It really makes me happy to see that self-published books are gaining more and more integrity every day. We are starting to hear more of their wild success stories about grossing more and more money- some even into the seven figures. With each of these successes comes more writers willing to take the plunge into the self-publishing world. To be honest, there really isn’t any reason why they shouldn’t. Of course getting picked up by a major publisher certainly does have its perks, but for many writers that just isn’t an obtainable goal. There are only so many books each publisher can produce and the competition is only rising for those few spots. The good news is that self-publishing provides a reasonable and accessible solution to that problem. With the amount of success the industry has had and the amount of advice/resources available today for self-published authors, I don’t see why one wouldn’t give it a shot.
In my line of work I do not automatically discern a self-published work from non self-published work. What’s more important are the numbers, the audience, and the books’ marketing appeal for my company. At least for me, the self-publishing stigma talked about in a recent Guardian article, entitled “Is the self-publishing stigma fading?” by Ben Galley, is truly fading. Self-publishing done right is not easy. At a publishing house you have many different people working on your book- an editor, graphic designer, publicist, sales associate, etc. When you self-publish you need act as all those people yourself, or find people who will. If you don’t, then that self-publishing success you hear about probably won’t happen to you. Your readers still want polished, pristine work. After all, they deserve it. They are the reason you are able to do what you are doing.
The biggest issue I have with a self-published book is editing… surprise! It is so important for a self-published book to be edited appropriately. I completely understand the difficulties a new self-published author has in order to get their work edited. Who should I have edit my book? How much should I pay them? Should I even pay to have someone edit my book or just do it myself? Does the editor I hire know what they are doing? And the questions can go on and on, I understand that. The bottom line is that every self-published author needs to do something. They need to edit and have someone else edit their work. You may be a grammar queen/king yourself but I guarantee you that you will miss a few errors here and there. There’s only so much time that each of us can stare at the same story and not become numb to it. You always need a fresh set of eyes before you publish. If hiring someone isn’t on the table for you, ask a friend or family member. They may not be expert editors but if there are any major problems I’m sure they will be able to point them out. If hiring an editor is an option for you, do your research and make sure you pick the right editor for you with the right credentials.
The article also touched on other issues with self-publishing, some being “awful covers, and mediocre content.” Visual appeal and content are obviously very important as well. Your cover is the first impression readers have of your book. If it looks unprofessional then chances are readers will think the same of you and your writing, not even willing to give it a chance. If you aren’t versed in graphic design I would suggest finding someone who is. There are many designers out there that can whip up a pretty awesome cover for you quickly and relatively inexpensively. Content is tricky but it’s also pretty personal. When thinking about what to write about or what to include or exclude in your writing, think about your audience and genre. Write to what your readers want. Listen to their comments, suggestions, and even criticisms. They are the ones driving your success.
At the end of the day, both book covers and content are personal choices. If the author did what their heart told them to and stayed true to themselves, a true fan will understand and most likely agree with your choice. Bad grammar, on the other hand, is not a choice. Grammar is universal and should not be undervalued. If more self-published authors took grammar more seriously then more publishers, literary agents, and literary awards would drop the “self-publishing stigma.” I, for one, will keep reading and publishing self-published book into audio, the craze is only beginning. Write on.