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.
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.