8th Day, Write or Wrong: Publishing Non-Traditionally

GwaiGwai Purgatory Host
edited January 28 in Limbo
I've been told that self-publishing is becoming a much better idea than it used to be, and is a good way to get exposure and as much money as one would anyway. You just have to do it right by publishing in smaller sections, or doing whatever. But I'm concerned as anything self-published would be hard to publish any other way. (Yes, there are exceptions. I know.) What do people think?
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  • Well, I know that a book section to which I contribute doesn't review anything self-published, if that's at all relevant.

  • The biggest problem with self-publishing is marketing (as in, lack of help with). The second biggest is you have to get together, and pay for, all your own supportive services: editing, copy editing, proofreading, layout, illustrations, ISBN, and so forth. It's doable for some, but sucky.
  • LibsLibs Shipmate
    The people I know who have self-published and are pleased with the result have (mostly) chosen to do so because they recognise that their work is only going to appeal to a very limited audience.

    I'm a member of Another Website that does review self-published books - I imagine the authors must have paid for some kind of marketing package. It's amazing how many people clearly haven't bothered to get professional editing or proofreading. There is such a lot of dross out there, that I no longer wonder publishers aren't keen to read unsolicited manuscripts. On the other hand, of course, that makes it really, really tough for a 'nobody' to get recognised.

    So far (and it's only been a month) I've found one really good book - but whether its author is ever going to make money on it is more than I can say. Not sure about the 'smaller sections' idea - doesn't sound great to me, but others may know better.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    A work colleague who self-published his first book on Amazon has since got a publisher. His second book is in its second edition, checking Amazon, and he is currently writing a third. I haven't asked how much money he is making but he hasn't given up the day job. In fact he is currently job hunting as he's not enjoying the day job. He fits writing in early in the morning and commuting.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I self published my first book. I continued to try for a traditional route, without success.

    It is a pain. You can self publish for free, but you have to pay for marketing, assistance, everything else (and you pay at single-job rates, of course). If you take the marketing packages, of course, you get standard packages, like everyone else who wants to pay.

    What you don't get is anyone - apart from you - who believes in your book and will sell it and promote it. And that is the big thing, if someone who is actually in the business is ethusiastic about your work, that will sell it.

    And the problem with self publishing is that 99% of the material is dross. 1% is not. but it is so hard to find that 1%. And the dross can be painful to read.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Libs wrote: »
    It's amazing how many people clearly haven't bothered to get professional editing or proofreading.
    This.

    Self-publishing is not permission to avoid having editing done on it by somebody-not-the-author (although, to be fair, I have also read plenty of fiction that has a publisher and it still seems to have never had a decent editor look at it).

    You would think that somebody who cares enough to self-publish would care enough to proofread the work before publishing. But, far too often, that does not seem to happen. It's disgraceful.

    This past weekend I noticed that Sanctum Books, the publisher of some pulp reprints that I have been enjoying (The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Black Bat, etc.) has started giving a credit line to the proofreader. I wish every publisher did that. A good proofreader is a treasure.

    By contrast, I have also been reading a reprint series (put out by Bold Venture Press) of the original Zorro Stories. While I applaud the fact that they have finally reprinted all the original Zorro stories by Johnston McCulley (something that has NEVER been done before despite the fact that Zorro is pretty much a cultural icon), the fact remains that the proofreading has been atrocious. The number of typographical errors is incredible. There are easily multiple dozens of errors per volume. They are so frequent that I cannot believe that anybody bothered to read the proof sheets before publishing. Again, disgraceful.
  • The trouble is, nobody wants to pay the proofreader (saith the former professional proofreader). Costs for proper proofreading may run to a couple hundred dollars or more, and there's still costs for layout etc. Faced with this grim reality, many (most?) amateur self-publishers decide "eh, it can't be THAT bad" and just run with it unproofed.

    Yes, it CAN be that bad (shudder).

    And there are always those lovely people one knows who ask for your proofreading help and, when presented with a rate, say, "But I thought you were going to DONATE your services, as it's such an important book..."

    Feh.
  • I'd say that the lack of decent proofreading is a problem across the industry. And I believe that a good proofreader is worth her weight in gold.

  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Rossweisse wrote: »
    I'd say that the lack of decent proofreading is a problem across the industry. And I believe that a good proofreader is worth her weight in gold.

    I have read traditionally published work with proofing errors. So I would agree. I suspect one reason is that writers are not necessarily very good proof-readers (I know that I am very poor at it). So actually finding someone who is able to do a good job of this is hard.
  • I have read traditionally published work with proofing errors. So I would agree. I suspect one reason is that writers are not necessarily very good proof-readers (I know that I am very poor at it). So actually finding someone who is able to do a good job of this is hard.

    It is also harder to proof your own stuff than someone else's. The human brain is a fantastic pattern-matching device, and it conspires against you here - it will merrily interpolate the thing that you thought you wrote, rather than the thing you actually wrote.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Yes Leorning Cniht - you absolutely cannot proof your own reliably. I do find it with others work as well. I read what is meant to be there.

    I think this is bcause I read a lot, and quickly, so I don't take every word. I suspect many writers have the same thing. Whereas a proof-reader needs to read not for understanding, not quickly, but slowly.
  • When I've proof read documents for work I tend to read them backwards to check the spelling and word order, as well as forwards for grammar and meaning.
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    Rossweisse wrote: »
    I'd say that the lack of decent proofreading is a problem across the industry. And I believe that a good proofreader is worth her weight in gold.

    Well, Mrs. Andras certainly is!
  • Most of the problems mentioned are found in traditional publishing too. These days one of the hardest things about taking on a last-minute proofreading commission is that you find problems relating to structure (plot holes!), illogical dialogue, non sequiturs on every other page, information repeated word for word, scenes where a character is drinking a mug of coffee that morphs into cocoa, info dumping in the wrong places and an ending that doesn't tie up all the threads. And you're looking at approved layouts, proofs signed off, a final deadline that has just whisked past.

    Non-fiction can be worse where no fact-checking was done and the picture or diagram captions were done inhouse without consulting the author, the style of referencing was not set out clearly, the academic authors expected the freelance editor to actually write chunks of the text (it happens) or where the researcher was inexplicably not the author of the paper. Or in cases where multiple authors are credited and none of them are speaking to one another.

    Since the proofreader is paid only to pick up hopefully rare typos, spelling and grammar errors, or dangling 'widows and orphans' from inept typesetting, this is a difficult situation to handle. The inhouse editor wasn't experienced enough, more senior editors didn't check edited copy, there was no budget for manuscript development, the designer/typesetter was rushed, and the project was running late. So all the problems now sit with the proofreader who can point them out (like Cassandra wailing doom-laden prophecies on the city walls) or try and fix them without remuneration. And if the author agrees to rewrite or the proofreader agrees -- for an increased fee -- to fix the problems as fast as possible, there is still a problem with the indexing, finished a month before and now sitting with incorrect page numbers and needing to be redone. Then there's the author's name spelled wrong on the cover proof and a blurb that belongs with another book.

    Lack of professionalism always causes more difficulties and expenses than anyone realises. Self-publishing is a wild high-risk gamble unless you are able to pay for a team of experienced editors and designers and marketing/distribution agents.
  • Just to add.

    One of the truly humbling experiences in life is to be proficient as a fiction editor and then to sit down and write fiction yourself and not see all the idiotic, klutzy, hackneyed stuff you spot so eagerly in other people's manuscripts. It all reads like a work of genius! And then you sit down and edit yourself and predictably you are only able to see what you intended to write and not what is there on the page or screen.

    What happens next of course is that your mother, your lover and your neighbour read it and say they'd buy it tomorrow, it is perfect as it is. So you self-publish and sell five copies over 18 months and only then do you notice that your novel is littered with amateurish errors.
  • MaryLouise: Amen to the many, many other problems you find while proofreading! This is why whenever I take on a job (freelance, I mean) I ask what they want me to do in such cases ahead of time. Do they want to be notified? Do they want me to mind my knitting and just breeze past such issues? Generally they choose the latter, in which case I zip my lip and grind my teeth. Unless a particularly hilarious and off-color screw-up emerges--the incredibly obvious phallic diagram, for instance--the kind of thing that would make them wind up on Bored Panda. In those cases I have mercy and point out the snafu (chortling to myself).
  • MaryLouise, I sometimes review books, and the lack of proofreading has been irritating me for years. (Unfortunately, it no longer surprises me in the slightest.) The book section editor doesn't even see any point in mentioning it, although sometimes, I slip something in anyway. There really is no good excuse.

  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I suppose the problem with proofreading is that it costs money, and self-published writers don't want to spend it (I should point out that I have had mine proofed), and traditionally publishers don't want to spend money if they think they can get away with it.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    There are people who do well with self-publishing all the same and from what I've seen, this often has to do with those writers who have an aptitude for self-promotion and marketing.

    A friend who started out in self-publishing went into debt to afford editors and designers, then took a year or longer publicising her book at writers' workshops and conferences, sending copies to reviewers she felt were right for her, talking about her book on writers' forums, going on writers' panels to talk about the self-publishing adventure, setting up stalls at book festivals, touring book clubs in her city, blogging, vlogging, staying in the public eye on social media. Her next book didn't do as well, but her third book sold better than the other two combined.

    She believed in her books and had a knack for selling. Very charming too: she'd write to reviewers and say: 'I've read your reviews for years so I KNOW you hate self-published fiction. Give me a chance to change your mind...' She'd thank people even when they gave her negative reviews. Her fan club on Good Reads, Facebook and her blog built a core of support. She loved giving talks, mass-mailed press releases to media companies, befriended journalists and other writers. The first book sold well (not a best-seller but a reasonable profit, enough to cover the debts incurred and allow her to leave her day job) and she developed it as a series, began approaching agents and publishers with details of her sales and how she'd marketed herself, what she was hoping to write next, how she might reach wider markets.

    She's an anomaly though, since most writers I know are impractical day-dreaming introverts filled with self-doubt and hoping self-published books just sell themselves without human intervention.
  • anoesisanoesis Shipmate
    Gwai wrote: »
    I've been told that self-publishing is becoming a much better idea than it used to be, and is a good way to get exposure and as much money as one would anyway. You just have to do it right by publishing in smaller sections, or doing whatever. But I'm concerned as anything self-published would be hard to publish any other way. (Yes, there are exceptions. I know.) What do people think?

    I've recently started attending a monthly writers' group which is based around a core of former attendees of a self-publishing course. I'm really enjoying attending, but don't quite know what to make of it, to be honest. Out of about fifteen people, two have written and self-published numerous books which are selling in good quantities - one sufficient so that she has quit her day job. In both cases, though, these are Harlequin-romance style novels they're writing. I suspect it helps that a.) the word count in these isn't huge, and b.) [for whatever reason] the readership is. So far as I can tell, they pay for graphic work, but they've done all their own publicity, all of which has been online. Another attendee, who's written two novels aimed at 11-13 year olds, and who clearly knows her stuff, in the commercial world, is nonetheless not managing to shift any copy. A different market, I guess, and harder to tell how you reach it. I'm going to be watching with interest over the next couple of months as another member, who's got her work ready to go and just finalised her graphics, starts to promote. From what little I've seen, it's quality stuff, in a literary sense, but may only have niche appeal, in terms of its themes.

    Whether I will EVER finish my own behemoth, remains to be seen, but I did proof, format, and lay-up the first fifteen thousand words a few months ago, then had it printed (Note: I do have some work-related skills here). Well. I must have read through that darn thing upward of thirty times before it was printed, but it was littered with errors. Not major ones, mind, but the kind of thing that irritates me hugely when I myself come across it in something published. So I am now convinced of the need to have [probably multiple] others proof it also. When the time comes. If it ever does.

  • GwaiGwai Purgatory Host
    Thanks all! I fell into work and forgot anywhere besides Purgatory existed, and I probably would have fallen out of there too if I hadn't promised not to. Those are excellent answers. And I'm clearly not the type to do a good job at marketing. Look how much attention I pay to things I care about much more when w-rk gets crazy!
  • I have self-published two small books on local history. I've sold enough to have covered my costs, without putting much effort into marketing.

    I've also had a further two published by a local history society. They were left a bequest to cover the costs of publishing one book a year which was not commercially viable, but was regarded as "worthy." I didn't make any money from these (if there are any profits they go back into the bequest fund) but proof reading is provided, publicity was good and sales higher. The bequest has been running for over 20 years so it's well established. Several libraries and individuals automatically buy that year's X bequest book.

  • You've done well North East Quine.

    I'm writing a book for a traditional publishing commission, but am expected to pay for the copy-editing costs and a contribution towards the typesetting. That's not unusual these days, I'm told.

    I don't mind. I've got a good copy-editor and I wouldn't want to do it without them.

    One of the issues with self-publishing it seems to me is it's so easy to change drafts once they're online that many authors simply update their material after posting it.

    I came across a self-published crime fiction writer the other week who regularly goes back and changes plot, characters, chapter sequencing and so on, simply because he can.

    That doesn't sit well with me.

    I think there is scope for decent self-publishing. The vast bulk of it seems dreck to me, though.

    I suspect quality will improve over time and as CK says, some self published authors are picked up by traditional publishers too.

    As for giving up your day jobs. Nah. It doesn't work like that.

    Very few people can earn a living purely from writing. Most well-known poets in this country work as lecturers, creative writing tutors and so on.

    Most people who earn money from writing write as part of a portfolio career. I'm getting paid to write this book, as I'm effectively ghost-writing it on someone's behalf, but I'm not charging the full 'commercial' rate and I'm also paying for the copy-editing and other expenses myself. That's fine. I can go back to my 'normal' freelance work of marketing research projects and so on when I've finished the book ... and I still do bits and bobs of freelance work alongside the writing, although I've scaled that down a bit.
  • GwaiGwai Purgatory Host
    To be entirely fair, not many people earn a living by only writing books. But it's not that hard to earn a living by writing something if that's your goal. I earn a living by writing, and I am published regularly. But I'm not what most people mean by that because I am published--generally without credit--in textbooks all over the country.
  • Thank you @Gamma Gamaliel but everything I have published has been too niche to be commercially viable; it's a hobby more than anything else.

    I am wondering about self-publishing an e-book. It's a history of my church, with a lot of photographs. The photos mean that it would be too expensive to publish as a book; the break even sale price would be more than anyone would be prepared to pay. At the moment it is just over 100 pages of A4 in a folder. Does anyone have any advice?
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    You've done well North East Quine.

    I'm writing a book for a traditional publishing commission, but am expected to pay for the copy-editing costs and a contribution towards the typesetting. That's not unusual these days, I'm told.

    I don't mind. I've got a good copy-editor and I wouldn't want to do it without them.

    (heavily snipped)

    It indeed seems that it's not unusual these days. Of course, authors have always been expected to do a fair bit of self-promotion, so perhaps it's all part of the same continuum.
  • Even journalists are expected to do a large bit of self-promotion these days. We're all seeking eyeballs to read our stuff.
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