Very few things are more exciting than typing “The End” on the last page of your first book. It has been the project of your heart for one, three, five years. Your baby, born after a long and painful labor.
Now: How to publish your masterpiece?
After researching agents and publishers, after talking to tons of other authors, and reading websites until even ClearEye can’t get the red out, you’ve come to the conclusion that getting published is hard–and frighteningly unlikely.
But you’ve written The Great American Novel and can’t imagine depriving the world of your work–it’s a great book! Everyone you know says so! And you’re not going to let a bunch of cranky, stuffed shirts in the publishing empire tell you otherwise.
You consider self-publishing. You’ve seen the vanity publishers, the small presses, the POD agencies, and you rub your chin and arch a brow as you consider the alternatives to the traditional route.
I’d like to say this about that: Please don’t.
I’m not claiming to have read every book published by these alternative routes, but I have read quite a few, and I’m disappointed in what I’m finding. With the exception of an excruciatingly few books–which would’ve snatched up immediately by traditional publishers had the authors tried–I’m learning just why these are called “vanity” publishers.
Several of the novels I read had good stories, but were poorly written–but not so poorly that a good pair of critique partners or a conscientious editor couldn’t have helped. And that’s point number one: Some of these books were published by small POD presses who promised to have editors go over the work. Judging from the misspellings, grammatical errors, and general writing mistakes I’ve seen, those promises weren’t kept. But this oversight reflects more on the author than the editor. Readers pick up books expecting to be entertained, and if the writing isn’t good, they don’t blame the editor. They blame the author.
A couple of the books I read had typos, which is point number two. We’re talking serious typos here: letters dropped off of words, words running together, spaces between the letters, inverted spellings, entire lines omitted. Sometimes several typos to a paragraph. When a company has the responsibility of typesetting your book, you want professional results. A few typos are understandable, but several pages worth of red-circled words is not a sign of quality.
I’ve read some books that never should’ve been put between covers. These are the ones who give “vanity press” its name, the ones who live up to the stigma. I couldn’t get past the first few pages, so I have no idea whether the stories were good or not.
Granted, there are viable reasons to self-publish. Some authors like the control they have, don’t mind the work involved in self-promotion, aren’t interested in making a living by writing, don’t want to wait as long as it takes to get published traditionally. As I said earlier, I’ve read some of these authors. Believe me, not a one of them have fooled themselves into believing they’re good writers. They are good writers. But there are so few of them.
If you want to bypass traditional publishing only because you’re anxious to see your name on the cover of a book, please reconsider. Submit your work to agents. If you get rejected, study the craft, make corrections, rewrite your work or write something new and try again. Imagine how proud you will feel when the cranky, stuffed shirts in the publishing empire agree that you’ve written The Great American Novel.