Improving the reputation of indies #wwwblogs #self-publishing #indieauthors

enoch press self-publishing about us page

I was rather overwhelmed by the reaction to last week’s post regarding self-publishing and the snobbery that some have towards it. You can read the post here. The many comments made showed that, despite many stories of self-publishing success, some writers are still treated as if what they do isn’t ‘proper’ writing. Self-publishing obviously hasn’t shrugged off its reputation for poor writing and editing. Which is a shame, because there are some fabulous self-published books out there.

However, while I support self-published authors and do encourage readers everywhere not to have pre-conceived ideas, I will concede that there are self-published books out there that aren’t up to standard – as well as poorly written and poorly edited traditional and independently published books. The difference seems to be that if you are published by a publisher, however great or however bad, there is still kudos attached to that, whereas indie writers still have to fight for respect.

So what can indie writers do to improve the reputation of independent publishing?

Master your craft

Yes, you need an imagination. Yes, you need to have stories to tell. But you need to learn how to convey those stories to your audience. How can you do this?

  • Read – and read lots and lots and lots. Reading other people’s writing is a key way to improve your own writing.
  • Get advice – you need to be brave and show your work to other people. And not just friends and family. You need people who will be honest with you. Look on sites such as Goodreads for beta readers or join a writing group.
  • Redraft, redraft, redraft – your first draft won’t be good enough, however good a writer you are. Don’t just write a book and then upload it onto Amazon. That’s the sort of writing that gives indies a bad name. Write that first draft, put it away for a little while and then go back with fresh eyes. Then do it again. And again. Writing is a slow process. It is a craft.

Get the professionals in

OK, I’m an editor. So of course I’m going to tell you to hire an editor. But this honestly isn’t a sales pitch. You need someone who knows what they’re doing to look at your work. A good editor shouldn’t be afraid to be honest with you. They won’t be wearing rose-tinted glasses. They should tell you how to improve your work. And it’s no good trusting this job to your wife who likes reading, or your neighbour who did an English degree twenty years ago.

Once the editing is done, get a proofreader. And again, not your wife or colleague or neighbour.

Consider paying for a decent cover design. It is possible to do this yourself, and some readers will overlook amateur-looking covers, but I think a good, professional cover is crucial. Shop around, get lots of quotes and make sure you’re happy with what you get.

Be professional

If you’re taking your writing seriously, then you need to behave seriously and professionally. Don’t put down other writers. Be supportive and helpful and you’ll get support and help back in spades. Don’t get involved in bitchy arguments online. Don’t become part of cliques. Behave as you would in any other career.

Self-publishing doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. If you’re a reader who doesn’t think that indie writers are ‘proper’ writers, then I urge you to take a look at some of the reviews posted through Rosie’s Book Review Team – look out on Twitter for #RBRT. Many of these books are self-published and they are definitely worth reading. And if you are a writer, then treat your own writing with respect. Put out your best work, and only your best work, and help to give indie authors the kudos they deserve.

self-publishing

The Writers’ Workshop

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41 comments

  1. Thanks for the shout out and for and all the great advice, fully support all you have to say about being professional and supporting others whilst crafting your very best piece of work with the help of others who know their stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well said. Mostly about the redrafting. That’s one of my biggest complaints with self-pub books – that they seem to have been published at second or third draft. I don’t think some newer writers actually know what redrafting means; I think they just read it through and change or remove the odd sentence! I remember, long ago, I signed up for the ghastly Authonomy where writers submit work for comment (I thought they wanted constructive criticism but soon learned they just wanted you to say they were great and add their book to your ‘bookshelf’, but that’s another story). I told one girl that her chapters had promise but needed redrafting, tightening up – that they read like a first draft. She sent me the revised version. She’d changed about 10 adjectives for different ones, and cut a couple of run-on sentences in half.

    My proofreader had a client once who said she was going to save money by proofreading her second book herself. We looked at the sample on Amazon. It had at least one error in every paragraph. I kind you not.

    You advice cannot be said often enough or too loudly 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I spent a lot of time on Authonomy when I first started writing The Black Hours before I realised it was just a popularity contest. There were some lovely people on there but also some horrible cliques.

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  3. To bring a non-fiction perspective … I’ve been published by a number of smaller and larger conventional publishers (including Palgrave MacMillan) but I still self-publish for two main reasons. Firstly, I simply enjoy having control of the entire editorial process, from proofreading to typesetting (I’m also an editor, so am addicted to pedantry). Secondly, I find the whole publication process with the major publishers painfully slow, and sometimes I just want to get my books out there. I know I can do as good a job as the editors employed by publishers – and one of my self-published books got a mention in a national newspaper yesterday, so I’m evidently not too bad. The major downside of self-publishing is that you don’t have access to the distribution network of the big publishers, so when starting a project I ask whether I will need the publisher’s network to promote the book or whether my own networks will be enough. Because a lot of the stuff I write is of local interest, I often conclude that I don’t need promotion by a publisher and can do it myself just as effectively. So I maintain a ‘mixed economy’ of conventionally published and self-published.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your comment.The distribution issue is a big problem for a lot of writers I think, but I’m hopeful that will change as attitudes in the publishing world (and readers’ attitudes) change. Seems like you’ve managed to achieve the right balance for your own writing 🙂

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  4. I do get racked off when people say, ‘oh but I can’t afford an editor’. Like you, I charge pretty cheap rates, not in the thousands like some do. But, part of the problem is, people don’t know what they don’t know. I’ve read books that have allegedly had two editors and/or proofreader and still have glaring errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, facts, inconsistencies etc. Some people take editors on recommend, yet the recommender’s books have errors. And yes, an English degree twenty years ago, or last year, does not an editor make.
    One author I know said they saved up for some time to afford professional services.
    Another author used a small publisher but had the book professionally edited first.
    Yet, I’ve read books written by an author/editor, who had their books edited and they were chocka with errors.
    Part of the problem about editing is a bit like publishing. ‘My publisher’ is interchangeable with ‘my editor’. But without even knowing or asking what the editor will do.
    Do people mean proofreader when they say editor? Or do they actually want comments about plot, flow, structure, dialogue, word/tense use?
    Same with covers. No good asking people who say yes that’s great. And, authors who don’t ask their editors for a view on cover design are short-sighted in the extreme. Who else knows the book better apart from the author?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your comment – you make some really excellent points. I’ve worked with quite a few authors who have come to me after their book has either been edited by someone else and they’ve self-published and then had negative reviews, or they’ve been edited by someone at their publishers, and again have had negative comments/reviews. Sometimes I wonder if the previous editor has even looked at the manuscript. I mean no disrespect to all the really good, professional, hard-working editors out there, and there are lots, but unfortunately there are also quite a few who have no idea what they’re doing. And if the writer doesn’t know what to expect and what the editor should do, then they don’t really know if the editor has done a good job or not. A subject for a further post I think… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Part of the problem is that anyone can call themselves an editor. An author full of eagerness and anxiety to publish and get on with marketing (another problematic area) will likely not shop around to find a good editor. And I suspect the really good ones aren’t cheap. Hiring an incompetent “editor” is a waste of money. As someone said in another comment, no one knows the book as well as the author, and some may just decide to develop editing skills to go along with the writing ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree Audrey, that hiring an incompetent editor is a complete waste of money and time. However, I do think that authors do need to spend some time shopping around. Sometimes it is that eagerness and anxiety to publish that results in books being published that aren’t up to scratch. If you’re going to invest time and money, then you need to select an editor carefully – asking for sample edits, checking out references, looking at books previously edited etc. Also, really good editors don’t have to be expensive! Some are incredibly reasonable. Writers do need to shop around 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I liken some self publishing authors (and yes, I am one myself) to those people who audition to sing on the X factor, or some such show and obviously can’t sing a note. The problem is they think that they can sing like Streisand, Pavarotti or Robbie Williams and no one has had the heart or the bottle to tell them that they can’t. That’s why there’s so much rubbish out there and why we all get tarred with the same brush. It’s not actually their fault, I believe there’s an ‘ear’ for literature as well as music and some people just ain’t got it – they just believe that they have.
    So yes, get an editor and listen to them – please!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Good post, Alison. Writing is one thing, but making the product look professional can be almost as important as the content (learned that the hard way!). I think self-publishing got a bad rap initially because writers were not doing all the things you recommend.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent post, Alison. We are responsible for our reputations, individually and collectively. Complaining is fine but doesn’t change anything. Only producing top quality books is going to change the public’s opinion of indie books.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. in defence of the beleaguered and penniless indie: how does one know which editors are good (especially if you’ve already employed an inadequate one) and at what stage of the novel writing process would you approach them?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very sound advice, Alison, which I am sure the majority of Indies take very seriously. We do recognise the need for professionalism and determinedly work on our craft. Of course, as you point out, there is a range of talent out there and that most certainly includes traditionally published works. When we work so hard it is disheartening to read and hear comments that flatly refuse to acknowledge all Independent authors as anything but also-rans.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A great follow-up to last week’s post, Alison. I agree with everything – we have work to do at our end as well to bolster the reputation of indie books, and hiring an editor is an absolute must. It’s an investment in the story and, while it can be expensive, I believe it’s worth every penny.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I hope it is alright to comment on here as an amateur.

    As a retired business man who is now writing, it has been hard to come to terms with one particular difference.

    If you have come up with a brilliant widget, you can usually get financial and production support to develop it. No one expects you to be banker, businessman, marketing wizard, accountant, purchasing manager and production engineer. If the idea is good, the rest will fall into place.

    With writing it is different. The actual idea – the story – seems to be of no interest to anyone unless you already have all the writing, grammar and editing skills. There must be thousands of great storylines out there which will be forever lost because of an inability to write well the first time you try.

    One other small point – when you are in your late sixties, you cannot afford to wait several years to tell your story. Urgency creeps in as the grim-reaper draws closer! Waiting a few years is unimportant in your forties, but when approaching seventy it is a huge chunk of your remaining lifetime.

    Thanks to Rosie of RBRT, I didn’t give up. One day we might find out if she was just postponing the inevitable. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re more than welcome to comment Tony 🙂 You make some really interesting points. The story is certainly at the heart of a novel, but a writer does also need the skill to tell it well. There is a big debate about whether you can learn to be a writer or whether you have to have the talent for it in the first place. I like Roughseas take on it above – that some people have an ‘ear’. I do think there needs to be some inherent talent there, but this may well be rough around the edges and it can definitely be improved and honed and cultivated. I have to be honest and say that I don’t really believe that everyone has a book in them though.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Great blog post thank you. I am very proud to be an indie author actually have turned down two offers to be published traditionally because, all I could see was that I would lose control and earn less as an author.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Three of the best books I have ever read were published by the author, niche content but written with skill and authority. Never be afraid to publish independently because the mainstream content is often weak and poorly written. Loved the post

    Liked by 1 person

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