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Maxinquaye
11-01-2013, 11:04 PM
This maybe should have been put in the 'bad things writers say' thread, but it was so mind-blowing that I think it deserves its own thread.

Palamedes PR did a survey of self-published authors, and the results were, in summary:

http://www.palamedes.co.uk/new-book-pr-research-published/

New research conducted by the book PR specialists, Palamedes PR, has revealed that nearly two-thirds of self-published authors are convinced they have what it takes to become the ‘next’ JK Rowling – but blame a lack of financial success on consumers’ “snobbish” attitude towards the practice.

So, when the self-published writers who decried the gate-keeper function of mainstream publishers for not being able to appreciate true art and genious now say that readers too can't appreciate the same, where does that leave those self-publishers?

Does this 'publish the slush pile offering' actually poison the well for self publishing? Are writers too full of themselves? Is it vindication for the agent system? Or are the self-publishers right?

What think you?

chompers
11-01-2013, 11:12 PM
I think this is why self-published books even had its bad reputation to begin with -- because a lot of stuff out there IS bad.

Some stories though, I think are good but they aren't considered marketable through the traditional method, so it's a shame that they've had to self-publish and need to jump over the hurdle of the prejudice.

shaldna
11-02-2013, 12:00 AM
Soooooo, nothing to do with bad writing, shoddy art and non-existent editing then? Because that's what seems to make up about 2 thirds of self published books.

And bear in mind I say this as someone who has self published and trade published.

Marian Perera
11-02-2013, 12:21 AM
Apparently 60% of the authors polled believed that it was readers' unwillingness to "give them a chance" that ended their dreams of bestsellerdom.

There's always a bottleneck. Always. Take out the agents and editors and that bottleneck simply shifts to the readers instead.

And with the massive surge in the number of self-published titles, readers 1. may well be overwhelmed by the quantity (if not the quality) 2. have a lot to pick and choose from, so they can select only the cream of the crop if they like. If it's their choice not to buy poorly-written books...well, that's one aspect of self-publishing authors cannot have complete control over.

I get occasional requests in my email to review self-published books, and the latest one described the book as "a science fiction opaque autobiographical novel". Without even reading it, I can tell it's not something I should spend time on.

GeorgeK
11-02-2013, 12:46 AM
Does this 'publish the slush pile offering' actually poison the well for self publishing? Are writers too full of themselves? Is it vindication for the agent system? Or are the self-publishers right?

What think you?

Lowering standards has never helped any industry.

quicklime
11-02-2013, 12:48 AM
Apparently 60% of the authors polled believed that it was readers' unwillingness to "give them a chance" that ended their dreams of bestsellerdom.

.


so....yeah. There's sort of the problem, isn't it?

Even if we assume self-pub Book X is phenomenal, if this belief is correct then that would seem to suggest they're better off facing "the dreaded gatekeeper." Because even if the gatekeeper (not sure where one becomes a Gatekeeper, I keep checking the local Craigslist but they have almost no new postings related to Gatekeeping, Controlling The Masses, Elitism,' or any of the other keywords I've tried...) is a hurdle, you just swap for a different hurdle, which may be even harder to get over.

a lot of folks who want to self-pub, sadly, have no plan to be seen beyond "if you build it, they will come." That's a piss-poor strategy to rely on in ANY business. And has nothing to do with "reader snobbery."

Christyp
11-02-2013, 12:48 AM
I have to admit I don't tend to read many self pubbed books, but not because I avoid them. Having said that, there was a series I began reading recently which I was convinced HAD to have come from one of the big houses. Nope. Just learned she is an Indie. I don't tend to look at the publishers when I buy book, only the premise and occasionally reviews (won't buy a book with primarily 1 or 2 star reviews).

Other than that little nugget, I think it's not so much reader snobbiness as it is marketing and promotions. I find books on referrals, recommendations, or a known to me author. I've devoured books as long as I can remember and I know I've had to have loved several authors who self pubbed through the years and just didn't know it.

jjdebenedictis
11-02-2013, 12:54 AM
If you read the article closely, the data doesn't necessarily paint self-published authors as being quite as delusional as the intro to that article implies.

Only 38% of the writers said they were as good as authors such as JK Rowling, Lee Child, John Grisham and EL James--but what does that number even mean?

If you ask me whether I'm as good a writer as J. K. Rowling, I'll say no, but if you ask me whether I'm as good a writer as E. L. James, I'll say yes. In fact, I'll say I think I'm better.

So is it 38% who thought they were as good as all those writers--or 38% who thought they were as good as one or more of those writers? Because how that question was phrased, and how the data was analysed, makes a huge difference.

The rest of the statistics don't seem too outlandish to me, either. The authors were disappointed in their sales. They think more publicity could have helped. They think the public's lack of willingness to try self-published books probably hurt their sales. There's nothing in those opinions I find surprising or delusional.

78% of them thinking they could have hit Amazon's bestseller lists with "the right professional support" is probably a big wad of wishful thinking, but it's not an unusual belief, either. Trade published authors occasionally grouse about their publisher not giving them the support they need to hit the bestseller lists (whether that's true or not.)

Given that article is written by a PR firm who apparently reps self-published authors (see the lines at the bottom of the article), I view their results with a great deal of skepticism. I think they're fishing for clients and massaging the data in order to skew it into a narrative that serves their purposes.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, n'est pas?

OJCade
11-02-2013, 12:56 AM
The thing is, when I'm reading, I don't want to be a sort of crowd-sourced gatekeeper. I don't want to be the one sorting and sifting to find something good to read. There are some wonderful self-published books out there, but in the end it's just plain easier for me to find a book that's gone through someone else's gatekeeping - something published by a reputable company and in front of me at a book shop.

kaitie
11-02-2013, 03:01 AM
Having said that, there was a series I began reading recently which I was convinced HAD to have come from one of the big houses. Nope. Just learned she is an Indie.

[Spanish accent] You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. [/Spanish accent]

kaitie
11-02-2013, 03:14 AM
If you read the article closely, the data doesn't necessarily paint self-published authors as being quite as delusional as the intro to that article implies.

Only 38% of the writers said they were as good as authors such as JK Rowling, Lee Child, John Grisham and EL James--but what does that number even mean?

If you ask me whether I'm as good a writer as J. K. Rowling, I'll say no, but if you ask me whether I'm as good a writer as E. L. James, I'll say yes. In fact, I'll say I think I'm better.

So is it 38% who thought they were as good as all those writers--or 38% who thought they were as good as one or more of those writers? Because how that question was phrased, and how the data was analysed, makes a huge difference.

The rest of the statistics don't seem too outlandish to me, either. The authors were disappointed in their sales. They think more publicity could have helped. They think the public's lack of willingness to try self-published books probably hurt their sales. There's nothing in those opinions I find surprising or delusional.

78% of them thinking they could have hit Amazon's bestseller lists with "the right professional support" is probably a big wad of wishful thinking, but it's not an unusual belief, either. Trade published authors occasionally grouse about their publisher not giving them the support they need to hit the bestseller lists (whether that's true or not.)

Given that article is written by a PR firm who apparently reps self-published authors (see the lines at the bottom of the article), I view their results with a great deal of skepticism. I think they're fishing for clients and massaging the data in order to skew it into a narrative that serves their purposes.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, n'est pas?

On one hand, I agree with a lot of what you're saying. On the other, I think there is a tendency among certain people to assume that any fault is not their own. And the fact is, there are certainly people who go into self-publishing because their work was rejected by agents and publishers and rather than recognizing that the reason was that their writing ability wasn't yet at a professional level, they decided it was because publishers won't consider an unknown author, and they're only looking for bestsellers, and so on.

I think in some ways, that skews the self-publishing crowd a bit. There are a lot of people who externalize lack of success, and that makes sense because internalizing it means recognizing that the fault lies in yourself, and that sucks. It's hard. I imagine a lot of the people that believed their lack of success with publishers was completely external also believe that their lack of success with readers is external. "Clearly the reader is the problem, not me."

Bear in mind, I'm not saying that this is true of all or even most self-publishers. I'm just saying that you'll probably have many self-publishers who fit this description because the reason they self-published was externalization of problems.

Where this becomes and issue, and granted it's a personal issue, not a generalized one, is that if you always externalize problems, it means you can't improve. The author who can't say, "Maybe there is a problem with my writing" can't learn to write better. Learning a skill requires recognizing your faults and working to improve them. If you're able to do that, you will likely one day be successful. If you can't, you never will.

Honestly, though, I imagine that as more people try at self-publishing and don't become bestsellers, the number of people doing it will start to go do. That's just my speculation, but I imagine it's true. I think you'll start seeing less evangelizing and more honest explanations of what success requires, and more people working hard to do it well.

Wilde_at_heart
11-02-2013, 03:21 AM
If you read the article closely...

Bad things happen to 'stories' when press releases get parsed :D

Buffysquirrel
11-02-2013, 04:15 AM
Somehow I don't think uploading a file to Amazon counts as 'managing production of your book yourself'. Somehow.

I also suspect a lot of readers don't know and don't care whether a book is trade published or self-published. They want a good read and they're looking for books that, for them, satisfy that criterion, wherever they may be found. And that's all there is to it, really.

jjdebenedictis
11-02-2013, 06:11 AM
I think in some ways, that skews the self-publishing crowd a bit. There are a lot of people who externalize lack of success, and that makes sense because internalizing it means recognizing that the fault lies in yourself, and that sucks. It's hard. I imagine a lot of the people that believed their lack of success with publishers was completely external also believe that their lack of success with readers is external. "Clearly the reader is the problem, not me."

Bear in mind, I'm not saying that this is true of all or even most self-publishers. I'm just saying that you'll probably have many self-publishers who fit this description because the reason they self-published was externalization of problems. Oh, I agree completely that self-published authors probably skew toward the "No one understands my genius!" end of the spectrum.

But the article claims two-thirds of self-published authors think they could become the next JK Rowling.

That just seems way too high to me, and then when you read the article, the number of self-published writers thinking they're on par with Rowling or some other high-selling author abruptly drops to only 38%--nowhere close to two-thirds.

There's just something hinky about their math and the way they're wording things. I do believe there are some badly self-deluding self-published authors--but I don't believe two-thirds of them are that way.

Christyp
11-02-2013, 06:45 AM
[Spanish accent] You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. [/Spanish accent]

I got to tell you, this board has been a source of entertainment for me lately! You all are so freaking funny!!!!

elindsen
11-02-2013, 07:03 AM
That just seems way too high to me, and then when you read the article, the number of self-published writers thinking they're on par with Rowling or some other high-selling author abruptly drops to only 38%--nowhere close to two-thirds.

Didn't read the article because I'm on my phone. However, I wonder what the stats are of self-pub works being first works or even first drafts? Every newbie writer thinks their book is the next (insert bestseller in genre). My first book I thought would make it big. But thankfully, those Gatekeepers existed and stopped the book from hitting anything. With self-publishing, you lose that. And most newbies have friend, husband, mom, ect. read book, possibly even first draft. When mom loves it, they think it's golden. So when readers don't agree and fail to soothe the ego, maybe those self-pubbers do think it's the readers.

Roxxsmom
11-02-2013, 07:04 AM
I'm sure there are some good self published titles out there, but barring writers I know personally, I'm one of those snobbish readers who gravitates towards trade published books.

1. Trade published books screen their submissions rigorously. No doubt they miss some good stories and pass some that aren't so great, but overall, there's a certain minimum level of quality they're shooting for. Writers are notorious for lacking objectivity of their own work, so the fact that you think your novel's wonderful doesn't mean many will agree.

2. Trade publishers edit the novels they sell. Not always perfectly, but they're not just selling drafts of novels, the way some independent authors are. Self-pubbed authors can write, rewrite, workshop and polish their stories, and some do pay for pro editing etc., but many don't. This shows.

3. I have a huge backlog to read of trade-published books by authors I know, authors who have been recommended to me, or authors who look interesting to me. These have a reasonable chance of being something I will find entertaining, or at least learn something from reading. Why would I want to take some of my precious reading time to sift through a vast pile of self-pubbed dreck to find a handful or high-quality works? If I ever run out of trade-published books, then maybe I'll start looking at other titles.

4. I'm not broke, so while I wonder if the trade-published e-books on Amazon really need to be ten or more bucks each, I can still afford it. The lure of one and two dollar books just doesn't draw me in for its own sake, though if someone I trusts points me towards a bargain, I might go for it.

So independently published authors are really surprised by these facts? They didn't realize that they were up against this situation?

Marian Perera
11-02-2013, 08:12 AM
I'm sure there are some good self published titles out there, but barring writers I know personally, I'm one of those snobbish readers who gravitates towards trade published books.

Same here. If I know a writer through AW and their posts read well and they've self-published something I'm interested in, I'll check out the sample available on Amazon. Or if a trade-published writer whose work I enjoy decides to self-publish, I'll try that.

Otherwise, I'm past the stage where I thought it would be interesting to read slush.

gingerwoman
11-02-2013, 12:25 PM
This maybe should have been put in the 'bad things writers say' thread, but it was so mind-blowing that I think it deserves its own thread.

Palamedes PR did a survey of self-published authors, and the results were, in summary:

http://www.palamedes.co.uk/new-book-pr-research-published/


So, when the self-published writers who decried the gate-keeper function of mainstream publishers for not being able to appreciate true art and genious now say that readers too can't appreciate the same, where does that leave those self-publishers?

Does this 'publish the slush pile offering' actually poison the well for self publishing? Are writers too full of themselves? Is it vindication for the agent system? Or are the self-publishers right?

What think you?
It doesn't really muddy the well because some people are making a lot of money self publishing and then there are a lot of other people that aren't making money, many of whom it seems unfortunately, didn't realize that it was going to be just as easy to be rejected by the public as rejected by the "gate keepers".
No online bookstore that I know specifically marks books as self published and many self publishers put their own made up company name on their books so it's not really people not buying books because they are self published. The most likely reason for no one buying your boo,k but your friends is that no one knows it exists.
I saw one guy on yahoo answers complaining that he paid an assisted self publishing service to publish his book, but that then he actually had to search for his book on Amazon because (shock) they weren't promoting it on the front page. lol
It's like that quote from The Fight Club “We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. (and JK Rowlings) But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.”
― Chuck Palahniuk (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2546.Chuck_Palahniuk), Fight Club (http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/68729)

Buffysquirrel
11-02-2013, 03:28 PM
So independently published authors are really surprised by these facts? They didn't realize that they were up against this situation?

Perhaps not, given they were surrounded by people all parrotting the line that the gatekeepers were the problem. Some of them came up against harsh reality on Goodreads, where they discovered that the reading public can be much, much ruder than the gatekeepers ever were....

bearilou
11-02-2013, 04:25 PM
Wait...what happened to the reasoning that most readers don't care who the publisher is as long as it's a good book?

eta: And if having some standards in my book reading makes me a snob?

Well, okaythen! I'm a snob! But attempting to emotional blackmail me with names they think will hurt me doesn't work so...move along, please.

son of eta: If the biggest selling point of self-publishing themselves is total and complete control over their work, how did these self-published authors not realize at some point that also meant marketing and publicity? Were they asleep during that part of the lecture that that was the toughest part of it? That they would have to do it themselves? And that it was going to cost them money in some manner if it's going to be effective? That being a self-publisher meant they were a self-employed/business-owner now and all that comes with running their own business?

gothicangel
11-02-2013, 05:08 PM
Next to my bed I have a pile of [trade published] books in my 'to read' list, three of them of 1000-pagers, and award winners. I don't need to go trawling through self-published books to find good reading material.

And I'm with bearilou, if that makes me a snob then so be it.

PulpDogg
11-02-2013, 05:38 PM
Oh is it "lets crap on self publishing" week again?

usuallycountingbats
11-02-2013, 05:42 PM
I read/buy pretty much exclusively on the kindle - and it's an old school black and white keyboard kindle. So I generally have no idea who has published a book and whether or not it is self-published. In fact until I started using AW, it wasn't even something which really occurred to me - and I'm well-educated and widely read. I suspect therefore that I'm not alone in that.

What I have noticed is the following:
1. If something is in the best selling paid novels, that doesn't automatically mean it has been through gatekeepers who will ensure it is a well written book. I bought something from the top ten paid, which had a slew of 5* reviews, and it is beyond awful. Not awful as in I didn't get on with the story, but awful as in I find it hard to believe it has ever seen an editor - characters changing name, spellings of names changing, dire plot, awful writing.
2. If something is in the best selling free, it will likely be better if the author has other books out which are for sale at market rate (i.e. pounds not pence). Ditto if something has a cover price in the pence not pounds range. They're trying to hook you in. (And it worked, damn you Stephen Leather).

My approach now is still not to check whether it's trade or self-published, but to abide by a set of rules which mean I am generally happier with what I end up reading.

Much like when I visit art galleries, I don't want to look at something which I think I could have done myself, given that I have all the artistic talent of the average brick. Likewise, I don't want to read a book which makes me think that I could have written that, and likely done a better job. So does that mean I'm a snob? Probably, yes, and I don't apologise for wanting to read something which seems like it was written by someone literate. I've read some really good self-published stuff, and I hope I will continue to find it.

shadowwalker
11-02-2013, 05:42 PM
Maybe it's a case of SPs trying to deal with why all that "All you have to do is..." cheerleading isn't all they had to do.

TheNighSwan
11-02-2013, 05:43 PM
On the other hand, given the proportion of utter crap that somehow gets printed on the trade-market, I do wonder whether self-publishing differs much in this respect — maybe the bad self-published books are even worst than the bad trade books, but I'd be surprised if there were actually significantly more of them.

In these conditions I don't quite see how having to look hard for the good books is an argument against self-publishing — I'm having to look hard for good books period, and I buy both self-published and trade-published material; the "awards" argument is especially odd: my experience of awards is that they mean butts, that they more often are promotional operations financed by the publishers themselves [at least this is explicitely how it works in France; all the major literary awards are awarded by the major publishers themselves], and that the most dreadful book can get an award with not much trouble if it is supported by an influential publisher.

JournoWriter
11-02-2013, 06:02 PM
Since this thread is about self-publishing, shouldn't it be in the self-pub forum?

bearilou
11-02-2013, 06:36 PM
I bought something from the top ten paid, which had a slew of 5* reviews, and it is beyond awful. Not awful as in I didn't get on with the story, but awful as in I find it hard to believe it has ever seen an editor - characters changing name, spellings of names changing, dire plot, awful writing.

and


On the other hand, given the proportion of utter crap that somehow gets printed on the trade-market, I do wonder whether self-publishing differs much in this respect — maybe the bad self-published books are even worst than the bad trade books, but I'd be surprised if there were actually significantly more of them.

I hear this said all the time and it makes me wonder:


where are these books? because they sure aren't in my TBR pile; and
why no one seems to want to say which book it is. It's not like they're saying the author sucks eggs and wears mismatching socks when they kick kittens. There's a problem with the book/editing or somewhere along the way something got switched up, the wrong file send out...so I think it is educational to know what author or at least publishing house is putting this kind of workmanship out and whether this is a continuing problem or if it's an occasional slip up.



Maybe it's a case of SPs trying to deal with why all that "All you have to do is..." cheerleading isn't all they had to do.

Yeah. That one runs right up my flag pole, I won't lie. "All you gotta to do is..." is not always as easy as all that.

slhuang
11-02-2013, 06:38 PM
On the other hand, given the proportion of utter crap that somehow gets printed on the trade-market, I do wonder whether self-publishing differs much in this respect — maybe the bad self-published books are even worst than the bad trade books, but I'd be surprised if there were actually significantly more of them.

In these conditions I don't quite see how having to look hard for the good books is an argument against self-publishing — I'm having to look hard for good books period, and I buy both self-published and trade-published material;

^^ Me too. I agree that the worst self-published books are likely worse than the worst trade-published books, but I'm not willing to read bad trade-published books either, and my standards are high enough that a book having been trade-published does pretty much nothing in terms of signalling my "want to read" algorithm. I use reviews and recommendations of people I trust, and I read a lot of first pages in deciding what to buy or borrow from the library.

I don't care whether a book is self- or trade-published. But I will readily admit that I am a terrible snob, and I'm not willing to read bad books in either category. My time is too valuable to me.

usuallycountingbats
11-02-2013, 06:42 PM
This wasn't in my TBR pile either - I was doing what I do a lot, which was browsing the Kindle bookstore looking for something to read. This book intrigued me because a) it was in the paid top ten, b) it was in a genre I generally like and c) it had enough 5* reviews to make me think maybe the 1* reviewers were wrong. (They weren't).

I'll happily tell you which it was, but I don't think it's my place or in fact fair to be publicly vile about it on a well-read forum, especially not on someone else's thread not about this book. I did leave it a 1* review though ;)

I even went as far as to look up the publisher - it doesn't appear to be self published, and there wasn't a thread about them on here in the Bewares/Recommendations bit (at least not one I could find). But I know so little about publishing as to make it entirely conceivable that it is self-published/vanity press/some other thing proper writers know about and I don't.

bearilou
11-02-2013, 07:20 PM
Got the rep and will send a PM detailing further because you're right, this isn't the place to discuss it.

However,

It's not one of the Big Five and that is where my reading primarily rests. So, in the end, it's my own reading biases that keeps me from getting my hands on subpar reading that is 'trade' published with 'trade' in scare quotes because it's not from a big publishing house/online publisher that I know and have a measure of respect for.

In fact, usually when people pm me with their horror stories, only one time was it an actual Big Five (at the time it was Big Six) book. The rest have been, sadly enough, from small start up epubs.

usuallycountingbats
11-02-2013, 07:25 PM
I think that kind of selection bias will always mean you get decent stuff in terms of how well it is written. But I really don't look at publishers when I'm selecting books - 99% of the time I go for authors I know or books which have been recommended to me, and just occasionally I do a random Kindle browse and download lots of things. I've found some real gems that way, and a lot of detritus. Like I say, I now have rules to try and make sure I get more decent stuff than dross, but occasionally something slips through the net!

I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think that I am implying all self-published work is rubbish, because I don't think that, and I've read some really decent self-pubbed stuff.

bearilou
11-02-2013, 07:35 PM
I think that kind of selection bias will always mean you get decent stuff in terms of how well it is written. But I really don't look at publishers when I'm selecting books - 99% of the time I go for authors I know or books which have been recommended to me, and just occasionally I do a random Kindle browse and download lots of things. I've found some real gems that way, and a lot of detritus. Like I say, I now have rules to try and make sure I get more decent stuff than dross, but occasionally something slips through the net!

Yeah, I totally get that. Usually when surfing through Amazon, I've come to making Look Inside my new best friend. Usually, though, when I see a problematic sample, a fast glance at the price before I scroll down to see the publisher usually tells me exactly what I need to know.

I keep up with this, even if it's in my head, because when I start querying, depending on what it is I'm querying or where I'm querying, I like to know a bit about the product put out by those in my interest set.

usuallycountingbats
11-02-2013, 07:40 PM
Ah, there's the thing - I browse on my ancient first generation Kindle, and I never browse the Amazon website. So everything is in black and white, and I have to download a sample if I want to double check stuff. I'm usually too impatient to bother, so if something is top ten paid and has decent reviews I'll give it a go. Clearly that was an ineffective filter in this case!

I think your method is probably wise especially for someone serious about querying. At the moment I'd be content with getting a first draft done.

It's interesting though, because I'd guess (and it is just a guess), that I'm probably more typical of the average reader, in that I don't look at publishers at all when making a selection.

bearilou
11-02-2013, 07:43 PM
It's interesting though, because I'd guess (and it is just a guess), that I'm probably more typical of the average reader, in that I don't look at publishers at all when making a selection.

Which brings us full circle back to the article and the reaction of the self-publishers.

If the average reader doesn't look at publishers at all when making decisions to purchase, their argument sort of starts fraying at the edges that readers are snobs who don't want to give self-published writers a chance.

They are being given a chance, and found lacking?

TheNighSwan
11-02-2013, 07:45 PM
I can only give examples for the French market, in which there are plenty of notoriously dreadful-but-best-selling writers who are published by the biggest French trade publishing houses —but as usuallycountingbats said, this isn't really the place.

usuallycountingbats
11-02-2013, 07:48 PM
Which brings us full circle back to the article and the reaction of the self-publishers.

If the average reader doesn't look at publishers at all when making decisions to purchase, their argument sort of starts fraying at the edges that readers are snobs who don't want to give self-published writers a chance.

They are being given a chance, and found lacking?

I'd agree with that. And I don't think that makes anyone a snob (or conversely, I am happy to be considered a snob if that's the definition).

bearilou
11-02-2013, 07:51 PM
I'd agree with that. And I don't think that makes anyone a snob (or conversely, I am happy to be considered a snob if that's the definition).

And thus we are eating our own tails.

...or something.

Old Hack
11-02-2013, 08:10 PM
Oh is it "lets crap on self publishing" week again?

If you think that's what anyone's doing here then either report the posts concerned, or quote them and write a specific, respectful response. Because otherwise, all you're doing is waving a vague complaint in the air, and that's not constructive.


On the other hand, given the proportion of utter crap that somehow gets printed on the trade-market, I do wonder whether self-publishing differs much in this respect — maybe the bad self-published books are even worst than the bad trade books, but I'd be surprised if there were actually significantly more of them.

In my experience, there is a huge difference in the bad books which are self published and the bad books which are trade published.

The books I've seen from trade publishers have either come from startup presses, or from publishers run by people without any real publishing experience; or (and this is significant) they've been in genres which I don't enjoy and have no affinity with. Which means that I am already biased against them, and so am more likely to consider those books bad. It is highly likely that these particular books aren't bad, they're just not to my taste. Which is a different thing entirely.

I can spend hours browsing in a bookshop and while I might only find half a dozen books I want to buy, I won't find a single bad book in all that time.

I've been sent several hundred self published books for review and the majority of them have been bad. By bad I mean poorly written, poorly edited, poorly designed, and poorly produced.

It's rare that a self published book comes close to being good on all four counts. It's rarer still for a self published book to be well written, even if it does fail on the other counts.

I don't think that by acknowledging this means that I am being unfair to self published writers. It's my direct experience.

What is unfair, however, is to suggest to anyone that publishing is easy. It never is, no matter which route you take.

Buffysquirrel
11-02-2013, 08:17 PM
I very much doubt that readers are browsing Amazon, detecting with their SPdar that a book is self-published and therefore beneath their notice, and spurning it in consequence. Maybe these authors need to look at the number of people who read the extract vs the number who buy/download. There might be some useful information for them in that.

PulpDogg
11-02-2013, 08:31 PM
I very much doubt that readers are browsing Amazon, detecting with their SPdar that a book is self-published and therefore beneath their notice, and spurning it in consequence. Maybe these authors need to look at the number of people who read the extract vs the number who buy/download. There might be some useful information for them in that.

Is that number even available?

JournoWriter
11-02-2013, 08:45 PM
It sounds like most of the discussion here is about finding books on Amazon. I rarely find self-published books there, perhaps because most of my shopping is for NF. What genres are you searching? I've heard romance and thriller are big SP categories.

When I do find a good NF book, I almost always check the publisher, but the author's bio is just as important. There's a high degree of crap out there posing as good NF on obscure topics. If an author is knowledgeable and the excerpt good, I'll go with it regardless of the publisher. I'm certainly not wasting my money on someone who doesn't know anything about the subject and can't write. Snobbish? Sure.

That said, I wish more authors of OOP NF books would self-publish and reissue their works. There are a lot of good, timeless books that went out in the '60s or '70s that are very difficult to get easily for a reasonable price nowadays. SP is the perfect way to restore some of those to public access - and make a few bucks, too.

Filigree
11-02-2013, 09:14 PM
I look at excerpts first, then I might look at author bios if I'm interested in buying the book. I am skeptical of certain kinds of one-star and five-star reviews, because they can reveal strong bias either way. I am more likely to read something from a larger publisher or a respected mid-sized house than a start-up press or a self-published author - but that also goes directly back to the quality of the sample text.

TheNighSwan
11-02-2013, 09:42 PM
Maybe we have widely different conceptions of literature then, because I find most books published by big-name publishers just dreadful, in terms of writing. I go into a bookshop, I open any of the books coming only from the big publishers, and I haven't read one page that I already find myself cringing at how bad the writing is.

That, or the French and American book markets truly are different worlds.

Marian Perera
11-02-2013, 09:46 PM
Maybe we have widely different conceptions of literature then, because I find most books published by big-name publishers just dreadful, in terms of writing. I go into a bookshop, I open any of the books coming only from the big publishers, and I haven't read one page that I already find myself cringing at how bad the writing is.

That, or the French and American book markets truly are different worlds.

Perhaps that's the case, because my experience is quite different. The writing I cringe at is either in self-published books or in books put out by amateur micropresses which lack competent editors.

That being said, there are lots of trade published books where the openings don't pull me in, but those are nearly always for reasons other than the quality of the writing. I have yet to read a trade published book with technical mistakes (spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc) at the start, whereas I've read dozens of self-published/startup micropress books with such a problem. So for me, most trade published books are better than self-published books, at least in terms of writing quality.

slhuang
11-02-2013, 10:16 PM
That being said, there are lots of trade published books where the openings don't pull me in, but those are nearly always for reasons other than the quality of the writing. I have yet to read a trade published book with technical mistakes (spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc) at the start, whereas I've read dozens of self-published/startup micropress books with such a problem. So for me, most trade published books are better than self-published books, at least in terms of writing quality.

See, I would say that most trade-published books are well-proofread -- as in, no spelling or punctuation errors -- but I would personally distinguish that from them being well-written. There are many, many trade-published books (including ones from the Big Five/Six) that have infuriated me because I just don't find the writing quality to be very good, but there's nary a spelling mistake to be found.

I agree that a lot of SPed books are also poorly written (and are far more likely to be poorly proofread). But I just don't find trade-publishing status, or even Big Five/Six status, to be any sort of useful signal as to whether I'll enjoy a book.* :Shrug:

Of course, as noted above, I am most definitely an unapologetic snob . . . only I'm a snob about both trade- and self-published books. ;) So I supposed I am equally one of the people "not giving SPers a chance," only I'm "not giving trade-published authors a chance" either, in many cases! :D

* Caveat being, I haven't examined my DNF list scientifically, but I'm pretty sure this is true.

Marian Perera
11-02-2013, 10:25 PM
See, I would say that most trade-published books are well-proofread -- as in, no spelling or punctuation errors -- but I would personally distinguish that from them being well-written.

Sorry, I should have made that distinction clear.


I agree that a lot of SPed books are also poorly written (and are far more likely to be poorly proofread).For me, it's important that a book be proofread. Even if the story's great, technical errors interrupt my enjoyment of the story at best and annoy me at worst. So because proofreading is one of the things I look for, I'm more likely to find books that meet my requirements among trade publishers' offerings rather than among self-published fare.

That's not to say I'll like all trade published books or that I'll hate all self-published books, just that one of my needs is more likely to be satisfied by the one than the other.


So I supposed I am equally one of the people "not giving SPers a chance," only I'm "not giving trade-published authors a chance" either, in many cases! I'm picky either way too.

slhuang
11-02-2013, 10:29 PM
For me, it's important that a book be proofread.

Oh, yes, I definitely agree with you there! I guess I was trying to say that for me, proofreading is only the smallest toenail's edge of what must be true of a book in order for me to want to read it, so knowing a book is proofread isn't really useful (to me) in pointing me towards books I will also find to be well-written . . . ;)


I'm picky either way too.Cheers to being snobs! :D :D

James D. Macdonald
11-02-2013, 10:37 PM
Is that number even available?

That number is available at Smashwords.

I expect that for even your best-sellers the buys is a tiny fraction of the samples.

What I also expect, given that no hard numbers are being thrown around, and the average isn't a useful concept when you're talking about books, that the typical SP book still sells the same 75-150 copies that they've always sold, regardless of the technology used.

gingerwoman
11-02-2013, 11:13 PM
they've been in genres which I don't enjoy and have no affinity with. Which means that I am already biased against them, and so am more likely to consider those books bad. .
I'm sure like me you can also appreciate a certain level of skill used in books in genres you don't enjoy, even while not enjoying them.
I often see the very pro self publishing people talk about the "amount of crap that trade publishers put out" and I don't really relate to those statements. Most books from trade publishers I read I find have a certain level of technique that I can appreciate, even if they bore me and I don't finish them.

I don't feel I've read enough self published books by new authors to comment on their quality as an overall group.

shadowwalker
11-03-2013, 12:08 AM
Just a side note - I do tend to get tired of the "Well, you should see the crap 'traditional' publishers put out.". It doesn't change the fact that there's a lot of crap in self-publishing, and just seems like an attempt to sidetrack that discussion.

UndergoingMitosis
11-03-2013, 12:12 AM
If you read the article closely, the data doesn't necessarily paint self-published authors as being quite as delusional as the intro to that article implies.

Only 38% of the writers said they were as good as authors such as JK Rowling, Lee Child, John Grisham and EL James--but what does that number even mean?

If you ask me whether I'm as good a writer as J. K. Rowling, I'll say no, but if you ask me whether I'm as good a writer as E. L. James, I'll say yes. In fact, I'll say I think I'm better.

So is it 38% who thought they were as good as all those writers--or 38% who thought they were as good as one or more of those writers? Because how that question was phrased, and how the data was analysed, makes a huge difference.

The rest of the statistics don't seem too outlandish to me, either. The authors were disappointed in their sales. They think more publicity could have helped. They think the public's lack of willingness to try self-published books probably hurt their sales. There's nothing in those opinions I find surprising or delusional.

78% of them thinking they could have hit Amazon's bestseller lists with "the right professional support" is probably a big wad of wishful thinking, but it's not an unusual belief, either. Trade published authors occasionally grouse about their publisher not giving them the support they need to hit the bestseller lists (whether that's true or not.)

Given that article is written by a PR firm who apparently reps self-published authors (see the lines at the bottom of the article), I view their results with a great deal of skepticism. I think they're fishing for clients and massaging the data in order to skew it into a narrative that serves their purposes.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, n'est pas?

My thoughts exactly.


And, at the risk of introducing a giant tangent....


Maybe it's a case of SPs trying to deal with why all that "All you have to do is..." cheerleading isn't all they had to do.



Honestly, though, I imagine that as more people try at self-publishing and don't become bestsellers, the number of people doing it will start to go do. That's just my speculation, but I imagine it's true. I think you'll start seeing less evangelizing and more honest explanations of what success requires, and more people working hard to do it well.

This perception that there are tons of people running around shouting the virtues of self-publishing from the rooftops is really strange to me.

Maybe it's because my first exposure to the concept of self-publishing was from a real life friend who self-pubbed last spring--and worked damn hard to put out a good product (with accompanying realistic expectations). Maybe it's because I only started thinking about the publishing industry in any real way earlier this year. Maybe it's because I found this site shortly thereafter.

I just did a quick google of "self-publish your book," (https://www.google.com/search?q=self-publish+your+book&oq=self-publish+your+book&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.4809j0j7&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8) just to see if I found a pile of evangelizing cheerleaders.

The first page has 6 results from amazon, lulu, etc. about their self-pubbing services.

The other four results seem to be very balanced accounts of the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing a book. The closest to "ra-ra indie!" on the page is the extra "news" result that google gives you--today it's Griselda Heppel on self-publishing: 'You have complete freedom!' (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/29/self-publishing-showcase-antes-inferno). The title makes it seem like it should be an interview about how awesome self-publishing is, but it's actually pretty balanced. The author feels pretty good about her own decision to self-pub, but she also talks about all the hard work she put in when asked about the disadvantages of self-publishing--AND she states elsewhere in the interview that she hired professional editing, which hints to the casual googler that there are start-up costs involved.

I'm genuinely curious--I don't doubt that there are cheerleaders to be found (there are cheerleaders for pretty much everything on the internet), but did this used to be more common? Are we already at a point where things like KDP have been around long enough that there's a plethora of good information to be found about what it really takes to do it right?

shaldna
11-03-2013, 12:25 AM
Oh, I agree completely that self-published authors probably skew toward the "No one understands my genius!" end of the spectrum.

Not ALL self publishers.



I got to tell you, this board has been a source of entertainment for me lately! You all are so freaking funny!!!!

I'm really hoping that you understand both that the statement you initially made re. 'indie' was industrially incorrect, and also hoping that you get the reference.



Just a side note - I do tend to get tired of the "Well, you should see the crap 'traditional' publishers put out.". It doesn't change the fact that there's a lot of crap in self-publishing, and just seems like an attempt to sidetrack that discussion.



Me too.

Buffysquirrel
11-03-2013, 01:00 AM
Is that number even available?

There's no doubt in my mind it's available to the online retailers. It'd be trivial, in fact, to collect it. Perhaps my assumption that they would share it with the publisher was naive?

ebbrown
11-03-2013, 01:40 AM
There are a lot of idiots who are self-published.
There are a lot of idiots who are published.
I don't see why we need to constantly pull each other down.

Blaming someone else for failure is, unfortunately, a common human trait. Taking responsibility for yourself and working hard to make good things happen is a not-so-common trait.

I lose interest when anyone (not just an author) whines about how it's everyone else that caused him/her to fail.

I know I get lumped into a tough category by virtue of being a self-published author. Do I regret my choices? No. Might I have done things a little bit differently in the beginning? Yes, but hindsight is 20/20. I can only plug along, be happy with what I have accomplished, and keep trying to build something worthwhile.

I think it is worthless to label readers as "snobs" in any context. Reading an article like this makes me sad. We don't all think that way.

kaitie
11-03-2013, 02:22 AM
I think everyone in the thread has been clear that not everyone thinks that way (actually, the article doesn't claim everyone, either).

My first thought, ebbrown, is that you're spot on right that this sort of thing is meaningless and it's already tough enough for self-published authors. Most people I've met who do it don't fit that category because I tend to expose myself to writers who are better researched and who care a lot.

That said, I do think there are negatives that are worth considering. I see two negatives that could potentially affect all self-publishers as a whole regarding this "it's the reader, not me" attitude.

One is that those authors aren't trying to put out a better product. Businesses succeed when they look at their problems and what the customer wants and find ways to provide it. Customers want quality work. Good covers, good editing, and good story or writing (or both). If you read negative reviews for self-published books, the number one complaints are always related to bad editing or bad writing.

As I mentioned before, people don't grow when they don't consider what they can do better. At first, there was a lot of talk about "just put your book out there and you'll make money." "You can't make any money if it's sitting in a drawer." That sort of thing. Then you started hearing, "Series sells. You have to write a series," or "You won't make money until your third book (or fifth book, or whatever book)."

If a person isn't selling and just says, "The problem is I don't have a series," or "If I write more books it will solve the problem" or whatever, they're just going to keep putting out more bad books rather than access the actual problems they might have with quality.

And that, of course, goes back to the stigma that comes with self-published books, that the quality just isn't there.

A second problem I see with this is that a lot of the authors behaving badly problems we've seen (granted not all by any means) have been self-published authors. A lot of people don't take rejection well. We've seen review sites stop allowing self-published books because of concerns about author reactions, authors setting up sites to give away personal information about reviewers, and so on. None of that reflects well on the group as a whole.

The same people who wrote nasty notes to agents about how those agents just couldn't see their genius are now writing nasty responses to reviews to readers.

So while it is sad to consider that there might be many self-published authors who act this way, and it might seem unfair to people like you who are smart and understanding and hard working, it's also important to consider this sort of thing because these people can have an effect on people like you, and that's not fair, either.

I think recognizing that there could be a problem is important to authors finding ways to limit those negative connections if possible.

Ken
11-03-2013, 03:20 AM
... so those who self-pub are a bunch of screwball loons ?
Well I for one am not having that. I don't care how many so-called stats there are.
Self-pub'ing peeps are grounded as the next author and talented too.
There are many on this site. Their reputation, here, clearly demonstrates that this article is a bunch of nonsense.
Times have changed and self-publishing is different than it was back when.
It is a LEGITIMATE venue. And I for one am fed up with it's being represented
as something pitiable which only the desperate or deranged seek out.
If you want to criticize a group of people start with yourself, article writer !

ebbrown
11-03-2013, 03:34 AM
Well said, Kaitie. :)

I suppose I just dislike the though of being lumped in with people who behave badly, without consideration of my individual merits. I feel strongly that you have to own up to your faults and strive to be better. So I truly do not sympathize with authors who blame others for their failures. Especially when they are blaming the very audience they need to impress.

Lol, this conversation reminded me of the whole Anne Rice vs a blogger debacle. Not sure why, it just popped into my head.

Think I need more coffee. ;)

DancingMaenid
11-03-2013, 04:15 AM
That being said, there are lots of trade published books where the openings don't pull me in, but those are nearly always for reasons other than the quality of the writing. I have yet to read a trade published book with technical mistakes (spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc) at the start, whereas I've read dozens of self-published/startup micropress books with such a problem. So for me, most trade published books are better than self-published books, at least in terms of writing quality.

Though I haven't encountered a lot of technical mistakes at the very beginnings of books, I have to say I've had some bad experiences with technical issues/quality in ebooks, in general. Even ones published by decent trade publishers that ostensibly have the money to produce a decent ebook. One book had a part where it seemed like a page or scene break was missing. Another one had a lot of typos, and some of the formatting just didn't look good in ebook-form (there were sections that were supposed to look like handwritten letters that weren't very readable on the Kindle. Though it's arguable if that's a quality issue).

I doubt the print copies of the books suffer from these issues, so I don't blame the authors. However, I've had enough problems that it makes me hesitant to buy ebooks instead of print sometimes.

Though, I will add that the problem seems to be more with ebooks put out by print publishers. Publishers that mostly produce ebooks seem to have better quality-control.

Obviously, with self-published books, it is the author's responsibility. And I do think that self-published books can be more prone to having errors and have a greater number of errors in general. But my experience with the self-published books I've purchased has been about the same as my experience with trade-published ebooks.

I don't buy a huge number of ebooks, though, so the sample I'm looking at is fairly small.

Pearl
11-03-2013, 06:02 AM
I think everyone in the thread has been clear that not everyone thinks that way (actually, the article doesn't claim everyone, either).

My first thought, ebbrown, is that you're spot on right that this sort of thing is meaningless and it's already tough enough for self-published authors. Most people I've met who do it don't fit that category because I tend to expose myself to writers who are better researched and who care a lot.

That said, I do think there are negatives that are worth considering. I see two negatives that could potentially affect all self-publishers as a whole regarding this "it's the reader, not me" attitude.

One is that those authors aren't trying to put out a better product. Businesses succeed when they look at their problems and what the customer wants and find ways to provide it. Customers want quality work. Good covers, good editing, and good story or writing (or both). If you read negative reviews for self-published books, the number one complaints are always related to bad editing or bad writing.

As I mentioned before, people don't grow when they don't consider what they can do better. At first, there was a lot of talk about "just put your book out there and you'll make money." "You can't make any money if it's sitting in a drawer." That sort of thing. Then you started hearing, "Series sells. You have to write a series," or "You won't make money until your third book (or fifth book, or whatever book)."

If a person isn't selling and just says, "The problem is I don't have a series," or "If I write more books it will solve the problem" or whatever, they're just going to keep putting out more bad books rather than access the actual problems they might have with quality.

And that, of course, goes back to the stigma that comes with self-published books, that the quality just isn't there.

A second problem I see with this is that a lot of the authors behaving badly problems we've seen (granted not all by any means) have been self-published authors. A lot of people don't take rejection well. We've seen review sites stop allowing self-published books because of concerns about author reactions, authors setting up sites to give away personal information about reviewers, and so on. None of that reflects well on the group as a whole.

The same people who wrote nasty notes to agents about how those agents just couldn't see their genius are now writing nasty responses to reviews to readers.

So while it is sad to consider that there might be many self-published authors who act this way, and it might seem unfair to people like you who are smart and understanding and hard working, it's also important to consider this sort of thing because these people can have an effect on people like you, and that's not fair, either.

I think recognizing that there could be a problem is important to authors finding ways to limit those negative connections if possible.

Wise words, kaitie :)

TheNighSwan
11-03-2013, 10:30 AM
Just a side note - I do tend to get tired of the "Well, you should see the crap 'traditional' publishers put out.". It doesn't change the fact that there's a lot of crap in self-publishing, and just seems like an attempt to sidetrack that discussion.

It was not an attempt at sidetracking; it was a direct answer to the claim that trade publishers' books are better overall, and the more so if they come from big publishers, which is the direct opposite of my experience —talking purely about quality of writing, not considering things like typos [though I have several self-published books, and none of them have more typos than what you'd expect from an average trade-book].

shadowwalker
11-03-2013, 06:26 PM
It was not an attempt at sidetracking; it was a direct answer to the claim that trade publishers' books are better overall

My comment was not directed at you in particular. But it seems like every single time the poor quality of self-published books is mentioned, someone brings in the "trade books aren't perfect!" whine. And that's what it is - whine. Like scolding my son for doing something wrong and he whines, "Well, Billy did it, too!". It doesn't matter what the other guy does, especially when "Billy" did it once and "my son" did it over and over again.

TheNighSwan
11-03-2013, 06:36 PM
Pointing out a non-truth is not the same as whining.

And again, clearly here the first stone was thrown by those who claimed that trade publishers have higher standards not only in terms of editing/proofreading (which is probably true) but also in terms of content (which is highly contested).

If from that any kind of defense against is treated as whining and sidetracking, then…

DreamWeaver
11-03-2013, 06:54 PM
And again, clearly here the first stone was thrown by those who claimed that trade publishers have higher standards not only in terms of editing/proofreading (which is probably true) but also in terms of content (which is highly contested).

Really? I've only heard it contested in self-pub threads/forums. I've never had anyone IRL say, "I'm interested in exploring self-pubbed books because I've heard they have better content than the books I usually read."

It may happen someday. I'm seeing some interesting things happen in the self-pub world. But I don't think it's there yet.

Old Hack
11-03-2013, 07:46 PM
It was not an attempt at sidetracking; it was a direct answer to the claim that trade publishers' books are better overall, and the more so if they come from big publishers, which is the direct opposite of my experience —talking purely about quality of writing, not considering things like typos [though I have several self-published books, and none of them have more typos than what you'd expect from an average trade-book].

I have several thousand books from trade publishers, and a few hundred self published books.

I spot perhaps three or five typos in most trade-published books I read. Many of the self published books have that many typos in the first five pages, and most of them have significantly more typos in total than the trade published books I've read.

In addition, the quality of the writing in most of the trade published books I've read far outweighs the quality of the writing in most of the self published books I've read.

There are exceptions, obviously. But for the most part, in my direct experience, the quality of books from trade publishers (in terms of the writing quality, the level of editing they've received, and the physical quality of the book as an object) far exceeds the quality of the self published books I have here.


Pointing out a non-truth is not the same as whining.

And again, clearly here the first stone was thrown by those who claimed that trade publishers have higher standards not only in terms of editing/proofreading (which is probably true) but also in terms of content (which is highly contested).

If from that any kind of defense against is treated as whining and sidetracking, then…

I dispute that it's not true that self published books are, on average, not as good as trade published books.

I agree that books from the bigger trade publishers are generally edited more thoroughly and with more expertise than books from self publishers. I have, however, seen quite a few books from startups and tiny publishers which have been very poorly edited.

Your experience might well vary from mine: but that doesn't mean that either of us is wrong. It's just that we've read different books and have had different experiences, all of which are valid.

Now, shall we stop arguing about the comparative quality of trade vs. self published books, and get back on topic? If I remember rightly, we were talking about the article linked to in the first post of this thread. As someone has already pointed out, the article concerned is somewhat deceptive and perhaps the journalist who wrote it let his or her personal bias slant the piece. Do you think that's the case? If so, what point do you think there is in the journalist doing this? And how common do you think such biases are?

James D. Macdonald
11-03-2013, 09:17 PM
This perception that there are tons of people running around shouting the virtues of self-publishing from the rooftops is really strange to me.


Perhaps you missed Joe Konrath (http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/12/you-should-self-publish.html)?


Selling 1000 ebooks a month equals $24,000 a year. Being on submission for 6 months is a loss of $12,000, and then waiting 18 more months for the book to be published is a loss of another $36,000.

UndergoingMitosis
11-03-2013, 10:56 PM
Perhaps you missed Joe Konrath (http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/12/you-should-self-publish.html)?

I mean, I get that there are people out there giving advice like that.

But I'm just not sure it's this epidemic that everyone seems to think it is. Maybe it was a few years ago? But right now, if you are a person trying to make a decision about what to do with your book, I'm pretty sure you're going to find much more balanced advice--at least *I* found very balanced, well-informed advice, and it wasn't like I had to dig around for months to find it. It was right there on the first page of google results.

And really, for every Joe Konrath running around saying "self-publishing is the right choice for everyone," there are a bunch of people running around talking about how self publishing is only for delusional losers who all think they're the best thing since Harry Potter (and blame all their failures on snobbery).

But the majority of results I found? Mostly a lot of articles by smart, self-published authors giving well-rounded accounts of their experiences.

Like I said, maybe if you googled self-publishing three years ago, you'd get a flood of bloggers saying these kinds of things? But right now, that's not what you get. I suppose it doesn't matter all that much--as long as people are getting good info now, it seems like things are all good.

Scribhneoir
11-04-2013, 01:37 AM
But the majority (52 per cent) believed the misconception about the quality of self-published titles in both fiction and non-fiction genres – and a general unwillingness among readers to “give them a chance” (61 per cent) – put an end to their dreams of selling tens of thousands of copies.

A "general unwillingness among readers to 'give them a chance' ...", hmm?

I wonder if the self-pubbers tend to overlook a certain fact -- that not everyone has an e-reader. And self-pubbed books are overwhelmingly produced as e-books. Right there, you've limited your market. I don't own an e-reader, don't want an e-reader and don't plan to buy one any time soon. It doesn't matter how much marketing a self-pubber does, I still won't be buying their book, because I don't buy any e-books. So it's not so much an unwillingness to give them a chance as it is an inability. (Though I admit that I personally have no desire to seek out self-pubbed books, either.) Being accessible to only that subset of readers with a Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc, certainly affects sales numbers, even without issues of quality.

shadowwalker
11-04-2013, 02:13 AM
I wonder if the self-pubbers tend to overlook a certain fact -- that not everyone has an e-reader.

This is my 'problem' - I don't buy ebooks either. Oh, I've downloaded a couple freebies onto my computer (talk about a hassle getting that to work), but I like to pick up a book and leaf through it. I don't like being told by author, publisher, or retailer what pages I can look at before buying. So if it's not in the store and hasn't been specifically recommended by someone I know, it ain't gettin' bought.

Marian Perera
11-04-2013, 02:24 AM
I don't own an e-reader, don't want an e-reader and don't plan to buy one any time soon.

Me neither. If there's a book I really want to read and it's available as a pdf, I'll check that out, but I like print copies. I like looking around at the shelves in my room and seeing the actual physical books that fill them.

Tazlima
11-04-2013, 02:43 AM
Frankly, before I began writing myself I never paid any attention at all to who published a book. I wanted the story, I bought the story, period. Now the author? Of course I paid attention to that. When I find one I like I'll ready everything they've ever written. But as far as who did the marketing and the distribution and all that jazz? Couldn't care less. I suspect most readers are the same way.

When I buy bread at the store, I don't care who made it or how it got to the store. I care about whether it tastes good and whether it's nice and fresh. Quality and enjoyment at the time of purchase is how most consumers select their products. Why should books be any different?

These people are trying to sell moldy bread and getting angry because nobody wants to eat it. Clearly the consumers are just snobs basing their purchasing decisions on the delivery truck (which comes in the middle of the night and almost nobody sees).

SBibb
11-04-2013, 04:16 AM
This is my 'problem' - I don't buy ebooks either. Oh, I've downloaded a couple freebies onto my computer (talk about a hassle getting that to work), but I like to pick up a book and leaf through it. I don't like being told by author, publisher, or retailer what pages I can look at before buying. So if it's not in the store and hasn't been specifically recommended by someone I know, it ain't gettin' bought.

I'll admit, I don't often read ebooks because I don't have a practical means of reading them.

Granted with what you've mentioned, it helps if there's the random pages section to look at with ebooks.

Tirjasdyn
11-04-2013, 04:18 AM
I don't generally go trolling for books online. I've got a pretty large to read list. When I feel the urge to buy it's because of:

1) Author I know has a new book I must read!!

2) I'm in King Soopers (Kroger) and jonesin' for a particular genre that's 50% off.

3) I'm looking for a book in a particular genre that I haven't read before and I'm in a book store for s&g (very rare nowadays). And hey, the book is 30% off!

4) I've been meaning to pick up this book by author I already know but haven't gotten around to it except now it's on this bargain/used book shelf for 90% off!

5) That movie was based on a book? If it was good, I get the book to read, if it was bad I see if the bad came from the book or the movie. If the bad came from the book pass, if the bad came from the movie I check out the book. That's how I found Rick Riordan.

Otherwise I get new books from the take one leave one shelf at work/doctors/library etc.

I don't buy books off Amazon for just reading in most cases...most of the time it's research books I'm buying which I get for cheaper because I'm a Prime member. I keep meaning to buy more ebooks but I keep finding print books for much cheaper off Amazon. I'm pretty poor right now so I'm always looking for the better deal. I am reading a self-pubbed book right now for research but it is very well done except for the fact I don't think the author realized his books are selling with black and white photos, not color.

The only time I hear of self-published authors is when the following occurs:

1) Twitter list - at which point I check out the book...I have yet to find any I really want to read. I've gotten two for free during a promotion but haven't started either yet.

2) Selfpubber throws a fit and dramatically pulls all items off the virtual shelves. Can't check them out. Oh well.

3) Person I meet a writing event authoritatively tells me of their book and their semi-pro status. This is the only time I check the publisher. Usually it's a small, one person, created to publish own book, press. I've read about three of these. Nothing I've found that I would recommend to most people. I wish them well but if I didn't like their book....

4) Person joins our critique group for ego petting and leaves in a harrumph a few days before self-pubbed book comes out. Since I read it before they put it up and I know they didn't change anything, (even through they really needed to) I don't even bother.

There is no one recommending self-published books to me on a regular basis. I've read a quite a few self pubbed books, mostly non-fiction research books. The fiction I've read has been sub-par and mostly put out by people who are paranoid that the government is out to get them because the person who recommended those books was into that sort of thing. Niche books usually make the rounds like that, most self-pubbed books aren't niche from what I've seen.

I'm sure there will come a day when I find more books online than in paperback. I don't know if I'll find more self-pubbs then or not.

Roxxsmom
11-04-2013, 09:00 AM
Which brings us full circle back to the article and the reaction of the self-publishers.

If the average reader doesn't look at publishers at all when making decisions to purchase, their argument sort of starts fraying at the edges that readers are snobs who don't want to give self-published writers a chance.

They are being given a chance, and found lacking?

I find it pretty hard to find self-pubbed books when I go book shopping. I don't get them recommended to me by anyone. They aren't in bookstores, and they don't often pop up as recommended reads for me on Amazon or B&N. I know they sell them there, but they seem to fall through the cracks unless I'm specifically looking. I got a free one offered to me on B&N (for my nook) as a promotion a while ago. It looked somewhat interesting, so I downloaded it. It's competently written (the author knew the basics and probably paid for pro editing at least), but the character and situation aren't that intriguing to me. Could say the same for a lot of traditionally published books there, though.

I'm not hunting around for them specifically, though.

One thing that might benefit not only self pubbed writers, but new authors who are trade published, would be a better search function. For instance, if you could search not only by author or genre (which is broad and varied), but by, say, setting, or type of protagonist, or whatever. Goodreads and similar sites help there with its lists that are compiled by readers.

That might be the real issue. A computer generated algorithm is going to have trouble ferreting out all the ways a reader can classify novels. It's really hard to, say, search for a list of fantasy books written in deep limited third, in a traditional second world fantasy setting, with female protagonists.

hikarinotsubasa
11-04-2013, 02:37 PM
I don't avoid buying self-published books. Like many others, I don't even pay attention to the publisher when I'm buying. I'm not prejudiced against SP books.

BUT.

I will buy a book with a professional-looking cover that gives some indication as to the subject matter and tone of the book instead of one with a badly-Photoshopped stock photo and/or text-only.

I usually don't buy 99 cent books, unless it's a famous author obviously doing a promotion. If your work isn't worth three or four dollars in YOUR opinion, it's probably not going to be worth the time it takes to read it in MINE. (I can think of one 99 cent SP book I love... but I agree that this isn't the place to name names, good or bad... this may not be fair, but my initial reaction is to buy ebooks that cost somewhere between $3-8 or so. More expensive than the paperback is also a no-no, though.)

I don't buy anything with zero Amazon reviews, or with only negative reviews. Was there NO ONE out there willing to take a free copy of your book in exchange for writing that first review?

So, if a self-pubbed book is presented, priced, and marketed in a somewhat professional manner, I won't say no because I don't know the author or the publisher. I don't think the problem is a bias against self-pubs, it's a bias against unprofessional-looking books.

PulpDogg
11-04-2013, 03:45 PM
There's no doubt in my mind it's available to the online retailers. It'd be trivial, in fact, to collect it. Perhaps my assumption that they would share it with the publisher was naive?

Not available as in "does it exist", but is it made available to publishers. Smashwords apparently does it.

Amazon does not. At least not in my KDP account. Maybe (big) publishing houses get more data or a different interface in KDP, but if not, they don't have that data either.

And I would love to have Amazon make this data available. And throw in product page visitors in there as well, while your at it. They should even have the data of how far people read in the sample or book.

Alas, Amazon doesn't tell you anymore then how many were sold, how many returned and how many were downloaded for free if you're in Select.

Cathy C
11-04-2013, 04:42 PM
I read the article with an eye to how I normally shop. I do tend to shop for products in a specific brand, such as groceries. When I was younger, the only book brand I would watch for was the Tor/Forge brand. That mountain peak or flaming forge on the spine guaranteed it would be an author I liked, because I liked every previous one I'd bought (which is why I did snoopy dances when they made an offer on my first SF/F). But outside of that one publisher? Nope. No preference.

So that leads me to HOW I shop. I buy paper, not ebooks, so the only way I'll see a SP book is likely in a used store, given my tendency to haunt only chain bookstores and the MMP racks of grocery stores for new releases. I do visit a fair number of used stores, which is sort of my proving ground for new authors. I walk into used stores with the sole intent of finding new authors. Self pub books have an equal footing in used stores. I'm only shopping by genre there and, again, looking for new authors.

There are a few tests I have for a book before I'll buy it. I don't know whether that makes me a buying snob:

1. Is the book the proper length? I don't buy novellas generally and don't like short books. If the book on the shelf doesn't appear to be at least 85K to 120K by thickness, I'll pass it by. Won't even pick it out to flip through.

2. If it's the right thickness, what does the spine look like? Is the print clear and the bend of the cover correct for the artwork? It doesn't matter who the publisher is at this point, nor does it matter whether it's been bent a million times from reading (in fact, that's a GOOD thing in a used store. ) Is the glue separating from the pages? (Because 52 card pickup with 300 pages isn't my idea of a fun time, unless the book is over 100 years old--when it's acceptable)

3. Is the title one that intrigues me? I won't go into this one further here, because it's so subjective what will interest me on a given day.

4. I'll pull the book off the shelf at this point. The cover is next for me. Cover art has a HUGE impact on my buying. I really dislike CG artwork. That's an automatic discard for me. I won't even crack the cover--not because the text is somehow automatically bad, but I won't be able to stand to stare at it every time I pick it up. I keep books long term and re-read, so it matters to me that I like the artwork.

5. If all of these pass the test, I'll crack the book open in the store to about the middle and read. Formatting is now important. I dislike a ragged right edge. That'll discard the book immediately. I also dislike conversations that cover a page with only dialogue, and no description. That's another thing that will put the book on the shelf. Next is misuse of words. "To" where it should be "too" or "except" where it should be "accept". More than two on the pages I look at are an auto reject. Spelling and punctuation are next and finally voice.

After that, no matter who the publisher is, I'll generally buy it. Does that eliminate a lot of SP books? Maybe. I don't have any way to judge how many books on my shelf are or aren't SP. I did a quick scan of my shelves and it appears it's about 80/20 in favor of Big Five publishers I recognize. Of the 20%, I don't have any idea if they're large, small, indie or SP. That they're on my shelf says they passed my internal tests. :Shrug:

Shara
11-04-2013, 05:03 PM
When I first got my Kindle, I stuffed it full of free and 99p books off Amazon. Many of them were self published. I bought them based on the cover and the blurb.

However, so many of them were badly edited, full of basic grammar and spelling errors that I became a bit more selective about buying cheap Kindle books.

I actually don't have a problem with self-publishing. But any author who's going to self publish needs to invest in some professional editing and a decent cover.

I know I can be of a bit of a grammar Nazi, but a clumsily edited book will spoil my enjoyment of the book, no matter how interesting the story. And if I come across a misplaced comma in "its" (ie the word means 'belonging to it' but it is written as an abbreviation of 'it is') I will simply stop reading.

I still buy self published books for my Kindle because I do want to support independent writers, but I will read the reviews first. If there are a handful of comments between the enthusiastic five-star reviews that mention this book being badly edited and/or full of spelling mistakes, I will not waste my time or money.

Buffysquirrel
11-04-2013, 05:27 PM
Not available as in "does it exist", but is it made available to publishers. Smashwords apparently does it.

Amazon does not. At least not in my KDP account. Maybe (big) publishing houses get more data or a different interface in KDP, but if not, they don't have that data either.

And I would love to have Amazon make this data available. And throw in product page visitors in there as well, while your at it. They should even have the data of how far people read in the sample or book.

Alas, Amazon doesn't tell you anymore then how many were sold, how many returned and how many were downloaded for free if you're in Select.

This is why some people don't regard uploading your book to Amazon as true self-publishing. They're in control, not you.

shadowwalker
11-04-2013, 06:10 PM
It's interesting in one respect. Just reading through the comments here, it would seem that times are changing. When Konrath et al got going, the Big Deal was that anyone could self-pub because there were no costs involved. Now (and I've seen this on other forums as well) it seems that one would have to invest actual money into the venture because readers are demanding a professional 'feel', and very few people (SP or otherwise) can produce that without training or experience. I also hold with the "new toy" effect - SP ebooks took off because people wanted something on their new ereaders and who wouldn't jump at a bunch of free or .99 ebooks for that?

For me, the essence though is that SPs have to stop looking at their writing as "product" - books aren't widgets to be pumped out for quick money. This idea that the more books one has out the better the sales - well, DUH. But that doesn't mean pumping out inferior product just as a marketing ploy. Readers aren't dumb. They soon learn which writers can be prolific and bad, and which ones can be prolific and good. Guess which ones they'll spend their money on (regardless of publishing method)?

Phaeal
11-04-2013, 07:19 PM
Oh is it "lets crap on self publishing" week again?

Nah, every week is "Crap on Self-Publishing Week." Just as every week is "Crap on Trade Publishing Week."

Pick your corner and rant if you like, or get back to work on producing the best work you can. Then, having educated yourself into the knowledge that no form of publishing is a magical gateway into readers' hearts (and wallets), be ready to work your butt off on the marketing front, however you need to.

DreamWeaver
11-04-2013, 07:52 PM
I don't think the problem is a bias against self-pubs, it's a bias against unprofessional-looking books. Very good point.

Filigree
11-04-2013, 08:15 PM
I second the comment about CG covers. The second I see that too-smooth skin and clothing render, or the weird flat look in CG figures' eyes, I begin to lose interest in the book. There is no excuse for it anymore. The best digital artists out there know how to produce work that does not carry that old awkward hallmark.

I have seen it in commercially published covers, and it makes me cringe then, too.

Marian Perera
11-04-2013, 08:37 PM
One thing that turns me off covers is the use of too many fonts. Two, max. Anything more and it looks amateur, like someone got really excited with all the cool things available in Paint. Also, any font which is excessively curly and flourish-y may be difficult to read in thumbnail.

Filigree
11-04-2013, 08:49 PM
I judge self-pub and vanity pub covers by the amount and kind of super-curly fonts they use. It's a cruel but accurate inverse barometer for competence.

DancingMaenid
11-04-2013, 11:10 PM
A professional-looking, appealing cover is definitely a big selling point for me when choosing books. Though it might not always be fair to judge books by their covers, I do think that a cover can be a good indication of how much effort and skill was put into the book's production and distribution.

But there are also some books that are probably very good, but that I steer away from because the style of the cover turns me off. For example, I really dislike CG artwork, which even a few bigger erotica publishers use. It seems to be going out of style, though.

I can't say I pay much attention to publishers, though. Sometimes with niche publishers, I'll look at other titles they've put out. In general, I don't pay attention. A lot of books I buy are either ones that are recommended to me, ones I read about somewhere, and ones I happen to stumble upon in bookstores.

Ava Glass
11-05-2013, 12:24 AM
Could y'all say "I really hate bad CG" instead of "I really hate CG"? You wouldn't say "I really hate Photoshop" because you saw some bad cut-and-paste.

When you see good CG you don't notice it. You think you're looking at an illustration or a photograph. Or just a nice picture.

Ken
11-05-2013, 12:37 AM
... you can't judge a book by its cover.

quicklime
11-05-2013, 12:41 AM
... you can't judge a book by its cover.


of course....except we do all the time

Marian Perera
11-05-2013, 12:45 AM
... you can't judge a book by its cover.

I can judge a publisher's competence by the cover.

And since a publisher's competence is also (generally) reflected in the books they publish and the editing they do, judging a book by its cover can save me some time and trouble.

Besides, like CathyC, I also keep books for some time, so I prefer well-designed covers.

Ken
11-05-2013, 12:47 AM
... cathy c is a wise woman, but in this she errs.
Shh ;-)

because I'll tell you.
I have read some really great books with truly horrid covers, and vice versa.
not to say your points aren't valid, Queen, Quick, ...

quicklime
11-05-2013, 12:53 AM
i think we all have.

I also think, however, that the percentages start to skew different in the ones that look like an eight year-old with photoshop made them versus those that look, yanno, professional. So cover art isn't indicative, but it can certainly be suggestive, and it gets factored in along with whatever other criteria like reviews, sales rank, the first couple pages, etc.....

Marian Perera
11-05-2013, 01:19 AM
Sure there are great books with bad or just plain weird covers. I spent some time wondering just what the hell was happening on the cover of Lawrence Watt-Evans's The Unwilling Warlord, because those characters were nowhere in the book. Then I read somewhere that the cover art for two different books had been mixed up, hence the (apparently) bizarre scenario I'd tried to decipher.

But as quicklime said, in general, cover art is suggestive. If it looks as though someone in the know spent time on the cover, it suggests to me that whoever's behind the book knows what they're doing as well. If the cover design seems either silly or lazy (and finding dozens of PublishAmerica covers that match each other taught me just how apathetic such design can get), then I'm not filled with confidence about the rest of the book either.

Sheryl Nantus
11-05-2013, 01:19 AM
I would also say it depends on the genre.

Nonfiction vs fiction. Science fiction vs romance.

If your cover isn't good it's not going to catch anyone's attention.

I'd rather appeal to the masses than hope someone bucks the trend and picks it up despite a crappy cover to find it's a hidden gem.

Old Hack
11-05-2013, 01:23 AM
If readers didn't judge books by their covers, trade publishers wouldn't spend the money they do on having gorgeous new covers designed for the books they publish. They'd just wrap them all in brown paper.

Samsonet
11-05-2013, 01:37 AM
I thought that phrase had to do with trashing a story you hadn't read over something the author had no control of?

Ken
11-05-2013, 01:50 AM
... would agree that cover art is "suggestive."
Just not conclusive. And yes, there are limits.
Really rotten covers usually make for rotten reads.

One other point is that good cover artists don't come cheap.
So while a publisher may be able to afford a good writer,
they may balk at the expense of an equally good artist.

Does anyone know the going rate they charge?
I once read a figure like a $10,000 per cover.
A drop in the bucket for one of the big 6.
But for an indie, yikes !

ULTRAGOTHA
11-05-2013, 01:51 AM
There are books that completely reflect the horridness of their covers.

Then there's The Lord of the Rings in those Balentine Paperback covers and almost every single Baen cover for Lois McMaster Bujold's books.

Those Balentine covers sent me runnning and screaming when Dad tried to read me the Hobbit and LOTR. Thank goodness I was too sick to run far.

So far, the batting average of self-published books I've bought and read has been really bad. I need to find a reviewer with my tastes to read through them before I do.

Ava Glass
11-05-2013, 01:55 AM
The second I see that too-smooth skin and clothing render, or the weird flat look in CG figures' eyes, I begin to lose interest in the book. There is no excuse for it anymore. The best digital artists out there know how to produce work that does not carry that old awkward hallmark.

I have seen it in commercially published covers, and it makes me cringe then, too.

I cringe a lot too.

The technology has progressed significantly since the days of those old Ellora's Cave covers, but some CG artists just don't seem to want to let go of that look.

Also, rendering is a deceptive learning curve. The software allows someone to easily create an image, but that doesn't mean the image is going to be any good. The curve gets a lot steeper at that bit.

Roxxsmom
11-05-2013, 02:17 AM
There are books that completely reflect the horridness of their covers.

Then there's The Lord of the Rings in those Balentine Paperback covers and almost every single Baen cover for Lois McMaster Bujold's books.

Those Balentine covers sent me runnning and screaming when Dad tried to read me the Hobbit and LOTR. Thank goodness I was too sick to run far.

So far, the batting average of self-published books I've bought and read has been really bad. I need to find a reviewer with my tastes to read through them before I do.

It's amazing to me how often traditionally published books have had, and still have, bad covers. Baen is, I believe, notorious for them in particular.

Some of it's eye of the beholder. I've seen some old favorites of mine up on good show sir (a website dedicated to bad SF and F book covers in particular) where the covers actually caught my attention and made me read the original book. Which, of course, is what covers are supposed to do.

But those covers that insist on showing improbably clad women in spine-twisting poses tend to irritate me. I know the author usually doesn't choose the cover, and that these usually don't reflect the actual contents, but they do make the book a tougher sell. They at least suggest that the publisher thinks the target audience isn't middle-aged women. Considering all the data that suggest that women are the largest reading demographic, I'm surprised they still put those on.

And of course, at the other extreme, are those boringly bland ones that might as well be a plain, brown wrapper, or are so abstractly stylized, they have nothing to do with the book's contents at all.

I'm not much of a romance reader, but those covers with disembodied male torsos (sans head) also turn me off. I guess I'm one of those women who are drawn more to faces.

In general, though, the bad trade published covers tend to have a certain production value to them, even if they're too garish or have ridiculous subject matter. A book with a cover that looks like someone generated it in ten minutes on their home computer will be an insta turn off. A few hundred bucks for a professional cover design is probably a good investment for a do it yourselfer who wants a shot at making some money off their book.

Fran
11-05-2013, 02:42 AM
If readers didn't judge books by their covers, trade publishers wouldn't spend the money they do on having gorgeous new covers designed for the books they publish. They'd just wrap them all in brown paper.

Private Eye has an ongoing series where trade publishers use basically the same covers for various titles. Unfortunately Private Eye's online content is limited so I'm unable to provide a link, but not all trade publishers design new covers. I remember the cover of Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder (which I really enjoyed) being used again at least once. I'd dig through my back issues and see if I could find some examples, but it's not really relevant to this thread as a whole.

Personally I don't have a problem with self-published books, but I don't have an e-reader. I've got Kindle on my laptop because a few of my friends have ebooks, but it's not my preferred method of reading. Sadly I mostly hear about self-published books via endless spamming on Twitter, which pretty much guarantees I'll never buy it. One writer had her promo set up every fifteen minutes with the same tweet. Argh. I do wander round Smashwords occasionally but I've never bought anything. It's not snobbery, it's trying to hear one note in a really noisy room.

ULTRAGOTHA
11-05-2013, 05:09 AM
But those covers that insist on showing improbably clad women in spine-twisting poses tend to irritate me. I know the author usually doesn't choose the cover, and that these usually don't reflect the actual contents, but they do make the book a tougher sell. They at least suggest that the publisher thinks the target audience isn't middle-aged women. Considering all the data that suggest that women are the largest reading demographic, I'm surprised they still put those on.

Jim C. Hines has been taking photos of himself in those spine-twisting poses.
(https://www.google.com/search?q=jim+c+hines+cover+poses&client=firefox-a&hs=qgW&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=wER4UpKHF8bJsQTMtoHABA&ved=0CEwQsAQ&biw=1247&bih=550)

Buffysquirrel
11-05-2013, 05:37 AM
Yeah, Private Eye do like to amuse themselves that way. Mostly I think it's a case of using the same stock art or using similar images rather than the actual cover being reused. Of course if you want really samey covers, the original Penguins are the classic example. They changed the colours occasionally and that was about it. Or how about those gorgeous Pan SF covers, black with fascinating spaceships that somehow never appear in the books? Took me a while to get wise to that one (I was only a kid).

Mr Flibble
11-05-2013, 05:45 AM
I know damn well that one of my romance covers is also on another book (and another has the same guy in a VERY similar pose. There are some tweaks re the fantasy elements, but hell, it's pretty similar). It happens, especially in a high turnover genre such as romance.

Fran
11-05-2013, 06:42 AM
Yeah, Private Eye do like to amuse themselves that way. Mostly I think it's a case of using the same stock art or using similar images rather than the actual cover being reused. Of course if you want really samey covers, the original Penguins are the classic example. They changed the colours occasionally and that was about it. Or how about those gorgeous Pan SF covers, black with fascinating spaceships that somehow never appear in the books? Took me a while to get wise to that one (I was only a kid).

Quite possibly. But that doesn't chime with what Old Hack said about trade publishers designing brand new covers.

I dug out some Private Eyes.

The Report (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510OfBdbiIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_.jpg), by Jessica Francis Kane (Portobello Books)

Interpreters (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519sJPCbXhL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_.jpg), by Sue Eckstein. (Myriad Editions)

Then we have Barbarians At The Gate (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41tFa5EnQgL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_.jpg), by Brian Burrough and John Helyar. (Arrow)

Planet Ponzi (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41nLCtpR3eL._SX385_.jpg), by Mitch Feierstein. (Transworld Publishers Ltd, a division of Random House.)

Anyway, it's off-topic for this thread. I just wanted to make the point that not all cover art from big publishers is bespoke.

Old Hack
11-05-2013, 11:36 AM
Quite possibly. But that doesn't chime with what Old Hack said about trade publishers designing brand new covers. [...] Anyway, it's off-topic for this thread. I just wanted to make the point that not all cover art from big publishers is bespoke.

You're twisting my words. I wrote,


If readers didn't judge books by their covers, trade publishers wouldn't spend the money they do on having gorgeous new covers designed for the books they publish. They'd just wrap them all in brown paper.

Trade publishers do spend money on new covers for every single book they publish.

Look again at the links you provided. Is the cover for The Report identical to the cover for Interpreters? No. The two use the same stock image, but the image has been manipulated differently for each book, and the type is different in each case. The other two covers are more similar but even then, the image has been cropped differently, the colour balances appear to be changed, and again, the type is different.

There's a difference between "using the same stock images" and "not all cover art from big publishers is bespoke".

Publishers produce the best covers they can for the books they publish, and they do try to make them unique. If a publisher has bought the same stock image for one of their books, how is another publisher meant to know that? If neither of the books have yet been published, there's no way to find out until it's too late; and even if one of the books has been published the designers aren't necessarily going to be able to find out if the image has been used before.

This isn't a question of lazy publishers, it's something which is bound to happen if one uses stock images (which has to happen, as the cost of producing unique images for every book is prohibitive). Do you have any workable suggestions which might help prevent it happening in the future? Because I'm sure publishers would love to be able to ensure this didn't happen.

Roxxsmom
11-05-2013, 12:21 PM
Jim C. Hines has been taking photos of himself in those spine-twisting poses.
(https://www.google.com/search?q=jim+c+hines+cover+poses&client=firefox-a&hs=qgW&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=wER4UpKHF8bJsQTMtoHABA&ved=0CEwQsAQ&biw=1247&bih=550)

Yes, I was just thinking of those poses. Absolutely classic :)

Becky Black
11-05-2013, 01:21 PM
I'd say I judge a publisher more harshly for bad covers than a self-published author. The self-published author probably just didn't have the cash to pay an artist. I'll try to judge on the blurb and the sample instead.

Publishers on the other hand I expect to see better. I don't judge on just one one single cover for publishers. Any single cover might be a bit of a dud. But if all of their covers look crappy it makes me wonder about what else they have skimped on. Editing? Formatting? It puts me off both buying from and submitting to a publisher.

As for the original question about snobbery. I'm sure there are some people out there who are snobby about it, would refuse to read any self-published book purely on the grounds it is self-published. But I think in most cases people are just risk averse with their cash. They want to know someone who knows what they are doing has already checked this thing out and approved it as ready for publication.

Fran
11-05-2013, 02:49 PM
Trade publishers do spend money on new covers for every single book they publish.

Look again at the links you provided. Is the cover for The Report identical to the cover for Interpreters? No. The two use the same stock image, but the image has been manipulated differently for each book, and the type is different in each case. The other two covers are more similar but even then, the image has been cropped differently, the colour balances appear to be changed, and again, the type is different.

There's a difference between "using the same stock images" and "not all cover art from big publishers is bespoke".


I wasn't attempting to twist anything. When you said "new covers", I took that to mean "new covers". As in, not previously used and no stock images. What did you mean by "new covers"?


Publishers produce the best covers they can for the books they publish, and they do try to make them unique. If a publisher has bought the same stock image for one of their books, how is another publisher meant to know that? If neither of the books have yet been published, there's no way to find out until it's too late; and even if one of the books has been published the designers aren't necessarily going to be able to find out if the image has been used before.

This isn't a question of lazy publishers, it's something which is bound to happen if one uses stock images (which has to happen, as the cost of producing unique images for every book is prohibitive). Do you have any workable suggestions which might help prevent it happening in the future? Because I'm sure publishers would love to be able to ensure this didn't happen.

I never said anything about "lazy publishers". I was responding to a comment you made. I'm sure you know far better than me how these things work and I've never suggested differently, so you don't have to be patronising. If "new" isn't "new" and is just stock art and different fonts, that's fine. But that wasn't how I interpreted your original comment.

hikarinotsubasa
11-05-2013, 03:42 PM
Well, assuming that the person is shopping for ebooks on Amazon, and assuming that the person does not have an "ulterior" motive (like specifically looking for books by certain publishers or represented by certain agents in an effort to research potential homes for their own work), I don't think most people look at who the publisher is when they buy. So while I do understand "not blaming the self-publisher" for a less professional cover... in that moment when your finger's poised over the mouse and you're debating whether to click "buy," does that thought flash through the average, non-writer-reader's head?

Or are you just likely to hesitate because the cover doesn't look professional? Because, even though you're looking for the ebook, "paperback" isn't even an option? Because the blurb has spelling mistakes in it? Because there are no reviews?

I'm not talking about paying $10,000 for a cover. I've seen freelance artists who have done covers for small presses, who turn out professional work and charge hundreds, not thousands, for a full-color cover. I imagine you could get a graphic designer to do a professional manip of a stock image with a font that looks nice with it for the same or less. There are indie artists who would love to make a buck with their work and get their name out there too.

I don't know... I find it hard to believe that an author (who, we assume, has poured weeks and months if not years into this work, as well as a piece of their soul, and genuinely wants the work to both be loved and to be financially successful) would not spend as much money on a cover as they'd spend on a video game system or a digital camera or something.

If I were going to self-pub, I'd make sure that my book, at a glance, looked as close to a trade-pubbed equivalent as I could. When an author doesn't do that... I don't know. It makes me hesitate. It makes me wonder if the writing isn't slapdash as well.

Old Hack
11-05-2013, 04:50 PM
I wasn't attempting to twist anything. When you said "new covers", I took that to mean "new covers". As in, not previously used and no stock images. What did you mean by "new covers"?

By "new cover" I mean a new cover. Which means the jacket designer is briefed about the book and, we hope, reads it, and then finds an appropriate image which suits that book, and turns it into a book jacket by manipuating it if required, and adding a barcode, ISBN, and appropriate text--title, author name, back cover copy and so on.


I never said anything about "lazy publishers".

I didn't say that you did.


I was responding to a comment you made.

Which I think you misinterpreted.


I'm sure you know far better than me how these things work and I've never suggested differently, so you don't have to be patronising.

I wasn't patronising you. Again, you've misinterpreted my comments.

In future, if you take exception to something that someone here says, please don't start name-calling in-thread. It's not helpful, and it usually leads to a derail. Use the "report post" button instead (even if the post you're objecting to was made by a mod), and leave it to the mods to deal with.


If "new" isn't "new" and is just stock art and different fonts, that's fine. But that wasn't how I interpreted your original comment.

Then you misinterpreted my comment.

Most book jackets are composed from stock images.

Publishers don't know who else has bought the stock images their designers choose, and so have no way to know if those images have already appeared on other books. So there's no way for them to avoid the occasional duplication. And while some books get artwork commissioned specifically for them, most do not because the cost of doing so is prohibitive, and the time constraints they're under often make it impossible.


I don't think most people look at who the publisher is when they buy. So while I do understand "not blaming the self-publisher" for a less professional cover... in that moment when your finger's poised over the mouse and you're debating whether to click "buy," does that thought flash through the average, non-writer-reader's head?

Or are you just likely to hesitate because the cover doesn't look professional? Because, even though you're looking for the ebook, "paperback" isn't even an option? Because the blurb has spelling mistakes in it? Because there are no reviews?

I don't think a jacket design has to be widely off to stop people picking up the book it covers. Similarly, inexpert typesetting will make a browsing reader reject a book without quite knowing why. These things are all very subtle, and I suspect that most of us reject books because they don't quite seem right, without being able to name what's wrong. All we know is that the book doesn't appeal to us, or isn't to our taste.


I'm not talking about paying $10,000 for a cover.

I'd be surprised if anyone paid that much for a cover. It's a huge amount.


If I were going to self-pub, I'd make sure that my book, at a glance, looked as close to a trade-pubbed equivalent as I could. When an author doesn't do that... I don't know. It makes me hesitate. It makes me wonder if the writing isn't slapdash as well.

It's very difficult to duplicate that quality, though. One has so many factors to consider. It's not just a good jacket; you have to consider things like the finish on the jacket (matt or gloss makes a huge difference), the colour and texture of the paper, the way the paper is glued into the spine, the thickness of the paper... this, on top of the costs of editing, proofreading, typesetting, and so on, all adds up. I've seen some self publishers invest in this sort of thing and while it does show in the final product, it is expensive and if there isn't the distribution to get the books into bookshops, then it is still going to be difficult to make great sales.

Which explains why electronic editions have taken on so well, but that's a whole different conversation!

Kitty27
11-05-2013, 04:50 PM
I am a visual person,so I like a pretty cover and I want the character on the cover to match the character in the book. I get very picky about that sort of thing.

With self pubbed authors,I am not as picky. I know how much it can cost to get a quality cover. So I cut them some slack and focus on the writing/story.

Readers being snobby? I think it's more like they are careful with their money. Sure,there are some readers who sneer at self pubbed books,but I don't believe they are all haters of anything self published. We wouldn't see the successes and steady sales of some self pubbed writers if they were. I hate to be a downer,but I've seen self pubbed books that look like they were flung out into the cruel world defenseless. No editing or anything else was done. People who read regularly can catch errors and other things writers assume they can't understand. Which means the writer is being a tad snobby as well.

If you want to give your book a fighting chance,you have to get it as close to a traditionally published novel as possible. That means a good editor-something that I feel is worth the money- and the dreaded marketing. Knowing your audience and marketing to them accordingly can help tremendously. And if one book fails,it's not the end of the world. I would hope a writer would have more books ready to go and try again.

Mr Flibble
11-05-2013, 05:08 PM
It's very difficult to duplicate that quality, though. One has so many factors to consider. It's not just a good jacket; you have to consider things like the finish on the jacket (matt or gloss makes a huge difference), the colour and texture of the paper, the way the paper is glued into the spine, the thickness of the paper... this, on top of the costs of editing, proofreading, typesetting, and so on, all adds up.

It can be done though. I received a SP book in the post this morning and it is top notch -- if I hadn't known previously, I'd never have guessed. Which may account for the great sales the books have been getting. The author says it wasn't even that expensive to get set up, and though the covers aren't massively complex, they are effective (I think he said under £500 for cover, typesetting etc, which isn't cheap, but certainly not prohibitively expensive)

Of course, I haven't started reading it yet but with the care take over presentation I'm expecting the inside to be similar in the professionalism front -- and that's the thing. If a cover looks slapdash or cheap, well....

kaitie
11-05-2013, 05:34 PM
I'd say I judge a publisher more harshly for bad covers than a self-published author. The self-published author probably just didn't have the cash to pay an artist. I'll try to judge on the blurb and the sample instead.

Publishers on the other hand I expect to see better. I don't judge on just one one single cover for publishers. Any single cover might be a bit of a dud. But if all of their covers look crappy it makes me wonder about what else they have skimped on. Editing? Formatting? It puts me off both buying from and submitting to a publisher.

See, this is actually why poor covers from a self-published author make me wary. I might not like a cover I see on a trade book, but generally speaking I rarely go into the bookstore and see ones that just look unprofessional. Sure, I see it from ebook publishers fairly often, but not ebook publishers who know what they're doing.

With a self-published book, however, the cover is the first thing I see. If it's obvious the author did it himself and they obviously aren't a graphic artist, I'm going to assume they did it to save money, as covers are one of the cheapest things people can buy. That also means they probably didn't pay for an editor, or a proofreader, or a formatter, and so on.

It's kind of like walking into a job interview at a major business company in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops. You might be the most amazing businessman in the world, but that first impression you just made? Not very impressive.

DreamWeaver
11-05-2013, 05:34 PM
I don't know... I find it hard to believe that an author (who, we assume, has poured weeks and months if not years into this work, as well as a piece of their soul, and genuinely wants the work to both be loved and to be financially successful) would not spend as much money on a cover as they'd spend on a video game system or a digital camera or something.And yet, I've seen in-print self-pubbed books with the most amazingly goddawful Photoshopped covers. I'm talking heads cut out of different backgrounds and put on bodies that don't match them, with no effort to blend the disparate elements in color, proportion, style, or resolution, or even to blend the edges of the cut. These covers were made by the authors themselves, and the authors WERE PROUD OF THEM. So, some (not all, some) folks are just so bad at art that they can't even recognize that their homemade cover art is bad.

If a self-pubbed author is unable to tell the difference between a good cover and a bad one, that person is in a world of hurt because when one self-pubs, one gets to make all those decisions. Making those kind of decisions without the tools to make them well is extremely iffy. It's like asking me to pick wine for dinner. All the beer drinkers will be fine with it, but any wine aficionados will take one sip and politely ask for water :D.

Sheryl Nantus
11-05-2013, 06:10 PM
I would suggest part of the problem is the enduring rumor that anyone can do anything - a writer can do an artist's job, an editor's job, a copy editor's job, marketing expert, etc.

While it's not impossible to get a good grounding in these fields, enough to know what's going on, I'm weary of people claiming there's no actual skill involved in doing good cover art - or marketing, or anything else in the publishing industry.

Artists work for years to perfect their art, same as authors. Marketing experts work to find that perfect math to sell your book. Editors train and work hard to produce a good book. Same with copy editors.

Then we have a new wave of "well, *I* can do that and save money!" rushing over us where people don't want to invest in these skills because they're not seen as skills.

Not everyone is good at everything. Right now Carina Press is working on a new title for my space opera coming out next year. I am 0-5 with them in regards to books needing new titles and thinking of one on my own.

Basically I suck at titles.

But I get some GREAT titles out of their creative department. Along with cover art and variations I'd never think of on my own.

Not everyone is good at everything. Recognize what you're good at and be willing to pay someone else for that skill. Invest in areas you're not good at and be prepared to admit your failing in some areas.

It's not declaring yourself to be a rotten person. It's admitting there are some things you're just not good at.

In my case, book titles. And I'm very much okay with that.

:)

Buffysquirrel
11-05-2013, 06:48 PM
Quite possibly. But that doesn't chime with what Old Hack said about trade publishers designing brand new covers.

You're confusing the cover with the cover art. The art or image is only one part of the cover. There's the colour palette, the title and author's name (how big? what font?) and a lot of other decisions that go into creating a cover. At GUD I would choose the image then pass it over to someone else to design a cover using that image. For Issue #3 we even redesigned the masthead to go with the image.

WeaselFire
11-05-2013, 07:39 PM
Let's get back to civil discussion.

TheNighSwan
11-05-2013, 08:34 PM
Trade-published writers can't accept it either.

G. Applejack
11-05-2013, 09:00 PM
:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

Really? Has it come to this?

shadowwalker
11-05-2013, 09:01 PM
Trade-published writers can't accept it either.

What? That they can't write? Then how did they get published? They don't have to be good at publishing or marketing, so... ??

What Jeff said is simply stating the obvious - there is some reason why most self-publishers fail, and it's not readers being snobbish. It's either the writing, or the publishing, or the marketing, or some combination of the three. The same holds true for trade published authors, but the onus for self-publishers is on them, no one else.

veinglory
11-05-2013, 09:03 PM
In my experience the average reader still has no idea whether the book they are looking at is self-published or not. Although this is beginning to change.

Marian Perera
11-05-2013, 09:17 PM
Trade-published writers can't accept it either.

I'm just curious - if they suck at writing, how did agents and editors ever accept their work for trade publishing?

Or do the agents and editors suck at their jobs too?

jennontheisland
11-05-2013, 09:21 PM
Trade-published writers can't accept it either.
Trade published writers still get paid.

Old Hack
11-05-2013, 09:41 PM
Do you know what? We are not going to do this.

Locking this until the room mods get here to review this thread.

Kitty27
11-06-2013, 02:57 AM
Bottom line: Two thirds of self published authors can't accept the reality that they suck. Either at writing, publishing or marketing. Or multiples.

Jeff

Sir,there is a rule at AW that I don't believe you are familiar with. It is called Respect Your Fellow Writer(s). This is non negotiable and will be enforced. There is no need to insult anyone whatsoever on AW.


Do you know what? We are not going to do this.

Locking this until the room mods get here to review this thread.

Thank you,Old Hack!

Guys,I'm reopening the thread in the hopes it returns to the civi discussion that was going on.

DreamWeaver
11-06-2013, 03:10 AM
In my experience the average reader still has no idea whether the book they are looking at is self-published or not. Although this is beginning to change.One would think that, but in my time working in a bookstore it was amazing how readers would not even pick up self/vanity pubbed books (there were a few from local authors) even if the cover looked good and the book had been faced out. I never quite figured out how they knew. They probably didn't, on a conscious level, so your remark would hold true. But the logical result--since they don't "know" they won't differentiate--did not.

jjdebenedictis
11-06-2013, 07:35 AM
I would just like to point out again that the 2/3rds number in that article's title is highly suspect.

The number they quote in the article's text is closer to 1/3, and it's not clear how they got that number or what their agenda is. It's poor form to make sweeping generalizations on what could very well be deeply flawed statistics.

Roxxsmom
11-06-2013, 11:32 AM
Very good point here.

And to be fair, I think the percentages of aspiring writers who, erm, have an unrealistic assessment of their writing skills is probably similar for both types of publishing, really. Agents and editors talk about the mounds of submissions they receive that are just not even close to up to snuff.

The difference is, in trade publishing, most of the writers who lack even basic writing or storytelling skills, will be weeded out by the submission process. Yeah, I've read trade published books that have left me scratching my head about how the writer snagged an agent or editor what I consider such a boring story, repellant characters, or unexciting prose, but more often, when I don't like a traditionally published book, it's a matter of taste differences than of completely poor quality.

With self-publishing, people with poor skills can get their work out there. And they don't have the benefit of professional editing or cover design, unless they pay for it themselves.

So the reader gets to wade through a slush pile to find the relatively small amount of stuff that is good. This is a cool idea at some level. I mean, who knows. Maybe those agents and editors reject a lot of well-written books I'd enjoy simply because they think they're not what the market wants right now or something. When I focus on titles brought out by publishing companies that do the traditional submission process and pay their writers advances and royalties, I'm putting my trust in the agents and editors who decided what was good. They're professionals, but they're not gods. So maybe they're not always right.

But wading through lots of books that are poorly written in order to find some gems is more work than some readers want to do, I suspect.

I'd definitely say this isn't snobby. It's more down to temperament. I know a couple of people who enjoy loading their kindles up with 99 cent books and separating the wheat from the chafe. There's a thrill of the hunt there. Maybe it's the mind set that drives some people to get up early on Saturdays to go to yard and garage sales. You can find a true treasure that way, but it's a lot of work. Worth it, even exciting, to some but not others, perhaps.

Cathy C
11-06-2013, 03:25 PM
A garage sale is an interesting analogy, Roxxsmom. I used to spend every weekend with a newspaper in my lap while my mom drove us from sale to sale. Books were one of my favorite treasures, plucked from dusty boxes and towering stacks. But I think the key difference to the image is that you're not buying the book sight unseen like on Amazon. It's more akin to buying a sealed lot of books at an auction. While I enjoy that process too, it feels somehow different. I can't describe why, but it's somehow not as fun. :Shrug:

Phaeal
11-06-2013, 07:06 PM
But wading through lots of books that are poorly written in order to find some gems is more work than some readers want to do, I suspect.

The good thing is that poor quality generally declares itself on page one, or even in a misspelled and grammar-mangled blurb.

In the bookstore, you flip through a few pages. Online, you check the "Look Insides" and samples.

If a book doesn't offer a sample, I'm out of there. Gotta have a sample.

RedWombat
11-06-2013, 08:04 PM
Being an artist and an author, having waded recently into self-pub, I've spent awhile wracking my brain over what makes a cover look "self-published"--or perhaps DIY is a better term.

Because there IS some quality about a great many of them that dings my brain and says "Hey, something there is different."

I'm not saying it's bad, let me add, but...something distinctively DIY. (I've seen it in small press books as well, some of them, in convention booklet covers--it's not that it's a one man operation, but it's...something.)

It's probably a gestalt rather than any one thing, but I think the biggest factor is typography. Lotta people get hung up on the image and the type comes in as an afterthought. I've drawn a lot of bad covers in my life and a few good ones, and frankly, I think the typography is probably more important to the professionalism than anything I do as the artist. Stick figures could make a fabulous cover with the right layout.

The one useful thing I can come up with is that I rarely see a DIY with hand-altered text. It's straight font. Whereas in my trade-published kid's series, even though i draw the covers, an artist at the house sat down and worked on the title, drawing cartoony tails on the R's, overlapping the letters, making it a single unified thing. It's probably the most iconic element of the whole series--you see that title block, you KNOW it's one of mine. And I would never have thought of it.

I expect until we get designers freelancing, not just artists, we'll continue to see the DIY cover "tells." And I expect the readers are able to pick up on them as easily as I am, even if they aren't blathering about it as much as I do. *grin*

Buffysquirrel
11-06-2013, 08:19 PM
I don't think I really appreciated the effort that goes into book design until someone sent me their self-published book and I found it really hard to read. The type wasn't set right. Now, I'm no expert and I couldn't tell you what was wrong with it, but it made reading a chore.

Pyekett
11-06-2013, 08:27 PM
The big problem for self-taught versus formally taught (be it editing, cover design, dentistry, or what have you) is that it's hard to know what you don't know. We are generally pretty good as individuals about knowing things, if we put our minds to it with some assiduity. One can learn. But the benefit of formal training is learning from people who know more than you do, so they can guide you into identifying and learning what you don't know.

This is one reason why the slush pile is the slush pile. A writer can know what he or she likes and try to recreate that, but there usually isn't the breadth of experience and training to recognize what is missing--including the font issues flagged by RedWombat. So there is good gold, but there is a lot of dross, and those offering it may not be in position to recognize which it is.

This makes me wary of doing my own cover design, editing, etc. I think I could do a bang-up job, and that makes me leery of my ability to assess myself.

Roxxsmom
11-06-2013, 11:40 PM
The good thing is that poor quality generally declares itself on page one, or even in a misspelled and grammar-mangled blurb.

In the bookstore, you flip through a few pages. Online, you check the "Look Insides" and samples.

If a book doesn't offer a sample, I'm out of there. Gotta have a sample.

True, but I might have to flip through the opening pages of 20 or more self pubbed books to find one that looks promising, while I might only have to do this with 3-4 traditionally published ones, on average.

It's just down to which I think is the best use of my time. I've never been bitten by that bug than makes me excited about the chase itself, or about finding an incredible bargain and being one of the only people who knows how cool this unknown independent author is. But some people have been, and that's cool. I often wonder at the rancor that flies back and forth between traditional and self publishing advocates, and my guess it is that each feels threatened in some way. People who dream of publishing in the old-fashioned way, of seeing their name on the cover of a book with a glossy, slick cover put out by a well-respected publishing house (or who love reading such books) feel anxious when self pubbing advocates tell them their dream is unattainable and stupid, trade publishers are all crooks who are going the way of the dinosaur. Likewise, people who want to do it themselves, or who enjoy reading self published books, feel threatened when traditional publishing advocates tell them they're just talentless hacks who can't get published legitimately, or that no one will ever want to read their book even if it is any good, and they're just going to sink tons of money in that they'll never see again.

I think we're fortunate to live in times where we have a choice. I'm hoping that choice doesn't go away for authors or readers anytime soon. The important thing is for there to be groups (like writer beware and this site) that advocate on behalf of all writers and give them good information so that they can avoid the hucksters that plague all kinds of publishing platforms.

Filigree
11-07-2013, 12:00 AM
I look at both methods as equally valid. My debut novel was published by a fairly large commercial e-publisher. I'll be shopping around a big fantasy novel to the mainstream SF&F houses next year. And I'm seriously looking into self-publishing some smaller novellas.

I've been writing for thirty years, off and on, and doing commercial art for nearly that long. I have a slight edge when it comes to digital artwork and hand-kerned typography - but I also know I'm not expert, and I'll probably hire out for editing and cover design assistance. Fortunately, I have a list of great professionals, courtesy of AW and my other industry contacts.

I've read brilliant self-published books and terrible commercially-published 'blockbusters'. The first two things I look at for any new-to-me book are the cover, then the sample text. I can forgive an awkward cover more than bad text.

Buffysquirrel
11-07-2013, 12:38 AM
I think I feel more threatened by people who airily tell me that my book-shopping of the future will involve hanging around for an hour while a machine prints my book. Somehow I don't think that'll catch on.

TheNighSwan
11-07-2013, 12:47 AM
An hour? I would assume that in the future, you would be able to print a book in 3 minutes, if not 30 seconds.

Old Hack
11-07-2013, 01:02 AM
You might print a book in three minutes but if you want all the pages to stay where they're meant to you have give the glue enough time to dry.

DancingMaenid
11-07-2013, 01:26 AM
I'd definitely say this isn't snobby. It's more down to temperament. I know a couple of people who enjoy loading their kindles up with 99 cent books and separating the wheat from the chafe. There's a thrill of the hunt there. Maybe it's the mind set that drives some people to get up early on Saturdays to go to yard and garage sales. You can find a true treasure that way, but it's a lot of work. Worth it, even exciting, to some but not others, perhaps.

I suspect that's definitely part of it. I think another part of it is simply exposure. Even though self-published books may sometimes show up on lists of popular sellers on Amazon or whatnot, I think a lot of people are inclined to buy books that they hear about or read reviews for.


Being an artist and an author, having waded recently into self-pub, I've spent awhile wracking my brain over what makes a cover look "self-published"--or perhaps DIY is a better term.

Because there IS some quality about a great many of them that dings my brain and says "Hey, something there is different."

I'm not saying it's bad, let me add, but...something distinctively DIY. (I've seen it in small press books as well, some of them, in convention booklet covers--it's not that it's a one man operation, but it's...something.)


I think to some extent, a DIY quality can be inevitable simply due to limited experience and resources.

I'm teaching myself cover design right now, and I like to think I have a pretty good idea of what looks good and what doesn't. Some of the finer points are lost on me at the moment, however, and I have limited tools to work with. I think if I was trying to build a serious career as a self-publisher, or if I was planning out put out a major novel, I would invest in Photoshop and the best stock photos I could find. But...I'm an amateur who only has GIMP, and I can't justify spending a ton of money to produce short stories and other small ebooks that I don't really expect to make a huge big return on. I want to make them look good and professional, but I want to do that with means that are more readily available to me.

I think there's a lot you can still do with limited resources if you have an eye for what works and are willing to go for minimalism. But I think a DIY appearance can still be a turn-off to some readers, even if it's done very well.

jjdebenedictis
11-07-2013, 06:39 AM
You might print a book in three minutes but if you want all the pages to stay where they're meant to you have give the glue enough time to dry.If they could hand it to you in three minutes, but sealed up with a strap that says "Do not open for one hour after printing; the glue needs time to dry", that would be totally fine.

I tend to only read novels once. Thus, for most of my purchases, I'd be okay with POD technology, even if they never work out the durability issues.

Filigree
11-07-2013, 07:31 AM
Right now, the quick-print books that I have seen were not worth the price. I have seen better 'zines. Also, I bind books, so I am a bit of a snob about that.

Roxxsmom
11-07-2013, 08:15 AM
I know what you mean about the covers for do it yourselfs being different and you're on to something about the typography too.

Another couple of things that make a cover look less professional to me are when they use a photo instead of a painting, or when it looks like computer generated graphics (like something from a video game). Also, those covers that look like they're just a bunch of cartoony bright colors (http://www.amazon.com/Never-Say-Melissa-Hill/dp/0099486938/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1383796973&sr=8-16&keywords=Melissa+Hill) and objects, or disembodied body parts (most often women's legs in high heels (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Rehab-Novel-Twelve-Steps/dp/1453295070/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383797083&sr=8-1&keywords=Love+Rehab) in a pose looking like she's peed herself), or book covers that have shoes on them just don't look like anything I'd want to read in a million years.

Maybe because I can't imagine someone who is wearing high heels doing anything I'd want to read about.

Some of these (http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/hilariously-bad-book-covers) are extreme examples of what I mean, but even bestsellers and classics (http://flavorwire.com/378513/) get terrible covers sometimes, especially for reprints or rebranded versions, or for foreign editions. And there do seem to be recurring cover cliches (http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/19-book-cover-cliches), even in trade published titles from major houses.

I did see a set of covers someone had done for her novels, though, and they were pretty nice. Comparable to many fantasy book covers from big houses, and better than some. But she's into graphic design and had one of her colleagues do the actual artwork for her.

Old Hack
11-07-2013, 11:35 AM
If they could hand it to you in three minutes, but sealed up with a strap that says "Do not open for one hour after printing; the glue needs time to dry", that would be totally fine.

I suggested the book being wrapped, somehow, but was told that the wrapping would probably get stuck to the book; and I'm not sure, but I think some trimming has to be done after the book is made and the glue is dry, so it won't work. I could be wrong on that one, though.


I tend to only read novels once. Thus, for most of my purchases, I'd be okay with POD technology, even if they never work out the durability issues.

I have some POD books here which I could hardly read because they started shedding pages as I was turning them. And it's not just one or two pages which went: over half of these books' pages fell out, in bunches of twos and threes. It made reading them very frustrating.

juniper
11-07-2013, 12:44 PM
An hour? I would assume that in the future, you would be able to print a book in 3 minutes, if not 30 seconds.

I think the future is here, with the Espresso Book Machine.

http://www.ondemandbooks.com

"Starting with PDF files, the EBM produces a perfect-bound paperback book complete with a full color cover and black & white interior. The book length can be anywhere from 40 to 800 pages, and the trim size is infinitely variable between 4.5” x 5” and 8” x 10.5”. The interior can include photographs, illustrations, charts & diagrams, and text in foreign languages.

Each EBM location develops their own self-publishing program, offering a range of services and set-up options specifically designed to benefit their community and meet the needs of their local market. Whether you’re a professional with print-ready files, or you want help with your book creation, an EBM consultant can work with you to bring your project to fruition and provide any self-publishing services you may need along the way."

There's one at a local independent bookstore, I've seen it in action but haven't had anything printed yet. There's a catalog of sorts to choose an existing book from, although not all titles are available through every Espresso machine.

E.g., The Portable Shakespeare, published by Penguin, is available at 11 Espresso machines in the US but not at my local store.
http://net.ondemandbooks.com/odb/penguin/9780142437940

Some big publishers have put some of their works available through Espresso, including Sourcebooks, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Norton, and others.

Hmm, now I want to go try it out.

Buffysquirrel
11-07-2013, 03:18 PM
A book printed one-off is bound to be more expensive than one from a print run. Why should I wait for a pricier book?

cornflake
11-07-2013, 03:47 PM
I have a somewhat older, seven or eight years maybe, self-pubbed pb. It's a vanity press deal, that the guy spent real money on, and while it's well-done for what it is, you can still kind of instantly tell.

The internal typesetting looks fine to me, though I'm no expert, but the cover, while it looks like it could be a trade book (it's a conservative graphic design and type), the colour is somehow not as crisp. Mostly, though, the paper on the cover isn't the same. It's not the same weight or thickness or fibre cotent or something. It just doesn't feel right. That, to me, is the giveaway of that book, the cover paper. It's not that far off; it's not as if it's really thin. It's just wrong.

juniper
11-07-2013, 10:37 PM
A book printed one-off is bound to be more expensive than one from a print run. Why should I wait for a pricier book?

If you're referring to the Espresso machine, I guess it lets someone get a new copy of a book that's been out-of-print, or isn't available locally. The Espresso has places around the world, mostly in the US and Canada now, but 1 in Ukraine, 3 in Egypt, 2 in UAE, 1 in China, 2 in Japan and a few other places. I'm sure their plan is to expand into more.

It also lets authors whose books have been out-of-print sign up with them. I know many authors have released their OOP books on ebook now, but this is an option for readers who prefer paperbacks.

And it gives self-pub authors a way to have paperbacks printed - at the reader's cost - rather than having boxes of their books in the garage. Make your book available in their catalog, and readers can print it.

It's a novelty machine for now, a point of interest, but it might become more. :Shrug:

usuallycountingbats
11-07-2013, 11:01 PM
You might print a book in three minutes but if you want all the pages to stay where they're meant to you have give the glue enough time to dry.


If they could hand it to you in three minutes, but sealed up with a strap that says "Do not open for one hour after printing; the glue needs time to dry", that would be totally fine.

I tend to only read novels once. Thus, for most of my purchases, I'd be okay with POD technology, even if they never work out the durability issues.

Of course, this is assuming that glue technology doesn't evolve in any way - which I think it probably will, though possibly not driven by the publishing industry!

Ken
11-08-2013, 12:53 AM
... several years ago I printed out and bound several books from PDFs.
Rare ones from the 1700's which weren't available anywhere else.
Took forever and a day. If someone offered a service to print them I'd have paid.
As much as $12 perhaps.

shaldna
11-08-2013, 04:55 AM
One of the issues with those Esperesso machines (and the lack of) is the cost.

You are looking upwards of £100k for one - which is a hefty investment to lay out, and bear in mind that the actual printing and running costs have to be factored in - is it really profitable for either store or customer right now?

Cyia
11-08-2013, 05:11 AM
It's a novelty machine for now, a point of interest, but it might become more. :Shrug:

I can see it becoming more than a novelty on campuses. For student who don't want to only have an ebook version (As in people who like to highlight with markers and scribble notes on pages) it might turn into a viable alternative -- IF -- they can get the prices manageable and the bindings sound. It would allow the students who want, or need, a physical text to get one, but would keep the school from having to store inventory.

Roxxsmom
11-08-2013, 05:26 AM
I think I feel more threatened by people who airily tell me that my book-shopping of the future will involve hanging around for an hour while a machine prints my book. Somehow I don't think that'll catch on.

I feel most threatened by people who tell me that in the future the written word won't hold anyone's attention by itself, that so far as the up and coming generation is concerned, "books" as we know them will simply be boring, broken tablets that don't do anything when they're touched, and that stories will need interactive doohickies and embedded animation, and the ability to change the ending via your choices as a "reader," the way computer games do now.

If this is true, my interests and skills will be completely obsolete, as I'm a writer, not a programmer/graphic designer.

I read an article in Scientific American a while back that reported on some research that suggests that people actually don't process and remember text they read in e-format as well as they do in printed format. This made me almost breathe a sigh of relief, until I read the rest of the article, which surmised that in the future, communication will evolve away from being static text based and into something that the e-format does very well: allowing the "reader" to poke at it and to move it around and to access animations and to actually be the driver in the sense of having a story change based on their own responses to it.

Even computer games don't really do that yet, as they tend to always channel you towards that final confrontation with the "big boss."

I've got no idea how to write a novel that would work that way, with many possible paths to many possible endings.

RedWombat
11-09-2013, 05:45 PM
I've been playing around recently with a system called "StoryNexus"--they're in open beta right now. It's an interactive fiction maker--sort of--and you can do really neat stuff with it, but it handles like a game, not like a book. (In my day, interactive fiction was called text adventure! And we had to walk ten miles to get to it! Riding on our Amiga 500s! And it was uphill both ways!)

It's neat, I recommend it highly, but it's never gonna replace the novel.

jaksen
11-10-2013, 05:35 AM
Call me a snob, but I've never read a self-published book. I have looked at them and read sample pages, but never found any interesting enough to read through or purchase. That's because, I think, there are lots and lots of very poorly-written, self-published books. Come on, there have to be more bad books which are self-published than are traditionally-published.

But I haven't given up on them. I frequently scan the top sellers on Amazon to see what's what, or what I want to buy or borrow from the library.

So there, am I a reading snob? I dunno. I'm getting older and I spend a lot of time writing, so the books I read need to be books I want to read, or that catch me in the first few pages. I also look for certain authors, but I am always open to a new author.

I'm sure there are some superbly-written, fascinating self-published books, just that I haven't found them. Yet.

Marian Perera
11-10-2013, 06:07 AM
...and to actually be the driver in the sense of having a story change based on their own responses to it.

Call me a Luddite, but I don't think I want to read a novel like that.

I always felt bad for characters in plays who were going to die - Macbeth, Willy Loman, and so on. That doesn't mean I want to read Life of a Salesman, or to see Macbeth continue to rule Scotland, probably by killing off every other character.

There are books with endings that make me cry or leave me shell-shocked, unable to believe that something just happened - but if that's the ending that works best for the story, that's the best ending. I might want a character to make a different choice, I might wish they ended up happy, but my wishes under those circumstances would make for a less stunning, unexpected and wonderful story.

Buffysquirrel
11-11-2013, 08:17 PM
We already have those Choose Your Own Adventure books, which are fun, but they've hardly eclipsed the novel. Still, the novel itself hasn't always been around. What has always been around is storytelling.

djf881
11-13-2013, 12:01 AM
Oh is it "lets crap on self publishing" week again?

Every week is "crap on self-publishing" week, bro.

In all seriousness, I never read self-pub books. The best one or two percent of self-published books may overlap with the bottom half of trade published books, but I try not to read anything that isn't excellent, and it takes a lot of convincing to get me to believe a self-published book is excellent.

I would guess that people who were unaware of the difference between self-published books and trade-published books learn it after getting burned on bad self-pub titles a few times. It seems to me that self-pub has peaked and is receding, because the e-book marketplace has matured, and there are fewer people buying their first e-readers and trying to fill them with whatever is cheap. The readers who didn't know about self-publishing have learned about it, and many of them have decided they want nothing to do with it. Romance readers are the only group that seems to have embraced self-published authors. I travel in crime-writing circles, and I regularly talk to readers who tried John Locke, hated him, and will never buy another self-published book again.

People have become more skeptical of the sales rankings and review scores on Amazon as a measure of quality for these books as well. The percentage of self-published books on Amazon Kindle bestseller lists seems to be in decline. I don't personally know any readers who operate on an assumption that a random self-pub book is likely to be as good as a random trade-pub book.

Filigree
11-13-2013, 01:19 AM
That's why I rely on sample text from Smashwords or Kindle. The self-pub books get the same consideration as commercially published pieces: five pages, tops. If I find any derails in that sample, I lose all interest in the book. I learned that working in a literary agency 25 years ago, and it still holds true.

If they provide no sample text, I provide no consideration.

In my experience, the really awful examples of self-pub work seem to show up more in science-fiction and fantasy stories, and non-fiction or thinly fictionalized misery memoirs. Same with vanity-published works.

Gravity
11-13-2013, 02:04 AM
A while ago I put all my OOP novels on Kindle, and one of the reasons I did so was the "look inside" feature. To me it just makes good business sense; "try before you buy" has been an axiom for lo these many centuries for good reason.

That said, I did have one reader leave a one-star review of my apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller LAST CALL, saying she hated it because she thought it was a true story, only later to find out it was fiction. The fact the text "a novel" is right beneath the title should have given her a clue, but alas. :evil

Filigree
11-13-2013, 06:17 AM
Alas, you can't fix stupid

mayden_warrior
11-13-2013, 10:02 AM
Do self-published books these days have a pattern of bad sales? Or rather, if they do, is that pattern much different than for trade published books?

I feel like the actual performance of any type of publishing model right now is so complex to analyze that any simple answer must be off--right?

By instinct I'd say that self-published and trade published novels don't tend to vary that much from each other. However, this must be very subjective too. As I've gotten used to indie books over the past few years, I've stopped thinking of them as having anything that's particularly different about them. However, the impressions I'm seeing in this thread look so unlike my own that I don't know where to draw the line.

Some of the most exciting authors I've discovered recently have been writers for small start-up presses, have been self-published electronically, or had independent imprints. One author in particular simply churns out book after quality book with highly polished covers, back copy, and editing. She's gone on my all-time favorite author list and I had the impression that more and more independent authors were developing like her.

Did I just luck out in finding hidden gems, or what? Many of you in this thread have talked about judging a book, and whether the style of publication figures into it, but what about an author? Have any of you found a great new author that was exclusively indie?

One reason I've had such a natural time plumbing self-pubs is because one of the genre niches I'm into isn't well represented in mainstream books. All of its substance is centered in indie driven efforts, so I guess I stopped questioning it because it's been the best way to get my book fix. I have a hard time imagining their sales being that bad when the books seem to have such a fanbase, and when I hear repeated anecdotes about how much money these authors make.

shadowwalker
11-13-2013, 10:16 AM
One reason I've had such a natural time plumbing self-pubs is because one of the genre niches I'm into isn't well represented in mainstream books

This is probably why your experience with SPs is different from many other's.

jjdebenedictis
11-13-2013, 11:01 AM
Do self-published books these days have a pattern of bad sales? Or rather, if they do, is that pattern much different than for trade published books?
The average self-published book sells about 10 copies.

The average trade-published book sells about 10,000 copies.

Old Hack
11-13-2013, 11:37 AM
Do self-published books these days have a pattern of bad sales? Or rather, if they do, is that pattern much different than for trade published books?

If trade publishers averaged the sorts of sales that I've documented for self published books they'd go out of business. Note that the numbers I've worked on are for print editions, not electronic ones.


I feel like the actual performance of any type of publishing model right now is so complex to analyze that any simple answer must be off--right?

Not necessarily, but I know what you mean and mostly agree with it.


By instinct I'd say that self-published and trade published novels don't tend to vary that much from each other.

If my experience is anything to go by your instincts are wrong, I'm afraid. Most of the self published books I've seen are dreadful on almost every count.


One reason I've had such a natural time plumbing self-pubs is because one of the genre niches I'm into isn't well represented in mainstream books.

I suspect this is why you've found such treasures. If you were to look at a wider sample you might well find a difference.



All of its substance is centered in indie driven efforts, so I guess I stopped questioning it because it's been the best way to get my book fix. I have a hard time imagining their sales being that bad when the books seem to have such a fanbase, and when I hear repeated anecdotes about how much money these authors make.

As I don't know which books you're talking about or how big the fanbase is, I can't answer this specifically: but the authors who are doing well at self publishing are far outnumbered by the authors who aren't.

mayden_warrior
11-13-2013, 12:08 PM
The average self-published book sells about 10 copies.

The average trade-published book sells about 10,000 copies.
Could you cite from where you arrived at this count?

The reason I ask is not that I assume you must be wrong, but that I know this topic will come up in the future and I'd like to have more real market figures to draw on.

The most frustrating thing about the whole debate--whether it's from a reader or author perspective--is that while speculation and anecdotes abound, there's not a lot of evidence.


If my experience is anything to go by your instincts are wrong, I'm afraid. Most of the self published books I've seen are dreadful on almost every count.And those that sell well have been designed in a more seamless way, with no doubt professional editing help. Among the key points self-pub mavens advise is to get the best artist and editor you can find.

Even some small presses can have problems with this.

Roxxsmom
11-13-2013, 01:05 PM
That said, I did have one reader leave a one-star review of my apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller LAST CALL, saying she hated it because she thought it was a true story, only later to find out it was fiction. The fact the text "a novel" is right beneath the title should have given her a clue, but alas. :evil

I'm wondering which real-life apocalypse she thought you were relating.

The statistic I remember seeing for self published authors is that the average income is 10,000 a year, but this number is skewed by a tiny number of outliers who earn in excess of 100k a year (the Amanda Hockings). Half of independent authors make less than 500.00 a year off their writing--probably not enough to recoup the costs of editing, marketing and cover design etc.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/24/self-published-author-earnings

Old Hack
11-13-2013, 02:02 PM
Could you cite from where you arrived at this count?

The reason I ask is not that I assume you must be wrong, but that I know this topic will come up in the future and I'd like to have more real market figures to draw on.

Those figures aren't mine, but I might be able to help.

My website's down at the moment but when it comes up I'll give you links too. This is all from memory, so while it's all in the right ballpark, the exact figures might well be off by a digit or two.

In 2004 AuthorHouse released a few figures for the books it published. From those figures I worked out that the average AuthorHouse book sells between 38 and 200 copies (the lower figure is arrived at if you remove the sales of AH's best-seller, which I'm pretty sure was a book written by a notorious convicted criminal, which sold over 50,000 copies).

Those figures were for print editions.

From my experience, most trade published books will be considered a failure if they only sell 2,000 copies in print editions (but remember there might be more than one print edition). As an editor, I would have been disappointed if books on my list sold so poorly, and very few did. I've ordered print runs in tens of thousands, and have rarely remaindered more than a few hundred.

On a more personal level, and working to memory again, I'm pretty sure that all of the books I've written (just over thirty have been published) have sold in excess of 10,000 copies in the UK, and 50,000 copies in the US; the books I've written are not huge best sellers, on the whole, and most are titles that very few people have even heard of. They're not celebrity books or anything like that.


The most frustrating thing about the whole debate--whether it's from a reader or author perspective--is that while speculation and anecdotes abound, there's not a lot of evidence.What's really frustrating for me is seeing so many outright lies about trade publishing perpetuated as the truth. I bet self publishers feel the same. It's not helpful to any of us.


And those that sell well have been designed in a more seamless way, with no doubt professional editing help. Among the key points self-pub mavens advise is to get the best artist and editor you can find. I wish more self publishers followed this advice. But the problem comes in identifying those good editors. I've reviewed books which have apparently been "professionally edited", which I've been assured would be error-free, and they've been edited in an appallingly heavy-handed way. Whatever voice might have been there at first has been stripped out of them in the interests of Making Things Correct; and yet errors remain.

I'd rather read an unedited book which was written in a fresh and vibrant way than read a book which had been edited to dullness.


Even some small presses can have problems with this.Agreed. But that's a different problem: as is often said here, it's better to remain unpublished than to be published poorly.

mccardey
11-13-2013, 02:12 PM
My bad. Never mind. And I agree with this
as is often said here, it's better to remain unpublished than to be published poorly.

PulpDogg
11-13-2013, 04:06 PM
What's really frustrating for me is seeing so many outright lies about trade publishing perpetuated as the truth. I bet self publishers feel the same. It's not helpful to any of us.



It lets the discussion go in circles. That circling was the reason for my snarky comment earlier in the thread.

I see a lot of people in this thread offer their opinion of how bad self published books are - but outside of you, OldHack, it is mostly prefaced with "I don't read self published books" or "I don't even have an e-reader".

That makes the arguments invalid and in my opinion is no better than the stuff those self pub gurus spam.

Why are we going in circles about this every single time that topic comes up?

shadowwalker
11-13-2013, 09:23 PM
I see a lot of people in this thread offer their opinion of how bad self published books are - but outside of you, OldHack, it is mostly prefaced with "I don't read self published books" or "I don't even have an e-reader".

Perhaps many of those "I don't read self published books" should end with "any more". Or because of the many reasons already listed here.

As to having an e-reader, that doesn't mean one can't read ebooks. I've a read a few by downloading to my pc, although formatting can be a hassle sometimes.

Marian Perera
11-13-2013, 09:34 PM
I see a lot of people in this thread offer their opinion of how bad self published books are - but outside of you, OldHack, it is mostly prefaced with "I don't read self published books" or "I don't even have an e-reader".

I can and occasionally do still read sample pages on Amazon. And two or three years ago, I decided to give self-published books a try, because I review books on my blog.

Out of six books, one was great. Five varied from dull to awful. I no longer read self-published books in their entirety (or request copies from hopeful self-published authors who email me) because five to one is not an acceptable ratio for me in terms of my time.

Old Hack
11-13-2013, 09:46 PM
It lets the discussion go in circles. That circling was the reason for my snarky comment earlier in the thread.

Your comment didn't help move this conversation forward. And it's often snark like that which makes conversations move in the circles you complain about.


I see a lot of people in this thread offer their opinion of how bad self published books are - but outside of you, OldHack, it is mostly prefaced with "I don't read self published books" or "I don't even have an e-reader".

You're equating self published books with e-books, which isn't necessarily the case; and you're assuming that people who don't read self published books therefore have no contact with or experience of self published books, which is also not necessarily the case. The people concerned might have read several self published books but stopped because they had such bad experiences with them; they might work for a review site and spend their afternoons filtering the books sent in for review, and have encountered self published books in that way; they might be editors who have worked with self publishers, or booksellers who have been asked to stock self published books, or, or, or... there are all sorts of reasons they might know what they're talking about which you're ignoring.


That makes the arguments invalid and in my opinion is no better than the stuff those self pub gurus spam.

But as the arguments are only invalid because you're drawing unsafe assumptions, your opinion on this point is what's actually invalid. And comparing the people you're talking about to spammy self-publishing gurus is introducing a walloping red herring into the mix.


Why are we going in circles about this every single time that topic comes up?

Because some people employ fallacies when making their arguments, as you've done in this thread; because some people aren't terribly well informed, or are ill informed, or misunderstand the issues we're covering; because different people have different opinions, and different experiences; and because new people come along and haven't had these discussions before, and so it all gets rehashed.

It's like plots. There are, apparently, only five, seven, or fourteen basic plots, depending on which book about plotting you read, but that doesn't stop writers writing new books. It's the same on AW: us having this discussion here won't stop some other people having a similar conversation here again in a few weeks, months or years.

kaitie
11-13-2013, 10:36 PM
I haven't read many self-published books, but I look at the samples all the time on Amazon. I've gone through dozens in one sitting before, randomly selecting them by date of publication at a certain price range specifically for the purpose of making a decision myself on how the books looked so that I wasn't just making random statements about quality.

Just going through them by publication date like that, I didn't find any that I would consider buying (and trust me, I went through a lot). I didn't have to read the whole book to know there were problems. Often the blurbs were badly written and filled with errors, and the first five pages were filled with errors and inconsistent grammar. Generally speaking, I've seen a range from completely unreadable (I'm not kidding, you couldn't understand what the sentences were supposed to say at all) to very well written self-published books that had obviously had a lot of time and effort put into them.

The majority I've looked at personally fell somewhere in the middle. I've seen few that were so bad I couldn't understand them, and few that were actually what I would consider publishable quality (meaning something I'd consider worth spending money on). Most fell somewhere in between, typically falling into the category of someone who just doesn't know enough about writing yet, but I've honestly been really shocked at the number of errors I've seen. A lot of errors are indications that they weren't even proofread, or if they were, it was by someone who lacked a basic knowledge of spelling and grammar (and the computer can spell-check for you).

I get the same things from my students. You can always tell the person who bothered to read the paper through again to check for errors and the person who typed it up on the fly and hit "print."

So that's my experience from my own reading. I will say that recently I've seen more higher quality books coming out with better covers and editing. There are three possible reasons for that. 1) I haven't gone looking at random selections in a few months and mostly click on links for authors I see here to check out their books, and our community is good at pushing for quality. 2) The people who just write and throw it up and expect to get rich have mostly figured out it doesn't work that way and given up. 3) The general community at large has started to realize how important these things are and the message is finally turning from one that literally said "Every day it sits in your drawer is a day you aren't making money" into "Sometimes taking extra time to make it good is worth it."

I'm really hoping it's more the latter two, as I think that will help all self-published authors in the long run.

MandyHarbin
11-13-2013, 10:40 PM
The statistic I remember seeing for self published authors is that the average income is 10,000 a year, but this number is skewed by a tiny number of outliers who earn in excess of 100k a year (the Amanda Hockings). Half of independent authors make less than 500.00 a year off their writing--probably not enough to recoup the costs of editing, marketing and cover design etc.

I've mentioned my experience before, so I won't go into exhaustive details, but I've made more in one month just from my self-pubbed sales than the yearly figure quoted above...and I'm no Amanda Hocking. I've never hit the NYT or USA today lists.

I think, in time, those who publish crap will eventually stop when they realize they're not going to become rich quickly. We all know how hard writing is. Self-publishing gives us a good opportunity, if for nothing else then to re-release our back list. The first book in my self-pubbed series was actually first released by a small publisher, which I had to fight to get the rights back. Moving forward, larger works will continue to be subbed to other publishers I've worked with or shopped by my agent...but I plan on self-publishing shorter works in between larger releases. Why? Money...plain and simple.

Roxxsmom
11-13-2013, 11:15 PM
I've mentioned my experience before, so I won't go into exhaustive details, but I've made more in one month just from my self-pubbed sales than the yearly figure quoted above...and I'm no Amanda Hocking. I've never hit the NYT or USA today lists.



The number I cited was an average. Obviously, you are one of the authors who lies above that curve and pushes the mean up.

But most self-published authors make considerably less than 10k a year. Half make less than 500. I suspect most of the authors who make the most money in the game are not only writing some pretty good stuff (or at least stuff that hits the public's sweet spot in some important way), but also sank some of their own money into the project work their tushes off at marketing and promoting their book. I'd guess luck and timing play a role too, as they do in traditional publishing.

The difference is, in traditional publishing, the agents and publishers get to wade through mounds of unprofessional dross to find good books like yours. With self publishing, the reader does.

Numbers like these are useful in illustrating the difference between a mean and a median in statistics. When a distribution is perfectly bell shaped, the median and mean will be close to the same. But with a right-skewed distribution, a few outliers can make for a mean that is much higher than the median.

MandyHarbin
11-13-2013, 11:54 PM
The difference is, in traditional publishing, the agents and publishers get to wade through mounds of unprofessional dross to find good books like yours. With self publishing, the reader does.

This is very true. A lot of self-pubbers skip the quality control aspect altogether, which gives others who put the money and time into it a bad name as well. Is it fair? Nope. But that's how it is. When Sylvia Day self-pubbed her Crossfire series, she hired NY editors, artists, and typesetters. Each book cost her around $2k just to get it ready. Not everybody can afford to hire the top dogs in the industry...but that doesn't mean you can't hire reasonably priced editors/artists/formatters.

Every writer is different, and I totally get that some feel self-publishing isn't right for them for any reason. Besides the negativity surrounding it, it's also a hell of a lot of work. I have more respect for authors who refuse to self-pub for their own reasons vs. those who throw up crap on Amazon.

mayden_warrior
11-14-2013, 12:40 AM
In 2004 AuthorHouse released a few figures for the books it published. From those figures I worked out that the average AuthorHouse book sells between 38 and 200 copies (the lower figure is arrived at if you remove the sales of AH's best-seller, which I'm pretty sure was a book written by a notorious convicted criminal, which sold over 50,000 copies).
Interesting. Do you have similar figures for today, and particularly for emarkets (Amazon, Kobo, et al.)?

I've always heard these sorts of numbers for companies like AuthorHouse and Lulu. I'm looking for more data about very recent avenues such as I mentioned above--even though the stories are that self-pub success is far more prevalent now than before, it'd help to actually see a number.



I'm pretty sure that all of the books I've written (just over thirty have been published) have sold in excess of 10,000 copies in the UK, and 50,000 copies in the USThat sounds amazing, even if it's considered moderate success. Congraluations!

What's really frustrating for me is seeing so many outright lies about trade publishing perpetuated as the truth. I bet self publishers feel the same. It's not helpful to any of us. As you said your site is down, so I'll just ask outright--what do think are the biggest falsehoods circulating now about trade publishers?



I'd rather read an unedited book which was written in a fresh and vibrant way than read a book which had been edited to dullness. I don't think I could agree more. I see it as basic writing advice: don't over-manipulate your work.

It actually makes me quite curious about the process of a third party structural edit. So much of actual editing is done by the writer herself/himself, perhaps now more than ever, and so much of it is contingent on a form the author created. I wonder how a professional editor approaches it all.

Almost forgot this:

This is probably why your experience with SPs is different from many other's. Yes, possibly! I've been poking around indie books that aren't my usual thing to see what they're like. I have continued to find some good ones, but slowly and selectively--which is how I pick new books anyway.

Polenth
11-14-2013, 12:52 AM
And those that sell well have been designed in a more seamless way, with no doubt professional editing help. Among the key points self-pub mavens advise is to get the best artist and editor you can find.

It's a nice thought that the people at the top layer of self-publishing are the ones who wrote good stuff, and the people who don't sell at all wrote bad stuff. But it doesn't go down that way. A book obviously needs to be reasonable to be a bestseller, but there are plenty of reasonable to great books which don't sell.

In self-publishing especially, word-of-mouth is often the only thing an author really has. This means an active community of fans who regularly pass around recommendations for self-published titles. If an author writes in an area without those fans, they're unlikely to see sales.

Even in an area with an active community, it can be hard to break in. You need your book to be seen by people with a following. You and a whole batch of other decent authors, all wanting reviews on the same sites and to be read by the same bloggers. There's a lot of luck mixed in there.

And when you get that success, the community might be too niche. I know in my area of interest, there's a niche who love SFF short stories and will buy collections. But it's a small niche, so even the successes don't sell that much. It's not that their books weren't good enough or the fans weren't enthusiastic enough... there just aren't enough fans.

I'm all for people editing their work and making it the best it can be... but realise it might not sell after all that. Any funds spent on outside editing and cover art should be money you don't need back.

eqb
11-14-2013, 01:16 AM
It actually makes me quite curious about the process of a third party structural edit. So much of actual editing is done by the writer herself/himself, perhaps now more than ever, and so much of it is contingent on a form the author created. I wonder how a professional editor approaches it all.

Could you clarify what you mean by "actual editing"? I ask, because all my trade-published books go through structural edits. (Often several rounds.)

Old Hack
11-14-2013, 01:35 AM
I think, in time, those who publish crap will eventually stop when they realize they're not going to become rich quickly.

If they do plenty of others will come along to take their places. There will always be writers who don't make the grade, but who don't realise it.


Interesting. Do you have similar figures for today, and particularly for emarkets (Amazon, Kobo, et al.)?

Not really: it's impossible to get figures from Amazon. I've put together a few guesses of my own, but I don't think they're safe statistics.

Judging by the people I know who have self published competently and thoughtfully, and have marketed and promoted their books well, though, the average figures aren't significantly better for e-books.


I've always heard these sorts of numbers for companies like AuthorHouse and Lulu. I'm looking for more data about very recent avenues such as I mentioned above--even though the stories are that self-pub success is far more prevalent now than before, it'd help to actually see a number.

You might like to read some of the self publishing diary threads which are in our Self Pub room. Several of AW's members share their sales figures there.

There might be more self publishers enjoying success, but I'm pretty sure more people are self publishing now than were doing so five years ago. So while the numbers might be up, the proportion probably remains similar.


That sounds amazing, even if it's considered moderate success. Congraluations!

Thank you. It's a very nice way to earn a living.


As you said your site is down, so I'll just ask outright--what do think are the biggest falsehoods circulating now about trade publishers?

There are far too many for me to go into now.

I see several every time I read blog posts or articles written by self publishing evangelists, by vanity publishers, or by people who have set up their own publishing companies without any experience of working in the business. Go and read some of the threads in BR&BC to get an idea of what's said: I've posted in a few threads there lately which have been a bit boggling.


I don't think I could agree more. I see it as basic writing advice: don't over-manipulate your work.

Most writers submit their work way before it's ready: if anything, writers should revise more, not less.


It actually makes me quite curious about the process of a third party structural edit. So much of actual editing is done by the writer herself/himself, perhaps now more than ever, and so much of it is contingent on a form the author created. I wonder how a professional editor approaches it all.

Writers revise their work. Editors edit it. The two are different processes.

In my experience, writers with good trade publishers are still getting proper editing: writers aren't having to do more editing for themselves (and they can't, because they're not editors).

I can't tell you how other professional editors approach editing, but I can tell you how I do it.

I work from large to small, which means addressing bigger issues like the main narrative arc of the book before I consider clumsy phrasings, grammar and the like.

I look for weak areas which, if strengthened, would make the book better; then I tell the author about those weaknesses, I suggest ways to strengthen those weak areas, and leave him or her to get on with the work.

And I bear in mind at all times that it is not my book I'm editing, but the author's: his or her voice has to be nurtured and enhanced, and if he or she disagrees with my suggestions then we drop them.

kaitie
11-14-2013, 02:02 AM
It's a nice thought that the people at the top layer of self-publishing are the ones who wrote good stuff, and the people who don't sell at all wrote bad stuff. But it doesn't go down that way. A book obviously needs to be reasonable to be a bestseller, but there are plenty of reasonable to great books which don't sell.



Two of the most well-written self-published books I've come across only sold a handful of copies. :( One had an amazing cover, professional editing, the works, and yet it didn't sell. The other lacked a professional cover and editing, but the writing was solid and funny. That one was held back by the inability of the author to afford getting the other elements up to the same level as the writing.

This is probably the part that worries me about the idea more than anything else. There are just so many books being self-published. How on earth does an author get to be heard? I've seen people market their ass off and not get anywhere, and some people who say they've done nothing but make it available and it takes off on its own.

There are obviously other elements at play that the author has little to no control over, and that's part of what makes it scary. In a similar way, trade publishing requires giving up control (if they say my book isn't good enough, I'm stuck. They do the promotion and marketing. Some spat between Amazon and the publisher might cause the book to not be carried in certain markets, and so on).

I wonder if part of the appeal of "control" for some self-publishers isn't so much the finer details like cover art and blurbs and so on (which most published authors will tell you they're glad not to handle), but the idea that your fate isn't in someone else's hands. Submitting a book can make you feel completely helpless. If so, though, it's an illusion because even if you are completely behind every element, there's still luck, and Amazon algorithms and so on to contend with.

I really hate that writing a good book isn't enough to equal success. It sucks because I've managed to work out that part. It's just all the other factors that hold me back. And I'd probably face the same sort of thing with self-publishing that I do with commercial publishers.

MandyHarbin
11-14-2013, 02:27 AM
THow on earth does an author get to be heard? I've seen people market their ass off and not get anywhere, and some people who say they've done nothing but make it available and it takes off on its own.

This is true for books pubbed through publishers, too. Getting noticed is becoming increasingly difficult no matter what route one takes. I'm sure the ones with huge advances don't have as much difficulty because their publishers know if they don't pimp those authors/books, the advances won't earn out...but this isn't the case for most of us.

kaitie
11-14-2013, 02:54 AM
It's one of the problems of online shopping, I think. And unless someone invents a cool new way to browse for books, one I imagine will get worse. :(

If I walk into a bookstore, literally every book on the shelf becomes game. I wander around, picking up whatever happens to look nifty. Online there isn't really a good way to just have things stacked next to each other on a shelf, or to walk past a shelf of things I've never tried and happen to see it, and so on. The only times I've ever searched for books online, I ended up going to the bestseller lists and just looking through what was there. I'm not sure if there is another way that works better, but I can see how it becomes easier to find bestsellers and not much else.

Pearl
11-14-2013, 04:22 AM
When it comes to SP book sales, where do free downloads, like on Kindle Select, get into that figure? Some books have more success on KDP Select free days than actual sales.

girlyswot
11-14-2013, 04:27 AM
When it comes to SP book sales, where do free downloads, like on Kindle Select, get into that figure? Some books have more success on KDP Select free days than actual sales.

Generally people only report paid sales. I've had about 150,000 free downloads on one book. Would love to count those as sales, but really they aren't.

MandyHarbin
11-14-2013, 04:34 AM
If I walk into a bookstore, literally every book on the shelf becomes game. I wander around, picking up whatever happens to look nifty. Online there isn't really a good way to just have things stacked next to each other on a shelf, or to walk past a shelf of things I've never tried and happen to see it, and so on. The only times I've ever searched for books online, I ended up going to the bestseller lists and just looking through what was there. I'm not sure if there is another way that works better, but I can see how it becomes easier to find bestsellers and not much else.

I love to just walk around the book store. I'll get books on clearance or sometimes on craft, but if it's regular priced fiction, I make a mental note to get the ebook. I think this is a big reason why bookstores will still be around even if ebooks continue to rise. Readers like to browse books.

As for finding books not in a store, I love to read RT Book Reviews Magazine. Whenever it comes in, I'm always clicking away on Amazon.

MandyHarbin
11-14-2013, 04:42 AM
When it comes to SP book sales, where do free downloads, like on Kindle Select, get into that figure? Some books have more success on KDP Select free days than actual sales.

I look at freebies as exposure. Sure, you might get a ton of downloads if you promote it well...but I think this only works if you have a series and readers buy the other books that aren't free (or promote other books during that time also). i.e. pre-freebie period, book 2 sold a couple hundred a month. post-freebie, it sold a couple thousand a month...and the trend trickled down through the rest of the books in the series. For me that was a success.

Pearl
11-14-2013, 05:33 AM
Generally people only report paid sales. I've had about 150,000 free downloads on one book. Would love to count those as sales, but really they aren't.

I had over 700 downloads on KDP Select. I know they are not sales either. But does that constitute as success, mediocre or failure? Since SP authors rely on free days to help spread the word about our books, how do we know if our free downloads are good statistics? What is the level of success there?

Pearl
11-14-2013, 05:48 AM
I look at freebies as exposure. Sure, you might get a ton of downloads if you promote it well...but I think this only works if you have a series and readers buy the other books that aren't free (or promote other books during that time also). i.e. pre-freebie period, book 2 sold a couple hundred a month. post-freebie, it sold a couple thousand a month...and the trend trickled down through the rest of the books in the series. For me that was a success.

I agree that free days are a chance for exposure. But when reports say the average SP book sells 10 or 20 copies, then what about the free downloads? Sure, there is no money from that, but people did get your book and word of mouth is getting around.

mayden_warrior
11-14-2013, 09:53 AM
It's a nice thought that the people at the top layer of self-publishing are the ones who wrote good stuff, and the people who don't sell at all wrote bad stuff. But it doesn't go down that way. A book obviously needs to be reasonable to be a bestseller, but there are plenty of reasonable to great books which don't sell.
*nod* I can't argue with that.

This is true with trade published novels too: it's been a common experience to find books that are good--blindingly, startlingly good--which don't then become household names, don't have the HBO series or movie adaptations, etc.

And a step further, I think we've all seen high-selling books that were less strong works than books which sold below them.

Social platform and promotion must be more important for self-pubbers than otherwise, but it appears that no matter your route to publication, it's important.


Could you clarify what you mean by "actual editing"? I ask, because all my trade-published books go through structural edits. (Often several rounds.)
Well, all right. I think my comment opened up a bigger conversation than I intended, so let me explain some things. Firstly, I certainly don't mean there's "actual editing" which is more real or valuable than the service an editor provides. Here's what I was talking about.

I'm taking this from nearly every writer resource I've consumed in the past few years, whether they were books, blogs, podcasts, interviews: If you want an agent or a publisher, you need to make sure that any book you submit must be as close to structural and compositional soundness as it possibly can. That as an author you need to do more than write and polish the story, you also need to have skill in testing, analyzing, and mechanically reworking the story (naturally). And that this is increasingly important so that publishers aren't required to invest much time in having revisions done. That time may be invested anyway, but even with an editor's services, you as author need to be able to pull you own weight in the editorial work and deliver perfection with little maintenance.

And, much deeper than any of that, that being able to view your own work in an editorial way is just a part of writing. That has a natural ring to it already, but so many accounts I've witnessed affirm that this is assumed in any writing industry, book publishing or otherwise.

I was in a seminar once for a program about book writing, in which a coach was talking about the process of writing a book and then preparing it for publication. When she mentioned the editing process in the program, one of the attendees asked, "So do we do our own editing?"

You could actually hear the coach blink before she answered: "Well. Yes. We all do our own editing because that's how it is in the world."

My impression has been that while the work of an editor is invaluable--for the sake of objectivity, to say nothing of the editor's skill--there's just no getting around you, as the writer, having to wade knee deep in it yourself and apply those skills.

I don't work in a publishing firm, so of course I don't know if that's an accurate glance at the industry view. Nor am I putting forth any of the above as an authoritative summary. I'm just saying this to show where I've been coming from.


There might be more self publishers enjoying success, but I'm pretty sure more people are self publishing now than were doing so five years ago. So while the numbers might be up, the proportion probably remains similar. Right. The field has to be staggeringly vast with Amazon alone in play, compared to when services like Lulu, etc, were the primary means of self-publishing.

To me the question has become: what is the key difference between the authors bringing the average down and those bringing it up? One often hears about marketing-savvy authors making excellent livings self-publishing nowadays. It just leaves me gnawing on the question of whether marketing skill is the One True Factor or what.


Most writers submit their work way before it's ready: if anything, writers should revise more, not less. Well, yes, of course. But what you were talking about was the vibrance of a work being ironed out in the editing process, and that was what I was referring to as "over-manipulation." I guess a better way of saying that would be trying to force something into a work against complicity with the work's style or character.

One of those common, and good, pieces of advice writers see is against trying to unnaturally shape your writing into a conformity that's viewed as more popular or more respected. This is the kind of thing I'm thinking of.


And I bear in mind at all times that it is not my book I'm editing, but the author's: his or her voice has to be nurtured and enhanced, and if he or she disagrees with my suggestions then we drop them. Yeah, that's interesting; I'm keen on knowing more of how editors tend to see the whole process.


I really hate that writing a good book isn't enough to equal success. It sucks because I've managed to work out that part. It's just all the other factors that hold me back. And I'd probably face the same sort of thing with self-publishing that I do with commercial publishers. I want an extremely-vigorous-agreement emote.

I hate that, too. When I was growing up, what I believed was that writing the good book was the beginning and the end. But I guess this is why publishing is an industry. Part of me says that I should be an adult and take how the world is with aplomb, and not be a kid about it and wish it were all simpler. But yeah. I hate it, too.

Old Hack
11-14-2013, 11:23 AM
I'm sure the ones with huge advances don't have as much difficulty because their publishers know if they don't pimp those authors/books, the advances won't earn out...but this isn't the case for most of us.

Most books earn a profit for their publishers before they earn out. (Pedantic? Moi?)


I love to just walk around the book store. I'll get books on clearance or sometimes on craft, but if it's regular priced fiction, I make a mental note to get the ebook. I think this is a big reason why bookstores will still be around even if ebooks continue to rise. Readers like to browse books.

I don't want to point fingers at you, Mandy, because I've found books in bookshops which I've then bought online because of the difference in cost: but this is what's causing so many problems for bookshops now.

We're using them as showrooms then spending our money with Amazon, because it means we save money on our book shopping. However, it also means that many of them are not making enough money to stay in business.

If we want to keep our bookshops, we have to spend our money with them.

(And yes, I know I'm assuming that you bought your ebooks online, Mandy: please forgive me if that's not the case; but the point is still worth making.)


I agree that free days are a chance for exposure. But when reports say the average SP book sells 10 or 20 copies, then what about the free downloads? Sure, there is no money from that, but people did get your book and word of mouth is getting around.

There's not necessarily any promotional advantage to getting lots of free downloads.

That's not to say it doesn't help to sell more books: but based on a few stats that I've seen and on my own habits, it's very common for people to download books while they're free and then forget all about them. The conversion rate from giving away a free download to making a sale is poor.

Old Hack
11-14-2013, 11:49 AM
This is true with trade published novels too: it's been a common experience to find books that are good--blindingly, startlingly good--which don't then become household names, don't have the HBO series or movie adaptations, etc.

Not all successful books turn their authors into household names. And there just isn't enough air-time for all those great books to be turned into TV shows, sadly.


And a step further, I think we've all seen high-selling books that were less strong works than books which sold below them.

I agree with the sentiment, but we have to be careful with this. There are all sorts of things which add up to a book's strength, some of which might not be apparent to people who don't usually read within the appropriate genres.


Social platform and promotion must be more important for self-pubbers than otherwise, but it appears that no matter your route to publication, it's important.

I don't promote the books I write, and I never have. I have no platform for them at all. It's complicated because they're mostly ghost-written, so in most cases I'm not allowed to claim them as my own: but they're not celebrity books, so they don't get the huge push you might expect.


I'm taking this from nearly every writer resource I've consumed in the past few years, whether they were books, blogs, podcasts, interviews: If you want an agent or a publisher, you need to make sure that any book you submit must be as close to structural and compositional soundness as it possibly can.

That's not because your book won't get edited once it's signed: it's because there are so very many books submitted now that you have to make sure yours shines if you want to give it the best chance of success in the slush pile. And consider this: editors don't usually do much editing in the office. Editing is usually done after hours, in the editor's own time. If an editor has one publishing slot to fill, and has the choice between two equally great books but one requires more editing than the other, which do you think she's more likely to sign?


I was in a seminar once for a program about book writing, in which a coach was talking about the process of writing a book and then preparing it for publication. When she mentioned the editing process in the program, one of the attendees asked, "So do we do our own editing?"

You could actually hear the coach blink before she answered: "Well. Yes. We all do our own editing because that's how it is in the world."

Again, I think you're misunderstanding what you've been told.

Of course we have to revise our own work. But that's not because it won't get edited by any publishers we might eventually sign up with: it's because, as I've said before, we have to make our work the best it can be before we send it out.

You'd be amazed how many writers bang out their first drafts and then send them out with no revision at all. You'd be horrified to read the slush piles in the first week of December, as the unedited NaNoWriMo mss start to pour in. This is a real problem: those messy, incomplete and often incomprehensible mss have no hope of being signed in that form, and yet they clog up the slush piles for us all.


To me the question has become: what is the key difference between the authors bringing the average down and those bringing it up? One often hears about marketing-savvy authors making excellent livings self-publishing nowadays. It just leaves me gnawing on the question of whether marketing skill is the One True Factor or what.

It's been said before: the best form of self promotion is to write another book.

To put it another way, when writers are self-promoting, what happens to their writing time?


Yeah, that's interesting; I'm keen on knowing more of how editors tend to see the whole process.

Almost all the editors I've discussed these things with, and all the editors I've worked with, agree on the things I outlined (with regard to the writer's voice being important, and the writer getting the final say). The few who haven't considered these things so important have all worked for presses run by people who had no publishing experience before starting their publishing houses; and/or for smaller presses, often obscure e-presses. This wasn't the only non-standard practice at those presses, and it's why I'm so wary of such publishers now. They seem to cut corners at every opportunity and it often shows in the quality of the books they publish.

Roxxsmom
11-14-2013, 01:04 PM
It's one of the problems of online shopping, I think. And unless someone invents a cool new way to browse for books, one I imagine will get worse. :(

If I walk into a bookstore, literally every book on the shelf becomes game. I wander around, picking up whatever happens to look nifty. Online there isn't really a good way to just have things stacked next to each other on a shelf, or to walk past a shelf of things I've never tried and happen to see it, and so on. The only times I've ever searched for books online, I ended up going to the bestseller lists and just looking through what was there. I'm not sure if there is another way that works better, but I can see how it becomes easier to find bestsellers and not much else.

Totally this. Since I've been buying online, I tend to go with authors I already know, and to scan the ones that pop up as recommended based on some algorithm of what I've purchased lately. I've made a conscious effort to read some relatively new authors over the past year or so (whom of whom I've encountered here on AW or had recommended to me by writer friends). Even so, I know I'm seeing only the tip of the iceberg with newer authors.

A couple of things that sites like B&N and Amazon could improve

--Use my ratings of books on site as a factor in recommendations (not just whether I've purchased--their recommendations don't care if I hate a book I bought).
--let me reject recommendations. They always tell me I should read Wheel of Time, for instance. I tried it long ago and didn't like it. Stop telling me I should buy it just because I've read other epic fantasies. Do not want.
--Have a complicated search engine that goes beyond author and genre. How about letting someone enter things like publishers, year published, gender of protagonist, and possibly keywords for various plot elements? Or at least for subgenres.

Or, maybe, a virtual virtual visual bookstore where the reader gets to "stroll" through bookshelves within a genre or subgenre alphabetically, like in a real bookstore. You can read the author and title names on the virtual spines, pick a book up and look at its cover, read the back cover and first couple pages.

Like in a real bookstore.

usuallycountingbats
11-14-2013, 01:52 PM
You know what else Amazon could improve? Stop recommending me books I have already bought, through you, and have on my kindle. The fact they do this is the singularly most useless piece of marketing waste of money and it drives me insane. It is surely not beyond the wit of man to provide a piece of software which checks the results of the algorithm against what I have purchased through them? Example - there is currently not a single book on the first page of the 'recommended for you' bit of my kindle shopfront which I don't already own. I therefore rarely if ever bother checking it, so they miss an opportunity to sell me books I might not have come across.

kaitie
11-14-2013, 05:31 PM
Amazon does have an advanced search function. It just doesn't help me much in terms of finding random books. Especially considering a lot of times I buy books that are outside what I normally read. I'm reading Percy Jackson and a historical on India right now. I normally read suspense/horror. In fact, the last two suspense/horror books I picked up were pretty disappointing.

I don't know what I want to read when I buy books. Sometimes I think, "I want a ghost story!" and go around until I find one, but 99% of the time, I just want a book. What I end up buying is what ends up looking intriguing. Sure, I have a stack of like thirty books I haven't read yet, but I like doing that. Then I just have whatever I feel like reading whatever mood I'm in.

The times I do order books for a series or what not, I order through my local indie. I won't buy books on Amazon anymore. I might go there to look at a book, but I won't buy it.

Sophia
11-14-2013, 05:38 PM
--let me reject recommendations. They always tell me I should read Wheel of Time, for instance. I tried it long ago and didn't like it. Stop telling me I should buy it just because I've read other epic fantasies. Do not want.

Amazon does have this option. Under each recommendation are tick boxes for "I own this" and "Not interested". Clicking on either refreshes the recommendations page. There is also a line under each recommendation that says "This was recommended because you added [this other book] to your Wish List", for example, with a link to "Fix this". If you click on the "Fix this" link, a pop-up window with the items it based the recommendation on comes up. You can then click the tick box that says, "Don't use for recommendations."

eqb
11-14-2013, 05:40 PM
I'm taking this from nearly every writer resource I've consumed in the past few years, whether they were books, blogs, podcasts, interviews: If you want an agent or a publisher, you need to make sure that any book you submit must be as close to structural and compositional soundness as it possibly can. That as an author you need to do more than write and polish the story, you also need to have skill in testing, analyzing, and mechanically reworking the story (naturally). And that this is increasingly important so that publishers aren't required to invest much time in having revisions done. That time may be invested anyway, but even with an editor's services, you as author need to be able to pull you own weight in the editorial work and deliver perfection with little maintenance.

Okay, I see where you're coming from, but you've conflated a couple things, and misinterpreted a few other things.

The need for authors to view their own work critically is not something new. The ability to revise your own work is also not new. There's a myth that editors used to take raw wordage and transform it line by line into a polished book. That happened, but rarely.

But that doesn't mean editors demand publication-ready manuscripts. All it means is that they want you to make your work as strong as it can be before you submit. Sometimes it comes down to having a limited number of open slots and if you have two books with equivalent potential, why take the one that would require tons more work? There's also the new vs. experienced writer factor. If you are a new author, and your book needs a lot of structural work, the publisher has no way to know how well you take editorial guidance. It's not just a matter of how easy you are to work with. It's how well you take those suggestions and apply them. In other words, will the editor need to write a couple revision letters or twenty, and even with twenty rounds of revision, will they have something publishable at the end.

(It's not cut-and-dried, however. If the publisher thinks your book is going to take off, they will invest more time and money into it--and that goes for new as well as established authors.)

As for the editing itself... After the editor acquires your book, she reads it at least once, maybe twice more, and writes a revision letter, pointing out where you could make the story stronger and maybe with suggestions how to do that. These could be scene-specific, or overall suggestions. The letter might be a couple paragraphs or dozens of pages. (My first revision letter was 10 pages long.)

You as the writer then take those suggestions and revise your work with your own words. Sometimes you might tell the editor, I disagree with this suggestion. Or you say, I see your issue and I'll address it this different way. Your editor then reads the new version and maybe asks for more revisions. This could go on for three or four rounds.

My editor told me she read my first book through a half dozen times, probably more. Once when she was deciding whether to acquire it. Once again before she wrote the first revision letter. Once for each round of revisions. Once after copyedits. And once after the proof stage.

A.P.M.
11-14-2013, 05:55 PM
There's so much more to selling books than just good writing, and that's what really prevents me from taking the plunge and self-pubbing my unagented YA books.

To self pub, your book needs to be perfect. No typos, no grammar problems, etc. I can't edit to that level since I always skim over my own typos. Three typos per book is too many.

You need a good cover. I have no art or design skills whatsoever. I could learn, but then...

You need to know how to market. I have no connections to anyone, indie author or not, or any book bloggers. I have no idea what I would do to market my books.

Being badly published is way worse than being unpublished, and if one thinks that self pubbing means you'd be badly published, it's safer not to do it. I'd rather have my manuscripts sitting on my hard drive waiting to be discovered/waiting for me to discover how to make them marketable than to send them out with no support and blow my chances.

In terms of my life as a reader, I dearly wish Amazon would let us filter out self-pubbed books. I know it sounds harsh, and maybe I am a snob, but is that a bad thing? I'm tired of looking for new fantasy novels and seeing nothing but poorly edited, derivative self-pubbed books with no plot coherence. To be fair, I've found a few really good self-pubbed books through Amazon recommendations, but for the most part, the bad apples keep me far from the bunch. And if I feel that way, I'm sure many other readers do too.

MandyHarbin
11-14-2013, 06:39 PM
I don't want to point fingers at you, Mandy, because I've found books in bookshops which I've then bought online because of the difference in cost: but this is what's causing so many problems for bookshops now.

Oh, I still buy physical books when I'm there. I'm lucky to get out under $50 whenever I go :tongue ...but there are some that I prefer in ebook format.

I do agree that people who go to indie stores to window shop and then buy from Amazon (regardless of paperback or ebook) don't help the situation.

MandyHarbin
11-14-2013, 06:50 PM
You need to know how to market. I have no connections to anyone, indie author or not, or any book bloggers. I have no idea what I would do to market my books.


This is something every writer should do regardless of publishing route. Sometimes I'm lucky and one of my publishers will pick my book to be featured for RT Book Reviews Magazine or so other major promo...but for the most part, it's on me (and my assistant) to get the word out about my books (which might include getting it to reviewers if I'm allowed to do this).

shadowwalker
11-14-2013, 07:28 PM
This is something every writer should do regardless of publishing route.

Then I'm SOL. I have no desire to spend any time/money/effort on marketing - I hate the very idea of dealing with blogs and reviewers and Facebook (in particular). That's why I want a trade publisher. My job is to write the books; theirs is to handle the publishing side, especially marketing.

robjvargas
11-14-2013, 07:39 PM
Shadowwalker: I think you're in for tough times with that. Agents and publishers (I think) should handle marketing, but that doesn't mean you aren't involved. Just as in movies, an agent does not attend movie releases *instead of* the actor he or she might represent. The actor still has to show up, be a participant in the marketing.

MandyHarbin
11-14-2013, 07:41 PM
Then I'm SOL. I have no desire to spend any time/money/effort on marketing - I hate the very idea of dealing with blogs and reviewers and Facebook (in particular). That's why I want a trade publisher. My job is to write the books; theirs is to handle the publishing side, especially marketing.

My agent asked me about my marketing/promotion endeavors and included it in my submission packets to the big 5 publishers.

girlyswot
11-14-2013, 07:41 PM
Then I'm SOL. I have no desire to spend any time/money/effort on marketing - I hate the very idea of dealing with blogs and reviewers and Facebook (in particular). That's why I want a trade publisher. My job is to write the books; theirs is to handle the publishing side, especially marketing.

My trade publisher does a LOT with respect to publicity and marketing, but I am expected to be an active participant in it. I think you'll struggle to find a publisher who will be happy to do it all for you while you sit back and let them.

Mr Flibble
11-14-2013, 08:02 PM
I've spoken to a few editors about this, and they don't expect you to do everything, but they love it if you do something. And any good publisher won't make you do anything you're not comfortable with (say, if you don't want to do personal appearances, or you'd rather stab yourself than tweet). I've heard one prominent editor (this is SFF btw) say that any internet presence/social media/promo you do is a bonus, because for them the story is the important thing, and they'd recently signed someone with no internet presence at all. But obviously the more you're prepared to do, the better. Because you'll only be helping yourself, after all, helping your book be more visible.

There's cases like say KJ Parker. No one even knows if they are male or female except the publishers (who I am totally going to get drunk and pump for information one day :D). S/he doesn't do signings, appearances, s/he doesn't tweet or blog afaia, though s/he does do occasional online interviews. S/he also has a rabid fanbase.


This is bigger pubs though, who have prominent placements/brands and their own marketing machine and budget. Smaller publisher however might well expect you to do a LOT. Maybe pick one thing you think you wouldn't mind doing, and use that - I hardly ever blog for instance, but I tweet and I get involved in online convos about the genre - the conversation is the important part for me, getting engaged, and I'm naturally gobby so it's easy for me. What would be easy for you? Maybe think outside the box a little (A writer recently ran a live RPG game based on their world at a con. Hugely successful. Wish I'd bloody thought of it!)

eqb
11-14-2013, 08:29 PM
There's also the difference between marketing and promotion. Marketing includes things such as having the in-house sales team talk up your book to the book buyers, incentives such as discount to book sellers if they buy X copies of your book per store, paying for product placement, sending out ARCs to trade review publications such as Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. A lot of this activity is invisible to the reader, and isn't something the author can do.

The activities that fall under promotion are things such as giveaways, author appearances, articles/posts about the book and/or the author, advertising, etc. My publisher loves it when I participate in promotion, but it's not required. The best kind of promotion I can do is write more books and stories.

Filigree
11-14-2013, 08:51 PM
I am another person who despises Facebook, for several reasons. I am terrible at direct marketing, because I'm always afraid I will end up being the desperate loudmouth in the room chanting "Buy my book!"

Single-piece or limited edition art is easier to market, in that it will either sell itself to interested viewers, or it won't. All I need is a sales platform (independent, gallery, or art agent) and a lot of my work is done.

With writing, I am trying to sell multiple copies of the same thing. To the narrow no-mans-land between two genres, to readers who may or may not like my hybrid attempts. That's my failure, not theirs.

It helps that I've had great reviews and a slow groundswell of reader support.
It helps that I am leveraging exposure in an unrelated market with 100,000+ readers to
draw attention to my more obscure work. I have a blog that a few people like. I show up on other social media every so often, but I don't live there.

When and if I start self-publishing, I hope I have enough street cred to attract readers. But any money I spend will be at the front end, on editing and design format. I still have not seen, from other authors' experiments, that over-aggressive promo does much more than annoy readers. That goes for big commercial projects as well as self-pub books.

shadowwalker
11-14-2013, 09:05 PM
There's also the difference between marketing and promotion.

Excellent point - and it's definitely the marketing I'm not interested in, although much of the promotion is just what I consider time-consuming and, all things considered, wasted effort in my case. I can't think of anything worse than someone forced into some promo thing when they're horrible at it - certainly wouldn't endear the author to readers if they stumble around like an idiot. And I have no desire to be seen as one.

TheNighSwan
11-14-2013, 10:18 PM
One thing I find somewhat grating is that, at least in the French publishing industry, publishers justify the low percentage they pay their authors with the money having to go to the promotion budget… but publishers who expect the author to do a large part of the promotion (if not all of it) don't pay the authors more in any way…

Old Hack
11-14-2013, 11:54 PM
Smaller publishers often do ask for writers to help out: but don't think that this is always the case because from my experience, it just isn't.

I'm sure I've said this in this thread before, but I have never been expected to do any marketing or promotion for my books, nor have I ever demanded that writers I've edited do the same.

For a start, publishers handle the marketing of the books they publish: writers don't usually buy ads or deal with any marketing, which I'm using here to cover activities that are paid for.

Promotion is a different matter: writers can do some of this if they're good at it, but if they're reluctant or unskilled, then often it's better if they don't go out into the world with their writer-hat on and interact with their potential readers.

I've never rejected a book because its author wouldn't or couldn't promote it. I've seen publishers find all sorts of ways round promotion so that reluctant authors were able to avoid such activities. But then, I have mostly only worked with bigger publishers.

jjdebenedictis
11-15-2013, 12:02 AM
Then I'm SOL. I have no desire to spend any time/money/effort on marketing - I hate the very idea of dealing with blogs and reviewers and Facebook (in particular). That's why I want a trade publisher. My job is to write the books; theirs is to handle the publishing side, especially marketing.Just to clarify one thing:

The publisher's job is to get books onto bookstore shelves.

But it's the bookstore's job to get books into customers' hands.

So when the author stumps for their novel, they're really helping the bookstore out, not the publisher (although the publisher benefits from more sales, just like everyone else in the process does.)

Authors generally can't get their books onto bookstore or library shelves (just ask any self-published author), so that's the real service a trade publisher provides to the author: They open up markets the writer cannot access themselves.

Personally, I think blogging/tweeting/etc. helps groom existing fans but probably doesn't win an author many new fans. In the end, it's what's on the page that matters, and how much word-of-mouth that generates.

The author's marketing efforts are just an attempt to make people realize the book exists so that word-of-mouth at least has the opportunity to start to work its magic.

kaitie
11-15-2013, 01:14 AM
I don't think Facebook would help someone who hates Facebook. I'm not someone who likes being on it. I dislike it greatly (Twitter is so much worse), and I would hate to have a page. I have a feeling that would show. I'd either not update it or be annoyed at having to do it every time I did. That wouldn't win me any fans.

That being said, I think it'd be fun to make a Facebook page for a character. I'd be willing to have a website that I could post things to periodically. I can think of a couple of things like that I would be willing to do.

I've said it before, but I've had more writers I've been turned away from after reading their blogs than I have bought books for. I have a couple of famous writers who I just adore as people and I still haven't read their books. One I probably never will (not my style). The other I probably will eventually, when I don't mind reading a book that will make me bawl (rare).

If I love someone online, I, personally, find their stuff online. It's no guarantee that I will like or want their book. If I love a book, though, and find out the author is a jerk online...well, it tends to really affect my enjoyment of the books.

RedWombat
11-15-2013, 04:45 AM
My publisher did not expect me to do any marketing, didn't ask for a marketing plan, nothing. They did send me to two book festivals, years apart, which mostly meant I got to expense a trip to the Baltimore aquarium. (Which has cuttlefish! EEEE!)

After five years and nine books, they finally sent me on a book tour to promote the most recent. It was brutal. I needed weeks to recover from it. They said it was a wild success, and I am glad and I really really really hope they don't send me on another one for another five years, because...DUDE.

eqb
11-15-2013, 05:08 AM
The author's marketing promotion efforts are just an attempt to make people realize the book exists so that word-of-mouth at least has the opportunity to start to work its magic.

I dunno. My publisher does a far more effective job than I can do. I do participate when they ask, of course. For my latest book, they asked me to write an article for their newsletter, which goes out to 20,000 readers, and they asked me to participate in a writing prompt exercise that appeared on Tor.com. They also bought a novella from me that also went on Tor.com. All that did a lot to make my books more visible.

(On the other hand, I did land a Big Idea slot on John Scalzi's blog, which has a lot of readers. So I'm certainly not saying that self-promotion is pointless.)

Ken
11-15-2013, 05:42 AM
Then I'm SOL. I have no desire to spend any time/money/effort on marketing - I hate the very idea of dealing with blogs and reviewers and Facebook (in particular). That's why I want a trade publisher. My job is to write the books; theirs is to handle the publishing side, especially marketing.

... am with you, entirely, on this !
Plz keep that to yourself.
Don't wanna involve myself in any debate.
Not in the mood for such.

mayden_warrior
11-15-2013, 07:45 AM
Again, I think you're misunderstanding what you've been told.
Okay, I see where you're coming from, but you've conflated a couple things, and misinterpreted a few other things.
All right, but I think there's some misunderstanding as to what I actually said. Probably in part because I was bringing up two points kind of together, so I'll separate them.

Firstly, I was explaining my view on "self-editing," or whatever is best to call that, as a writer. I did this because you and Old Hack both seemed slightly perplexed at my use of the term edit in such a way. My only point in saying that was to see if we were talking about the same thing, that writers always have to self-edit their work (more properly, revise their work, as Old Hack said) and do so very critically, because that's just part of writing. This is what I meant several posts back about writers doing their own editing.

I never believed that there was a Golden Age of the Author where the authors could get out a relatively tidy second draft and the editor would then finish it from there. *laughs* If that ever were true, I think I'd hate that. I can only imagine how much editors would hate that.

After seeing your responses, it's pretty clear that yeah, we are on the same page about that. My second point, which is more germane to the thread, was--well, Old Hack kind of already summarized it:

And consider this: editors don't usually do much editing in the office. Editing is usually done after hours, in the editor's own time. If an editor has one publishing slot to fill, and has the choice between two equally great books but one requires more editing than the other, which do you think she's more likely to sign?This is what I was saying, more or less. Word on the street has been that it's only gotten harder because of staff and budget cuts, and that while revising tightly was never not important, it's more critical now because of these issues. In other words, the impression I've had is that while publishers don't demand publication-ready right out of the gate, they expect you to be closer now than they may have in the past.

Sometimes I'm seeing authors say outright "don't expect to have an editor work with you," or "you'll be expected to need a lot less editorial attention than in the past." So their intent was very clear.

Of course, just because someone says it doesn't mean it's always true. You two are giving me new information, from experience, and I appreciate getting it. But it is news to me! Not having an inside perspective, clearly I was picking up a much more dire picture of the process than is really so. Which is good to hear.

I'm not sure I'm relieved, exactly. I'd happily deliver bananas to the moon if I thought it'd help my books get better, so I was willing to accept it. But still, good. And I do like Old Hack's rundown of the editing, because it answered a lot of my questions about what an editor's process can be like.


Not all successful books turn their authors into household names. And there just isn't enough air-time for all those great books to be turned into TV shows, sadly.Yes, true. TV shows and household recognition were just examples of big attention. The idea is that we've probably all known a book that we felt was great enough to deserve bigger attention than it got.

But you bring up a good point about that, here and in your following comment. We don't always have to look at it in terms of comparison of performance. For instance, I follow an author whose first series I believed would have made a brilliant film or show. She doesn't have that, but the author did end up with the series being adapted into an outstanding manga. Honestly, I feel like the manga fits her series more naturally, so maybe a show or film just wouldn't have been as good a fit.

As you say, it can be complex to evaluate where the strengths of a book really lie. A book could be striking but get middling attention because it has a very specific audience--and not need to have a wider audience.


You'd be amazed how many writers bang out their first drafts and then send them out with no revision at all. Gah, you know? I don't know that I would be, unfortunately. I've personally known authors to do this, and it always startles me. One author I knew through a friend published her first draft of a story as an ebook. I suggested, gently, that she shouldn't publish it yet.

She said that she had her friend edit it for her. When I asked how that went, I got from her explanation that by "edit" what she actually meant was that her friend proofread it.

I don't have scorn for her because of it, but simultaneously it drives me kind of crazy. Probably because I've seen far too many published books--and not just ebooks either--that were clearly not edited, or just not edited well.

mayden_warrior
11-15-2013, 08:10 AM
I'm sure I've said this in this thread before, but I have never been expected to do any marketing or promotion for my books, nor have I ever demanded that writers I've edited do the same.

It's really intriguing to see you say that. But it's a puzzle to so many people because we also often hear:

[Marketing] is something every writer should do regardless of publishing route.On the one hand, the consistent observation that I think rings true with everyone is that number one is writing a great book, and that alone will achieve most of it. The saying goes that the best promotion for a book is another book, as you point out yourself.

On the other hand, it's not just a few authors urging self-promotion, it's also echoed by the conjoined voice of the internet on behalf of agents and many other people who work in publishing. When my favorite authors and agents repeatedly say "you need to start a promotional network," my response tends to be a simple yes ma'am.


I don't think Facebook would help someone who hates Facebook. I'm not someone who likes being on it. I dislike it greatly (Twitter is so much worse), and I would hate to have a page. I have a feeling that would show. I'd either not update it or be annoyed at having to do it every time I did. That wouldn't win me any fans.I absolutely get that. I've been putting a lot of thought into the things I'm going to try. Which routes would be the most natural.

Blogging comes highly recommended, and I like blogging, so I'm okay with that. But I do feel a lot of pressure to focus on a writing blog (from a kind of instructional perspective), or an authorial career blog, and I admit getting leery about that.

Emma Clark
11-15-2013, 08:30 AM
One author I knew through a friend published her first draft of a story as an ebook. I suggested, gently, that she shouldn't publish it yet.

She said that she had her friend edit it for her. When I asked how that went, I got from her explanation that by "edit" what she actually meant was that her friend proofread it.


Sheer laziness. Ugh.

I worked day and NIGHT editing, proofreading and revising my latest book... for WEEKS. I was about crazy by the time I finished.

When I was pubbed by a small e-publisher years ago, the editor asked me how I planned to promote my books.

As for an option on Amazon to 'filter' out self-published ebooks, I agree with that, even though I'm a self-published writer.

I publish my own books, but don't read self-published books because the ones I've seen are awful--sorry (not sayin' mine are perfect).

I've seen very, very few which had the quality of commercially published books.

mayden_warrior
11-15-2013, 08:50 AM
I worked day and NIGHT editing, proofreading and revising my latest book... for WEEKS. I was about crazy by the time I finished.You may not have asked for an amen, but amen.

Filigree
11-15-2013, 08:53 AM
Don't feel too pressured to blog writing advice, if you don't want to, or don't feel comfortable doing so. Use your blog to talk about things dear to you, not things you feel you 'should' talk about as a writer. Authenticity counts.

mayden_warrior
11-15-2013, 08:57 AM
Don't feel too pressured to blog writing advice, if you don't want to, or don't feel comfortable doing so. Use your blog to talk about things dear to you, not things you feel you 'should' talk about as a writer. Authenticity counts.
Thanks, that's really good advice. I think authenticity just has to be important for any kind of writing, which includes blogging.

I have a blog concept I've been wanting to do for some time, but I'm concerned the topic wouldn't be stellar as an "author platform" sort of blog. So I'm waffling.

EDIT: Okay this is kind of awesome. As soon as I posted this, I clicked the link for your blog, which happens to be very similar to the blog I've been wanting to do.
That tickles me. Also, I really like your blog now. ;p

Filigree
11-15-2013, 09:16 AM
I know I'm not qualified to offer much writing advice, only observations of what worked for me, or what I found interesting. I am an artist, a jewelry maker, a costumer, a science and history buff, and a writer. So my blog touches all those topics. My buy links are tucked away in text bars alongside the main blog, and I don't even show book covers on the front page. Maybe that denied me a few sales, but I think it's more discreet. And a sort of literacy test.

And thanks for checking out the blog.

eqb
11-15-2013, 04:11 PM
My only point in saying that was to see if we were talking about the same thing, that writers always have to self-edit their work (more properly, revise their work, as Old Hack said) and do so very critically, because that's just part of writing. This is what I meant several posts back about writers doing their own editing.

Ah, okay. Your wording was close to one of the publishing myths that gets passed around, that trade publishers don't really edit these days and it's all up to the author.

Yes, with budget cuts, editors are responsible for doing more these days, but they still edit. Sometimes it's during the off-hours, sometimes it's during office hours. It depends on the editor and her current schedule. I know my editor mentioned in passing last week, "I had some open afternoons so I read your manuscript this week instead of the next." Then we had a half hour phone conversation to discuss a couple points. This was round two of the editing.


And I do like Old Hack's rundown of the editing, because it answered a lot of my questions about what an editor's process can be like.

Her description matches closely with my experience on the receiving end, judging by the revision letters I've received.

MandyHarbin
11-15-2013, 05:52 PM
As for an option on Amazon to 'filter' out self-published ebooks, I agree with that, even though I'm a self-published writer.

I kinda agree with this... Not so much as to filter out self-pubbed books, but to allow readers to easily view books published by a particular publisher. If this was available (I'm assuming it's not...?), then by default self-pubbed books will not display when a query returns the requested results.

i.e. Sometimes I'm in the mood for m/m romance and I know Dreamspinner specializes in it. I could search for all their books...or if I know Samhain publishes a lot of authors I read, I could select that publisher. Of course, I could go to each of the publishers' websites, but that takes time. If Amazon allowed for this (easily), then through the natural process of things, self-pubbed books will not be returned in the search results.

mayden_warrior
11-15-2013, 07:35 PM
A word about promotion: the advice is to get involved in many parts of the internet, socially, to create more contact points that people can have for your book.

Well, just from today and yesterday I have some examples of that working.

I looked at Filigree's blog out of interest and know I'll be going back to look at it. And I was interested in the covers in eqb's signature, so I noted one of her books on Amazon.

My mental process for you, Mandy Harbin, was something like:
1. Sees romance author on internet
2. Sees romance author mention "m/m romance"
3. Immediately jumps to author's site
4. Adds book title to future-read list

Maybe one person's reaction isn't much evidence, but I feel like there's a lesson somewhere in there.


Ah, okay. Your wording was close to one of the publishing myths that gets passed around, that trade publishers don't really edit these days and it's all up to the author.

Which I did believe in part, because I've just heard it said so much. Sometimes even in books written by authors and agents talking about the trade publishing process.

MandyHarbin
11-15-2013, 08:20 PM
My mental process for you, Mandy Harbin, was something like:
1. Sees romance author on internet
2. Sees romance author mention "m/m romance"
3. Immediately jumps to author's site
4. Adds book title to future-read list

Maybe one person's reaction isn't much evidence, but I feel like there's a lesson somewhere in there.

Which I did believe in part, because I've just heard it said so much. Sometimes even in books written by authors and agents talking about the trade publishing process.

Awww, thanks! (And I'm still working on the kinks with my website redesign). But I do the same thing, too... I've come across a lot of books I've purchased by seeing something on Facebook--and not from one of those "Buy my book" posts.

As for marketing and promo...I'm an introvert, so I naturally want to shy away from attention. Seriously, I found out years after meeting my BFF that she thought I was a snob because I didn't talk to her much...she later realized I wasn't a snob; I was shy! I mention this because I have to work at being "social."

The last conference I attended, one of my pubs was a sponsor, so we hosted a cocktail hour (among other events). I was nervous because we had a ton of prizes to give away, AND I was the one on the mic, working the audience and announcing the winners...with my Long Island Ice Tea (hey, it was cocktail hour). I absolutely adore Megan Hart (first night at the author intro meeting, I stood and said that I twitter stalk her). She came to the cocktail event with Lauren Dane (another author I love), so that revved up the nerves even more... but I pushed aside my instinct to hide in a corner, and by the end of the night, I had the audience rolling. And after I got finished, I had several readers pull me aside asking about my books.

Long story short...promo can happen anywhere.

bearilou
11-15-2013, 08:35 PM
Which I did believe in part, because I've just heard it said so much. Sometimes even in books written by authors and agents talking about the trade publishing process.

See, this is what boggles my mind. I read a lot of nonfiction, both books written by authors and agents talking about the trade publishing process and their blogs and I've not yet come across this.

Now, mind you, I really only visit those blogs and read those books by proven agents and authors and don't usually read non-fiction books (especially about writing) by authors who only have one book out (fiction or even non-fiction, and usually they're published with a very small press I've never heard of either).

So, I hear this and immediately distrust the sources because in all my trusted sources, no one has ever said that. Could be that I'm selective in only trusting those who agree with me but since I have no experience to base it on and am open to the realities of publishing so that I am going in fully prepared for any eventuality...just not seeing it.

eqb
11-15-2013, 10:44 PM
See, this is what boggles my mind. I read a lot of nonfiction, both books written by authors and agents talking about the trade publishing process and their blogs and I've not yet come across this.

I'm boggled too. All my author friends talk about the revisions they go through with their editor.

One author acquaintance did constantly bemoan the lack of editing with her latest publisher. But other authors with that same publisher often talked about the extensive editing they received. Perhaps it's a matter of perspective. Or perhaps her editor didn't think she needed as much editing.

On the other topic of self-promotion: what's expected from authors can vary widely by genre. My friends who write romance tell me they are expected to do a lot more self-promotion. It's part of the genre culture. In SF/F, not so much.

Filigree
11-16-2013, 12:28 AM
I had an SF/F agent once tell me no one expected the genre's writers to be socially developed enough to do strong promotion. I thought he was joking until he introduced me to one of his hard science-fiction authors. Fortunately, I speak Science Geek and Engineer, so all was well.

Whereas romance authors are expected to be the life of the party.

mayden_warrior
11-16-2013, 09:33 AM
Awww, thanks! (And I'm still working on the kinks with my website redesign).
I liked the way you categorize the books by interest. I also took a peek at the paranormal series you wrote--and dayum.


I had an SF/F agent once tell me no one expected the genre's writers to be socially developed enough to do strong promotion. I thought he was joking until he introduced me to one of his hard science-fiction authors. Fortunately, I speak Science Geek and Engineer, so all was well.

Whereas romance authors are expected to be the life of the party. Oh, geeze. What if your books are both? ;p

Filigree
11-16-2013, 04:22 PM
(Raises hand.) That would be me, hiding in a corner. Seriously. The last really big sf con I attended, I didn't even have a book to pitch, and I still ended up in the lobby doing needlepoint. I push myself to be more social now, but I have a maximum amount of glad-handing before I have to retreat.

Of course, now I can release my inner mischief maker. When people ask 'What do you write?' I say 'Stories'. If they push more and I feel like it, I say 'Gay porn. And the heat death of the universe.' 'In the same book?' 'In the same chapter.'

mayden_warrior
11-16-2013, 05:00 PM
(Raises hand.) That would be me, hiding in a corner.
Ah! I always love finding another one. then maybe we'll end up at some crossover con together some day.

'Gay porn. And the heat death of the universe.' 'In the same book?' 'In the same chapter.'
*shivers in delight*
I can't even tell you.

eqb
11-16-2013, 05:53 PM
Oh, geeze. What if your books are both? ;p

SF/F/Romance authors are not uncommon.

JulesJones
11-16-2013, 06:26 PM
Another cross-over author here, and the books may be cross-over published by a romance press, but I'm out of sf culture, not romance culture. And yes, some sf authors should not be allowed out without a keeper.

As for promoting myself at cons, at Eastercon a few years ago I managed to work Green Room for about three days before one of the other Green Room stewards realised that I was an author whose books she liked, and I was so startled at being on the receiving end rather than the giving end of squee that I'm afraid I basically blanked out instead of being gracious, which I still feel a bit guilty about.

I usually leave the cross-stitch at home, but I may have to take a piece to the next con and join Filigree in the lobby. :-)

Captcha
11-16-2013, 07:11 PM
I'm sure I've said this in this thread before, but I have never been expected to do any marketing or promotion for my books...

But you ghostwrite, right? Would it even be possible for you to do promo?

I'm not arguing with the main point - I've never been forced to do promo for my books, either, and I'm with small publishers who would traditionally be the ones we'd think would demand it. I'm just not sure your experience is the best example on this one!

Old Hack
11-16-2013, 07:21 PM
I've ghost-written several books, which I couldn't promote for obvious reasons: but I've written other stuff too.

eqb
11-17-2013, 02:27 AM
I had an SF/F agent once tell me no one expected the genre's writers to be socially developed enough to do strong promotion. I thought he was joking until he introduced me to one of his hard science-fiction authors. Fortunately, I speak Science Geek and Engineer, so all was well.

Okay, I didn't comment earlier, but the more I think about this, the more I have to object to this dissing of hard SF authors.

Nicola Griffith writes hard SF. So does Elizabeth Bear. So do many other authors who are socially adept. And while I'm not a hard SF author, I do write SF/F, and I am a software engineer. I speak human just fine, thank you.

(/end of derail)

Debeucci
11-17-2013, 02:56 AM
Okay, I didn't comment earlier, but the more I think about this, the more I have to object to this dissing of hard SF authors.

Nicola Griffith writes hard SF. So does Elizabeth Bear. So do many other authors who are socially adept. And while I'm not a hard SF author, I do write SF/F, and I am a software engineer. I speak human just fine, thank you.

(/end of derail)

Gonna have to agree with this. I'm also a hard SF author. I've been to 9 cons this year. I'd like to think I'm pretty well adjusted as are the majority of other SF authors who attended them.

Besides, in-person marketing is a tiny percentage of an author's commitments for their book.

eqb
11-17-2013, 04:15 AM
Besides, in-person marketing is a tiny percentage of an author's commitments for their book.

I'd go on to say that author promotion might make a difference, or it might not. What matters is how much the author enjoys meeting readers. (Always keeping in mind that authors are also readers.)

amergina
11-17-2013, 04:51 AM
Gonna have to agree with this. I'm also a hard SF author. I've been to 9 cons this year. I'd like to think I'm pretty well adjusted as are the majority of other SF authors who attended them.

Besides, in-person marketing is a tiny percentage of an author's commitments for their book.

Well, I think you're well-adjusted.

And your experience is pretty much the same as mine.

JulesJones
11-17-2013, 01:39 PM
I was thinking in large part about the terminally shy people (including one or two of my friends, and myself). It's possible to fake your way through, but it's very easy to be inadvertently rude to someone if it's been a long day and you've run out of cope.

But there is also the thing where we are having a cultural shift in the genre attitude about women being expected to be grateful that they were sexually assaulted, and the pushback from certain quarters.

Since the Readercon episode and subsequent other lifting up of stones in public, I have had more than one conversation with friends from the romance side where I have had to explain that no, we are not all like that. And there are authors whose behaviour *is* having consequences. It may be that they gain more sales from the people who like the way they're behaving than they lose from the people who disapprove of their actions, but what happens at Worldcon *doesn't* stay at Worldcon, not any more.

Filigree
11-17-2013, 08:29 PM
I wasn't commenting on most hard SF authors, just those poor souls I've met who genuinely seemed not ready for large (non-science) social gatherings. Interestingly enough, most of these were rather older. So it may also be a generational thing.

mayden_warrior
11-22-2013, 12:10 AM
I don't find myself too worried about introversion getting in the way of the social aspect of writing, because while it would make big events (cons, signings, etc.) potentially exhausting, I don't think internet contact is anywhere close to as bad. I'm not sure how much this applies to other introverts, but I've found that not only is online interaction less draining, I tend to feel more outgoing online.


Besides, in-person marketing is a tiny percentage of an author's commitments for their book. Exactly.


SF/F/Romance authors are not uncommon.
No, not at all, and of course I realize that. My favorite genre identity is speculative romance. I was making a light stab at the dichotomy in the stereotype. If SF writers are nerdy, and romance writers are gregarious, how could one brain possibly handle both?!

@Old Hack: You mentioned never expecting authors to self-promote. Have you ever noticed many authors contracted by your firm who were proactive self-promoters?

Old Hack
11-22-2013, 02:11 AM
@Old Hack: You mentioned never expecting authors to self-promote. Have you ever noticed many authors contracted by your firm who were proactive self-promoters?

I've worked for more than one publisher over the years.

I've encountered several writers who were proactive self-promoters. I've encountered many more who were not. All sold books.

mayden_warrior
11-22-2013, 07:33 AM
I wonder what the fountainhead is, then, of the word that publishers are telling writers "go start a promo platform."

Especially since, even though I hear that word a lot, you are not the first person who is in the industry that I've heard speak the contrary.

eqb
11-22-2013, 07:44 AM
I wonder what the fountainhead is, then, of the word that publishers are telling writers "go start a promo platform."

It probably depends on the genre and the publisher.

Old Hack
11-22-2013, 11:38 AM
I wonder what the fountainhead is, then, of the word that publishers are telling writers "go start a promo platform."

A lot of it comes from people who sell promotional services to aspiring writers.

A lot more of it comes from self publishing evangelists who want to persuade aspiring writers that they only need to establish a platform and their books will sell by the truckload.

Add to that how complex a trade publisher's marketing, sales and distribution systems and networks are, and how few writers understand how it all works, and it's easy to see how these various myths get accepted and broadcast.

Laer Carroll
11-24-2013, 12:11 AM
A web site is useful. Many pro authors have them, including very successful ones. I’ve signed up to be on the mailing list of a good many to get announcements of when their new books or movies will come out.

But three additional points. (1) A bad web site is worse than no site. (2) Even the best will only contribute a small part to your sales. (3) It takes time for readers to find them.

Shika Senbei
11-28-2013, 09:04 PM
I have a long history of "self-publishing", in that I make music that I put online. It doesn't get that many listens, but occasionally I get emails from people who say they enjoy my music. If possible, I'd like to do the same with my work, to put it out there for anybody who enjoys it, even if it's just a few. As long I can make my mark in one fashion or the other, I'm pretty happy.

Of course I'd be happy if something I make turns out to be a bestseller, but with my material that's not likely to happen.