Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"But is it a "real" book?"

Going on a bit of a rant here.  One of the reasons authors want an agent and a NY editor is so they’re seen as “real” writers.  The work has been supposedly vetted and found worthy by professionals. (Not always well- I often see errors in trad pubbed books). The thinking appears to be that vetted work means good work.
Now in comparison, I used to make and sell soaps.  Not the boil lye kind (lye kinda freaks me out ;)) but the buy high-end meltable soap base, add high-end essential oils and colors and mold it kind.  People would buy my soaps based on smell and looks.  And if they were looking for shea butter, hemp seed oil, goat’s milk, etc. They knew what they liked (Shea Butter for example) and they knew what smell they wanted (vanilla) when those two combined and the soap looked nice as well a sale was born.
No one vetted my soaps.
No higher soap professional looked them over and said, “These met the standards of what we think are viable products”.
The customer bought them because they met what the thought they wanted.  And when they liked them, they bought more.
But the book world is skewed.  The mindset is changing, but still many folks believe self-published books can’t be as good as “real books” (not my words here) because they haven’t been screened.
Now I am not talking about the “oh, I just finished my novel, let me find a photo and slap it on Amazon” folks.  I once saw a tirade about the reader being the first screener and putting crap up was ok.  Um- no.  Just No.  If you’re putting it up so Aunt Suzie can get a copy- fine- but if you’re trying to build a writing career-- no. Put the Photoshop down and walk away slowly.
I’m talking about folks who hired professional editors, professional artists, professional layout folks.  The work has been polished, crafted, worked on to within an inch of its life.  Why is that seen as less “real” than a book that has gone through the same process but outside of the author’s control?  If a reader buys my work, they are doing so because it looks interesting, and it looks like I might have a clue as to what I’m doing.
Indie authors are investing in themselves to get their writing career out there.  We're scrimping and saving so we have hire talented professionals to help us.  Which might be part of the problem actually.
Way back in the old days there were Vanity Presses.  You paid them a bunch of money and they gave you a bunch of books to use against your friends and loved ones.  I think to some point the taint of that still lingers.  And "paying" might be the trigger.  Yes, I am going to be paying professionals to do things out of my skill set.  But is that any different than when I paid professionals to get a graduate degree? Took me ten years to pay off my graduate school loans, and not sure how much of a return I got on that investment. No one questioned the cost or wisdom of me going to grad school.
And when I started my soap biz-- all those supplies, business license, etc weren't free.  I had to invest on that as well.  No one questioned the cost or wisdom of my initial outlay then- it was a business.
Writing is a business. Some of us chose different paths to get the work out there. 
As a writer, we all--indie and trad- have an obligation to make the very best book we can for our readers.  As Indies- we have the control and the say over just what goes into that.  But if we do our jobs right, our books are very very much as real as a traditionally published one.


  1. Marie, great article. In my blog post, VALIDATION, on March 12, I repeated a suggestion about this very subject. Namely, send your book to an agent, and, if he/she asks to represent it, say 'Thanks' and walk away. You've been validated.

    1. LOL! I love it! Thanks for coming by and commenting Phyllis!

    2. This reply is directly to Marie's article:

      I believe the review process is evolving from the grass roots of interest groups up. Once that's figured out, there will be a venue for readers to find well-written, entertaining books.

      I have to agree that none of the rest means anything to me, except maybe to become an ever better and more entertaining writer.

      Susan (writing as S.B.K. Burns)

  2. I can see that things are changing but I like to have books I read vetted by someone other than the author or someone being paid by the author. To me, buying a book isn't the same as soap. I buy soap because of how it smells. I can tell how it smells immediately. I can often tell what the texture is. So, it's not the same as buying a book at all. When I buy a book, even a book published by a major publisher, I really don't know what is between the pages. I've bought books that start out great but then sort of fall flat. Readers are making a commitment to spend a number of hours reading your work and quite honestly readers deserve the whole package, a great cover, and a book that has the support of those outside of the authors immediate circle. It might help those aspiring to self publish to understand all of this. Having said that, lightning is striking more and more often and there are more self-published books out there that are worth buying.

    1. Amber, as both a writer and avid reader I understand both sides of this issue. There is a growing number of Indie writers that take the writing and publishing of their books seriously. They belong to writer's groups who act as sounding boards and critique their work from conception to publication. They have beta readers who read the finished (or nearly finished) work and offer feedback that the author can listen to or not as they choose. They hire professional editors experienced in their genre. Generally there are two types of editors (although sometimes they are the same person), content editors and copy editors. The content editor makes sure the story flows, comes to a satisfying end, is consistent (i.e. the protagonist's sister doesn't change names mid story, unless it is deliberate) and is appropriately paced. The content editor should also point out inconsistencies in character behavior (i.e. a character who doesn't drive hoping behind the wheel and driving a stick shift with no problem). The copy editor checks all the grammar stuff, spelling, some word choice, and if they are really sharp, they make sure the dialogue for each character is consistent with that character.

      Traditional publishers normally pay for the editing (either in-house or consigned), but indie publishers must pay for themselves. Unfortunately there are many writers who have not educated themselves on the publishing industry and believe they can do it all themselves (as Marie points out in her post), or even worse, they don't see the need for it.

      This means that as readers we must sift through the sludge to find those gems that will truly entertain us and fire our imaginations.

    2. Amber and Cyndie- both very excellent point. Amber, but it is like soap-you may like the way it smells but hate it when you get home. You are using your senses and needs to determine if you might like something. Authors do understand a reader is taking time and money to spend with their product- we're all readers first after all :). Cyndi- very well put!

      Thanks for coming by both of you!

  3. I plan to write the best book I can, regardless if it ends up trad-published or self- published.

    1. YES! LOL_ thanks Ken- I think that is a great point. We're writers. We write. We keep improving. No matter where we publish, we keep writing. :) thanks for coming by!

  4. Jeeze, my long winded comment disappeared. That sucks. Well, it went something like.... Nevermind. Let me sum up: Liked the post. Good luck.

    1. LOL! Thanks, Sharon! Sorry Blogger ate your words- it did say thanks, they were tasty :).