– by Mercy Pilkington
Sadly, the days of announcing those words and being met with a chorus of cheers are kind of a thing of the past. Oh, you might get a few pleasantly surprised glances from close friends or family members, but don’t expect the general public to hoist you onto their shoulders and parade you through town. You might actually receive a response closer to, “Oh? Is it any good?”
It seems like everyone has written a book. And that’s a good thing. It means that not only are you in great company and there is a lot of support out there, but it also means there are a lot of craptastic books on the market, giving your book an even greater chance to shine.
WHAT?! Did she seriously just call other people’s books craptastic? Why, yes. Yes I did.
Self-publishing stripped away the barriers to publication, and that is both the greatest thing to ever happen to authors and the worst thing to ever happen to readers. Don’t kill me yet.
As a professional whose job it is to take on projects on a submission-basis, I get a sneak peek at a lot of books. Some of them are awesome and have gone on to win major awards. But more often than not, I open an email that starts out like this:
“I’ve written a young adult paranormal romance about the ongoing war between vampires and werewolves. I couldn’t find an agent, so I decided to self-publish it and I would like your assistance.”
Those words make alarm bells go off in my head. Sometimes, those alarm bells are so loud that I am rendered temporarily blind.
Simply not finding an agent or a publishing deal is not at all a bad thing. It means that something about your book would make it difficult for the agent whom you queried to sell it to a publisher. Period.
BUT… there are a lot of variables. Maybe your book is incredible but the business-gurus who pull the strings in publishing have decided that vampires are OUT. That doesn’t mean your audience feels the same way, and thanks to self-publishing, there might be hordes of undead-fans waiting to download your book.
BUT… your book might also be a bunch of poorly formatted, badly edited crap.
WHAT?! Did she seriously just say my book is crap? Why, yes. Yes I did. (just kidding…that was in keeping with your earlier comment)
No, your book might not be crap, but it is about to swim in a sea of crap, bobbing in the crap waves among a lot of other titles that had no business coming to market because they were poorly written by someone who thought to himself, “Those YA readers are idiots! They’ll read anything! Anyone can do this!” And he posted a $2 ebook on Amazon, hoping to sucker someone into shelling out a couple of bucks. Congrats… your book is now competing with his. In the crap sea.
The best way—no, the only way—to get pulled out of the crap sea and make it to the safety of dedicated fans’ bookshelves is to make sure your book is not crap. Do not send it to your friends or writing circles and call that editing. You must hire an editor. You also must hire a formatter, and I don’t mean running it through the free trial version of Calibre. You must have an incredible cover, even if you have to hire that out, because believe it or not, you were lied to…you can actually judge a book by its cover. Especially if the cover is crap.
Now, this sounded like a really great and very judgmental sales pitch for an awesome company that I happen to own. Of course it was. But no, I’m actually going to tell you that if these are not things you can afford, you can still keep your book from falling into the crap sea. Seek out editors, formatters, cover designers, and TALK TO THEM. I know an editor (and no, she doesn’t work for me… I tried, but apparently I use the word “crap” too much for her tastes) who has allowed authors to write her a series of checks that she agrees not to cash until the postdate. I know a cover designer who just loves her art, and therefore creates stunning book covers BEFORE she has a client, thus creating inexpensive but gorgeous stock covers. I know a formatter who is just starting out and is willing to discount his work in exchange for people tweeting, sharing, and reviewing him and his business.
Help is out there if you reach out for it. That’s the whole point of joining an author network. It’s not a competition (unless you’re competing against crap, and then it’s totally a cutthroat competition), so hold out your hands to one another and give each other a boost out of the crap.
~~~~~~~~Mercy Pilkington is the CEO of Author Options, a full-service solutions provider for authors and publishers. Her sense of humor leans a bit to the sarcastic side, hence her overuse of the word crap. She is looking for romance titles that do not involved chiseled men with giant penises, and no more vampires unless there is something stunningly different about them that doesn’t involve sparkling. http://AuthorOptions.com
- My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Finding Inspiration in a Cover Artist (sdsouthard.com)
- Co-workers jointly publish post-apocalyptic romance (napavalleyregister.com)
- The Next Big Thing…. (emilyguido.com)