Indie publishing: Are you doing it wrong?—Part One
In late 2007, with the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing, the self-publishing landscape forever changed. Many authors embraced this new publishing world and grew with it as it has changed over the years since. Some have been slow to adopt it, sticking with traditional publishing, and some of those in traditional publishing are only now learning how traditional publishing held them back.
However, what still surprises me is that some new authors just entering the world of publishing enter it with ignorance and misconceptions. And that continues to puzzle me. Here we are over ten years into a “revolution” as it were, and I’m seeing new authors stuck in the past in terms of their thinking about publishing and how to go about it. For reasons I fail to understand, they act almost as if the past twelve years have not happened in terms of the publishing world.
This leads me a very recent article by Kris Rusch that drives home some interesting points. Before I give the article link for you to read, I want to highlight several important points she makes, some of which I have ranted about on several previous occasions.
The main point is that some (many?) indie authors are stuck in (or are falling into) the mindset of traditional publishing even if they are not pursing a traditional publishing route.
In Part Two of this two-part series, I’ll bring up another Kris Rusch article that follows on this one and talks about other wrong thinking that some indie authors have.
Let’s back up a few years to when indie-publishing started. In those early days many authors simply followed what everyone else was doing wrong:
(1) Poor writing— Many new writers simply had no concept of what good writing was, or if they did, they didn’t recognize that their writing wasn’t. They believe you could dump raw writing out there and expect people to buy it. Unfortunately, because all was brand-new at the time and people wanted to fill their new e-readers, many did buy those crappy 99-cent novels (and I suspect many never got read).
(2) Lack of reasonable editing— This goes along with (1). Writers didn’t realize that readers (some at least) actually did care about good grammar and spelling. I did read a few otherwise good novels that needed editing, which was a shame because most of the errors I found were easily spotted and fixable.
(3) Crappy book covers— Writers didn’t understand that inadequate book covers suggested bad writing under the cover—not always though.
In those days, writers simply expected their novels to sell on their own because, after all, they were “published” and that meant something, didn’t it? Many took to social media to sell their books. Some of them blasted their friend on social media, expecting sales. They read articles online on how to game Amazon’s system and get fantastic sales through what sometimes amounted to cheating.
For a short while this all worked. Many authors did well selling their cheap novels with bad book covers.
Until it didn’t work, or until they realized that their novels weren’t selling at all. And one of three things happened. Some simply gave up, disillusioned. Some tried to follow the latest trends recommended online, finding those worked for a while (or didn’t work for them), and some of those continue that fruitless pursuit today, looking for the next great suggestions on how to sell your novel.
In the third case, authors started to get smart and realized that there were no shortcuts to writing and publishing. Quality work (and subsequent sales) takes time and effort and in some cases requires professional services to achieve a quality product.
This is where a new breed of services for authors has arisen. As authors struggle to sell their novels, they are hearing websites and blogs talk more and more about using professional services: editors and cover designers. And with that comes the expectation that in order to publish successfully, you have to lay out some serious money. Editing services in particular have sprung up like weeds, along with cover designers and book formatters and sites selling you templates for formatting your books “properly.”. And few of these services are cheap.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Authors are being convinced that they may need not just one type of editing but maybe several types of editing or editors. A proofreader to correct your mistakes isn’t enough. You need a developmental editor to tell you the proper way to transform your novel into a “professional” piece of work. Then you need line or content editing to revise and clean up your writing. And it goes without saying that unless you pay a professional designer to design your cover, you might as well give up.
I’m also seeing sites that tell you that you need their services to format the novel properly so it looks just like something that a traditional publisher produced.
See where all this is going? You got it—right BACK to traditional publishing. Some of these folks are trying to convince you that you have no chance of selling your novel unless it’s gone through all the same stages as those that a traditional publisher uses. They try to convince you that the reason your novel isn’t selling (or won’t sell) is that it won’t unless you spend thousands of dollars. After all, that’s how commercial novels were done: publishers spent a lot of money to get them right (and that’s why you get only pennies on the dollar as royalties).
WRONG! You’re being sold a bill of goods.
I’m not saying that some authors don’t need some of these services, but I am saying that you absolutely do NOT need to spend thousands of dollars (that you probably don’t have) to publish your novel. And even if you do spend that kind of money, there is absolutely NO guarantee that your novel will sell any better or that you will recoup that money.
I’ve pointed out in the past that some of these services are incredibly overpriced. And some are unnecessary.
I recently saw one article say that editors who “undercharge” the going rates either aren’t very good or they’re seriously undervaluing their work. Good editing can be had for a lot less by people (like myself) who do it on the side and who aren’t trying to make a living from it. I enjoy doing it and only look for a reasonable compensation for my time. So, yes, I’m undervaluing my work, but I do so as a pay-it-forward to help authors out. If I were making a living from editing, I would charge more. Likewise, good book covers aren’t that hard to get done well and cheaply.
The problem is that these costs are causing some would-be authors to rethink whether they want to publish a novel. More and more websites and blogs are telling authors that it’s not cheap to publish, and they’re trying their best to convince you that you HAVE to pay for their services in order to publish your novel.
When Kindle Direct Publishing began, it cost you nothing to put your work out there. Many authors were good enough writers to edit their own stuff, or they had writer friends (and beta readers) who would go through their novel and look for problems, and maybe the writer can do good cover designs as a way to reciprocate. There is absolutely NO reason why anyone has to shell out thousands of dollars for an editor because I can almost promise you that if your writing is so bad that you need to spend those thousands of dollars, then it’s probably not going to sell anyway, or at the very least you won’t recover what you spent. You can find excellent editors for much more reasonable costs.
So, here’s the Kris Rusch article. It’s very enlightening.