Christian Writing A Sea-Change of Opinion About Self Publishing

Johne

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Sep 27, 2005
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From FB.
A word of encouragement for those of us who self-publish:
A couple weeks ago, I took my daughter to a playground and took my laptop along so I could work on a book that had its deadline looming. I didn't get much done before I felt eyes on me, so I turned around and saw another mom peering at my computer.
"Are you writing a book?" she asked. We all know how much we love that question. I told her yes.
"What kind of book is it?"
I told her it was a sweet fantasy romance, because I wanted to read one and was having trouble finding them. Her eyes lit up. We talked a bit about favorites: Tolkien and Lewis for both of us, of course. She asked how many books I'd written. I told her twenty. She nodded and said, "They aren't self-published, are they?"
Ah boy. There it is. I don't mind telling the whole story of why I walked away from the publisher that wanted to work with me, but it's not a comfortable tale to share with new acquaintances. Reluctantly, I said, "Well, yes..."
Before I could finish, she smiled. Smiled! "Oh, that's good! That's really good!" By that point, she was glowing. "I love self-published books, they're always so much more imaginative and genre-bending than the stuff you get from big publishers." And then she had a lot of questions. We talked about the ways the stuff I write doesn't fit in with the most popular trad pub books, the advantages of small presses and self-publishing, and I pointed her toward some places to find books by Realmies too, of course
😉

Needless to say, it was a stark difference from what I'm used to... but it's not the first time I've had a positive response, either. I know we're used to getting the short end of the stick, the people whose faces fall when they find out you're "only" self-published, or the people who turn us away because that's not good enough. But I thought we could all use a reminder that God put people who love us out there, too!
 

Accord64

Write well, edit often.
Oct 8, 2012
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"I love self-published books, they're always so much more imaginative and genre-bending than the stuff you get from big publishers."
Very true, but the complaint readers often have about self-pub books is the wild range in quality. For every well-written and well-edited book, there are at least twenty train wrecks that should've stayed in the oven longer (or never seen the light of day).

The irony here is that while self-pub authors have long bristled against trad-pub gatekeeping, it's that very gatekeeping that had largely kept poorly edited books off the market. Now it's the wild west. They say that cream will always rise to the top, but that's often a long way up. ;)

But I still much prefer the self-pub route, even though too many of my fellow authors are more concerned with quantity than quality.
 
May 24, 2017
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Who are the new gate keepers going to be? Readers have always been the gatekeepers traditional publishers wanted to keep happy. Traditional publishers just got a bit arrogant about what readers really wanted.
Time is the best gatekeeper. If a book is still selling a year after launch, it is worth a look. Five years down the line is better. Ten years and you have yourself a sure winner.
 

Accord64

Write well, edit often.
Oct 8, 2012
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Who are the new gate keepers going to be?
I think the book retailers should step up.

It seems to me that sellers like Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc., need to set higher standards for the books they sell. In the end, it's about providing their customers a positive buying experience. If customers are getting frustrated by the wide variation in book quality, then it would be in the sellers best interest to better vet their offerings.

However, Amazon's mindset has always been about providing endless product choices, no matter how bad or good they are. Amazon's ratings (and their algorithms) will weed out the poor books. Well, mostly their algorithms as their rating system is always being exploited. In fact, if anyone has been following the drama behind their billion-dollar "Rings of Power" production, Amazon has been accused of messing with their own ratings system to suppress bad reviews. Unbelievable!

I suppose it comes down to when sellers like Amazon feel enough pain from offering so many shoddy books that they will take further action. Not sure if this will ever happen. Someday I hope a competing book-seller will set more stringent standards and succeed to a point where everyone else will need to do the same.
 

lynnmosher

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Feb 21, 2007
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Good point, Accord. Though I'm puzzled. No, truly puzzled. How would they go about that without being accused of being book banishers? Or accused of, say, being racist or whatever. And who at Amazon reads the books? Surely, there isn't a human or humans who do that. Really curious to know.
 

Accord64

Write well, edit often.
Oct 8, 2012
2,590
903
Good point, Accord. Though I'm puzzled. No, truly puzzled. How would they go about that without being accused of being book banishers? Or accused of, say, being racist or whatever. And who at Amazon reads the books? Surely, there isn't a human or humans who do that. Really curious to know.

I'd attack it in two ways.

First, automatically vet out poorly edited books as they are uploaded. Some retailers (like Amazon) already do this to an extent. If I upload a book to KDP (Amazon), and their system detects misspelled words, they will flag it. Now I'm not sure if anything has changed, because it's been a while since I published anything that tripped their system, but they will only advise you to verify the spellings and not actually stop you from publishing. I'm sure it's because there can be words/names that set off their spell-check that are actually fine. But I'd upgrade this system to be more stringent - to detect not only misspellings, but punctuation errors, poor grammar, etc.. Force the author/publisher to really edit their manuscript before publishing.

Second, and this one seems more draconian, but if a book can't sell a minimum number of copies within the first year (or less), then it gets removed. I'd also include a provision for those books that do sell, but are very poorly rated (assuming there's a reliable rating system in place). Book stores have to make these types of choices all the time, because they have limited retail space. They have to stock what sells so they can stay in business. If Amazon did this, then at least a reader wouldn't have to sift through dozens of pages of shlock on their search returns.

That's what I'd do. Not perfect, but maybe a way to provide better product choices to customers.
 
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Apr 5, 2019
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I've received a few comments about how well edited my book was. And at BasedCon, I sort of wowed them with my audiobook, and my cover. In fact, if there has been one thing that I've received a regular stream of compliments, it has been the cover.

The thing is, it doesn't cost a huge amount of money to publish a book that looks and feels professional in it's production (there is a video on my Herman P. Hunter YouTube channel about the costs involved in producing THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB). Individually, it isn't that hard to challenge large publishers as far as content and quality. They probably spend more per book to produce a single work than a self-pub author.

What we self-pub types lack is a relatively inexpensive means to mass-market our works successfully. Solve that problem, and you strike trad-pub at its roots.

I've come to accept that there is no way I'll ever be picked up by a traditional publisher. So, my only real way forward is self-publishing.
 
May 28, 2019
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Thanks Jeff for the 3ncouraging.post. it sounds like your hard work is paying off.

I suspect I will end up SP but I am not.ready to do so yet. As I have said before it is the marketing that worries me particularly when I am working full time. But I have never ruled it out.
 

lynnmosher

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Feb 21, 2007
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Don't forget, Shamrock, that if you do go traditional, the bulk of the marketing will be your responsibility as well.
 

lynnmosher

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Feb 21, 2007
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Yeah, it's too bad. Writers used to be able to rely on the publisher for all the marketing.
 
Apr 5, 2019
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Yeah, it's too bad. Writers used to be able to rely on the publisher for all the marketing.

The thing is, I think a lot of writers assume (not all of them, but a good chunk) that the money they get on an advance is some sort of living expenses. I would have rolled it into marketing and promotion. If I had a couple of thousand to do ads, I'd be WAY ahead of where I am now.

The fact is, most writers will have an audience, even if it is a few thousand. It's just devilishly hard to build that from scratch.

But when self-publishing is your only avenue...
 

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