Friday, June 1, 2012

A word regarding self-publishing

    Self-publishing is like getting a tattoo.

    Bear with me. is now freely making their services available to publish your book on Kindle or in paperback form. There's also plenty of wonderful services which will happily take your money to crank out a book, slap together a cover, then put you up there as well. Vanity Press has existed as long as books were in existence, publishers more than willing  to take money from people who think they have the next Great American Novel.

    This isn't bad.

    Self-publishing provides a niche for people who don't want to go through the hassle of agents, editors, publishers, and so on. In our age of instant gratification, it's the fastest way you can get your book out now.




    Getting back to the analogy, self-publishing is like a tattoo. You will live forever with the consequences, even if it's something stupid you did as a young adult.

      I will use myself as an example. I haven't been published by a decent publisher yet, so I can't tell you how to become successful. I can tell you how to avoid my mistakes, however. One of my mistakes was embracing the "now, now, now" philosophy.

    I was convinced that I had what it takes to be a published author. Clearly, I was more imaginative and brilliant than 99% of the Americans pitching their book out there. Please cut me some slack, I was eighteen. Unfortunately, I had more money than sense and decided to self-publish my opus.

    No, I'm not going to tell you what the book titles were so you can track down a copy. In fact, I've done my absolute best to find every copy of these books for the purposes of destroying them. If you find a copy of one of them and ask if I'm THAT Charles Phipps, I'll lie to your face and say no. You see, the books were garbage.

    I don't mean the storytelling was bad, though it was. I mean, they were amateurish junk. I had no one but myself to edit them and the results are, to me today, appalling. Grammar errors, overused words, poor punctuation, and bad mistakes all round. Each copy is a physical testament to my hubris.

    Later, I would be taken in by a con artist company who agreed to publish my work promising huge sales only to find out it was actually just a scam to get me to sell my own books. Really, as scams go it's less than most but I misread the situation badly and it put me off writing for over five years. Once more, though, it was me wanting to exceed the reach of my grasp.

    Writing is hard. It requires constant never-ending revisions to make sure something reads right. Why do you think it takes most authors a year to punch out a proper book? It's not because they couldn't do more if they wanted to. It's because quality takes time.

    This isn't an indictment of self-publishing. If you're comfortable with the product you're going to release to the public, by all means do so. Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (which you can see a review of on this site) was self-published and it was extremely enjoyable. It's mostly an issue of making sure you don't sacrifice your integrity as an artist because you don't need to put your work past the critical eye of an editor.

    If you have a book, I suggest you take it to a writing group or have unbiased readers look it over. Not just your family and friends, they're bound to say it's the best thing since sliced bread. Have people with skill at grammar look it over, professionals if you can afford it, and be sure to listen to any criticisms they have. The result may be hours and hours of painful slog, but will almost certainly improve the final product.

    That way you don't have to have an embarrassing tattoo twenty years later.


  1. A lot of peeps make this mistake when they're young. Don't sweat it.

    I will say that I'm a supporter of uploading short stories to Amazon for sale on Kindle and the like. Even agents are recommending this to some degree. But make sure they're polished!

    But I agree with you, self-publishing is a tattoo. If you end up with any success at all, later on someone WILL find your early efforts even if you don't want them to be found.

  2. Yeah, short stories seem to be the horse of a different color and I think anthologies can survive as a viable market with self-publishing, especially for fans of authors. I think it's the poetry of our generation.