author makes only $500 per year. I think that’s possible, based on the amount of new authors, the number of authors that are not paid handsomely by traditional publishers, and the authors that may not be trying to sell something that readers would buy.
I offered advice geared towards the self-published author – both new and even those that may have titles out but wonder what’s wrong after months of bad sales and reviews. I think it costs a candle nothing to light another candle, and I don’t drop a bunch of low star reviews on Amazon when I see poor ‘Look Inside’ reveals.
Plot aside, what does that book look like? Is it formatted for easy reading – check out Joel Friedlander’s blog - http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ Study it. Learn. If I was to post hints here, they’d come right from Joel’s blog. A self-published book should not be uglier than a traditionally published book. You don’t want the reader to click on ‘look inside’ and cringe – that’s if they got past your cover and decided to click.
So formatting is somewhere that I think authors can spend a little more time, and by that I mean hardly any time at all to do it right. I don’t know why justifying text is self-pub kryptonite, but it seemingly is true. Pick up a regular, traditionally published book – look inside it. Is your printed book going to look something like that? What’s different? Fix that.
I used CreateSpace and was happy with the result of uploading using their Word template and their cover maker using images licensed from Shutterstock. Like anything else, there are people out there who make a living formatting text and making cover art. Sometimes you can find help on Fiverr – results vary widely on Fiverr, but it’s only $5 a gig.
Next – Plot [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plot_(narrative)]. Is there one? Is it suitable for what you wish to communicate? Can the reader understand it? This is a problem of mine. I write long sentences, don’t always put in the little words, and I know exactly what I mean no matter how circular the route to get to the point – why don’t you? You won’t know that answer unless someone else reads it and says something. That’s part of what an editor does. There’s different ways to get your work read and commented upon – critique groups, exchanging with another author (you read theirs), or a family member that reads voraciously and can be conned into reading your crap. With all those, the benefit is it may be *free*, but the caveat is that the input is only as good as the person reading it.
I like critique groups because I can also learn from what’s being said about others’ work. The drawback is that one bad apple can mess things up, and leave me feeling it’s a waste of time. Since I do like getting things accomplished in my ‘free time’, I have little tolerance for divas throwing other people’s stories onto the table and declaring it’s no good because there is a semi-colon. Nothing about content, because the semicolon is that offensive to them. If only I brought my laptop – I'd so CAP her so hard, she'd think I'd become a professional writer/editor/social commentator/trollwad.
There are also free-lance editors. I would advise someone to either get recommendations from an author who you admire or writes something similar, or ask the editor if it’s possible to get a multi-page or one chapter sample edit. It is your money – so you want to get your money’s worth, and probably not waste time because an editor won’t have that manuscript back to you tomorrow.
Maybe it’s because I’m an intolerant crazy cat lady that I get so picky, and don’t just want the cheapest editor around to add strikethroughs everywhere. I also do not want to receive back something that makes me work to find the edits. If I send a MS Word document (or Open Office), I want changes tracked and comments added to the document. Do not send me back a corrected pdf and expect that I will accept all changes. Chances are I’ll accept many of the changes, but I want the option to reject some. In the end, it’s my name on this so if I want to ignore perfectly good advice, that’s my problem.
Editors may also suggest plot changes. Some can be pretty big. For The End of the World Sucks, I rec’d two big ones, besides the cries of sacrilege because I was breaking genre commandments (vampire and zombies are never together, and all zombie books must start at the outbreak). The first was to add romance - I mocked it for a couple days, but then my teen said she expected some romance too since there was a vampire in the novel. So I changed ages, added about 10,000 words, and now have to outline a sequel (possibly for 2012 NaNoWriMo). I think the second one is on par with ‘add romance’, but just didn’t fit with my concept for this plot. Change the main character, kill someone dear to him/her, have him/her train all through the novel, then at the end the main character saves everyone by killing the zombies in a winner takes all grand battle. To me, that reads like the plot of any ‘killed my teacher’ vengeance, kung fu film with a lot more enemies at the end.
After editing, possibly rewriting, the manuscript is almost ready to go. What about proofreading? Someone needs to go through the reworked document looking for the little errors, and scrawling something like ‘so many commas’ on the page for you, besides showing you which ones need to be removed or added. It’s checking spelling, grammar and language usage. A couple will not bother most readers, but if it’s riddled with errors, that’s too distracting, and if someone ends up feeling they wasted money buying your book, it’s likely they’ll leave a bad review. Bad Reviews are bad.
Consider proofreading. It’s not as easy to find a proofreader as an editor because it’s hard work, but they’re out there. Though you can give them some direction – one rewrote some dialogue for me. I don’t talk that properly so I did not accept those changes.
If your grammar, spelling and all is good, you might be able to work out an exchange with someone to keep your costs low. Don’t try to inflict really bad prose on someone, unless they’re equally in need of help (though how can you help each other?).
In a way this comes back to self-published versus traditionally published. If an author wants no part of design, format, editing and proofreading, a traditional publisher handles all that. Win-win.
If an author wants no part of it and self-publishes, it’s not likely to sell well. Not impossible, but it’s almost as if the author is sabotaging themselves by not putting their best effort into it.
The self-published author also has to consider cost. Remember that figure from the beginning that authors average $500 per year? It could be the figure is misleading, and if you spend $2,000 on a full-package deal (cover, edit, proofread, format and upload), you sell $2,500 of books, netting $500. To me, that sounds risky. I could just as easily lose $500 or more, rather than make $500.
What I’m seeing among the obviously self-published authors is a category that weakens the whole label of self- published and equates it with trash. Kindle is allowing novella publishing – I have no problem with that concept, there’s some great shorter fiction. So I’ll see a lot of 89 page, 99 cent offerings while I’m mucking around on Amazon. Everything’s fine until I click on ‘Look Inside’. Being a shorter work, there’s less pages available for sampling, but even in that short taste of the book, I have enough to form a bad opinion, if the 2-star review average didn’t give me a clue.
A couple clicks in Word before uploading would have made it better formatted, also those red, squiggly lines mean something – look those words up, don’t just upload it willy-nilly because your fans need your latest book tonight.
If that fails, here are the community guidelines from FanFiction.net Authors share fan fiction freely, since they cannot try to sell another’s ideas, characters … So should free fan fiction have a higher standard than self-published fiction?
Here is a list of conducts that should always be observed:
- Spell check all story and poetry. There is no excuse for not performing this duty. If you do not have a word processor that has the spell checking feature, use a search engine such as Google.com to find one.
- Proofread all entries for grammar and other aspects of writing before submission. 'Hot off the press' content is often riddled with errors. No one is perfect but it is the duty of the writer to perform to the best of his/her ability.
- Respect the reviewers. Not all reviews will strictly praise the work. If someone rightfully criticizes a portion of the writing, take it as a compliment that the reviewer has opted to spend his/her valuable time to help improve your writing.
- Everyone here is an aspiring writer. Respect your fellow members and lend a helping a hand when they need it. Like many things, the path to becoming a better writer is often a two way street.
5. Use proper textual formatting. For example: using only capital letters in the story title, summary, or content is not only incorrect but also a disregard for the language itself.
In conclusion, Rule #5 says watch those caps lock rants. Fan Fiction is not the pro-tip source, but it does seem more polite, even if there’s tons of troll reviews :^)