Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hopping on the Self-Publishing Wagon?

I sympathize and feel for all writers, who are struggling with the various requirements of self-publishing. I share what little experience I have in the hope that I can do my part to alleviate the suffering. Make no mistake, self-publishing can be a lot of suffering. Our creative challenges serve a purpose or else we wouldn’t be striving toward our creative goals even when the odds are stacked against us.

This is what I have learned about the self-publishing industry during my short time wading in, 2014-2017:

If you can’t afford a properly trained editor, you might as well forget about self-publishing. Unless the quality of your writing is good enough like some of the non-fiction writers I personally know. They have self-published with no pro editing and have managed to hold their own in the business. The untrained, inexperienced and/or untalented editors are simply not good enough. If the editing is not good enough, your book will not be able to compete in the open market. You might be publishing just for family, friends and small groups. If you are okay with that, then go ahead and publish. Who knows, you might be one of the self-published ones who will get lucky.

Most of us in the industry know there are different levels of editing. There's basic proofreading, there's line editing, copy editing, and there’s development editing. The time it takes to properly edit a manuscript depends on what is needed to make the manuscript publication worthy. Most of us know editing a book takes about three weeks to a month. So if someone takes a week or less to “edit,” that is proofreading, not editing.   We are told over and again, no good editor is going to tell us a price without first sampling our manuscript. We are advised to make sure they read about 10-25 pages of our writing before quoting any fee.

My genre is not easy to alpha and/or beta read and reading the manuscript alone will take more than a week in most cases, nevermind the editing part. My genre is not easy for even the pros to proofread and/or edit. My experience with the various industry vendors has been unpleasant and unsatisfactory mostly.  Some people are just not cut out for this business. Writing/editing/proofreading, require detailed, sharp minds, sharp eyes, foresight, insight, and many other qualities. Just because editing pays well, it doesn't mean anybody who writes well can be an editor. I actually have had people who write poorer than me offering to edit my work. How crazy is that? Editing software cannot work without the experienced and knowledgeable judgment/discernment of the skilled editor. Like I said, software editing does not work well in my genre.

Graphic work and indexing also require a lot of concentration. If the vendors are highly stressed in their lives, they tend to make a lot of mistakes causing a lot of redo’s and then the interaction with them becomes unpleasant as they resent the extra work and time required. The point is, the redo’s are the cause of the extra work and time put in. The solution is simply to get it right the first time, isn’t it? If vendors turn in sloppy and unsatisfactory work, do not expect the customers to be happy and satisfied customers.

I did appreciate the feedback from my first editor. He is a self-published writer of several novels and he was able to suggest which parts of my manuscript could do with elaboration, which parts needed tightening, what was redundant, how my material/ideas affected him, what kind of response he hoped I would get from readers, that sort of thing. In the final analysis, yes, we are apt to get what we pay for.  Even with the better editors, writers must do the final proofreading to get everything just right.

On the writing forums, I was one of those who stuck my neck out defending the low-end editors and vendors as I had wanted to help the underdogs in the business. I am always wanting to help the underdogs in any area of life. Some of the writers were telling me how they had spent their life savings and also remortgaged their houses to pay for the publishing and promoting process and yet, they were not selling any books. I thought that wasn’t right; I thought there has to be a way for people to publish without making themselves homeless.

If anyone is looking for an editor, it’s also important to take genre into account. The editor you work with should ideally be a "fan" of your genre. It's not required but it's helpful. In my case, I’ve been looking for more than a year already and I’ve not been able to find someone who meets my requirements.  My genre: Self-help/Spiritual/Personal Transformation and Religion/Spirituality. I did stumble on one suitable candidate but that person was priced out of my orbit.

It appears good help is truly hard to find and if we want things done thoroughly well, we might have to learn to do everything by ourselves. That, or get lucky attracting a support system that delivers the goods. This saying just about wraps it up: Cheap, fast and good -- you can at most, pick two of those at any one time.  Just for your information, I spent about USD2,600.00 for this publishing project between 2013-17. I don’t expect to break even anytime soon. I take this expense like I’m paying for a full year’s Publishing course at a university. If a semester costs about USD900.00, then this amount I spent is like for three semesters. I have learned so much about this industry and the people in the industry during the past three years. Working with people is extremely difficult (harder than writing) but the experience of the past three years is serving me well. Life is hard for us spirits in human form on planet Earth. Humans have to balance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Disembodied spirits have less to balance. Light entities, not Earthbound, have even less to balance. I hope this sharing will be of benefit to other writers. I believe the journey can be the goal. During the process of trying to get published, I have become more than what I had started out with.

PS: Seems to me, since writers (books) are reviewed publicly on Amazon to help the public with their decision making, vendors should also be reviewed publicly to help writers with their decision making. On Fiverr, they do have a review system where customers get to review the services of the vendors. When I went there to get a Facebook cover done, I picked a vendor with a lot of 5 Star reviews. Perhaps Amazon should create a list of vendors who will be willing to subject their services for public review. Then writers can tap from this "vetted" source and those not on this list would be a risk for writers to engage? What do you all think of this idea?