Okay, I feel like Anne Burrell or something. You know her show on Food Network, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef? Or maybe I'm the only one who watches copious amounts of Food Network and HGTV...
So I recently self-published a book. It was a very interesting experience for me, already having gone through the traditional publishing process for numerous works. There are a plethora of differences between the two processes, and there are a multitude of similarities too.
I think the biggest difference is the speed. Traditional publishing seems to take a long time, but the author has to handle very few of the details. You don't have to make (or contract for) a cover; you don't have to pay for editing (in fact, you get paid to do the editing!); you don't have to choose a release date; you don't have to worry about formatting the ebooks, or figuring out how to put them up on the retail sites. You basically get to write and edit -- and the business stuff is left to the publisher.
This can be both good and bad. I, personally, had a pretty good experience. I know others who have had a less fun experience.
I also have had a good experience learning all of the above things about self-publishing. It is a steep learning curve, don't get me wrong, but I enjoy learning the technical aspects of formatting, and I already know quite a bit of HTML.
I think the secret to self-publishing is understanding that it's not easier, it's not better, it's not worse, and it's not exclusive.
Let me explain:
Self-publishing is not easy: It takes a lot of work to get a book into publishable state. Anyone who's ever written a book knows this. Self-publishers should spend as much time editing and proofreading their books as they do writing them. Things happen in formatting that might mess things up.
For example, I am terrible at design. I can't decorate my house. I don't see balance or white space, or understand composition in visual art. Any cover I make is sure to be a disaster. I understand and admit this weakness -- and I think sometimes self-publishers refuse to admit any weaknesses.
So I hired a professional to create my cover.
I personally believe that authors grow and improve through professional editing. I have worked with 3 different professional editors through Simon & Schuster, and I have worked with 2 editorial, professional agents. I worked with a new editor for ELEVATED. I have learned something new from every single professional agent or editor I've worked with.
Secret: If you're a self-publisher and you skip the "professional editing" stage, you're making a huge mistake.
And editing isn't the only thing you should do. After you do a content edit (or 2 or 3!), you need a copy editor. And after that, you need a proofreader. You cannot be the copy editor or proofreader. It is my opinion that you must hire these things out, or at least ask beta readers to do them for you.
This is the process of traditional publishing, and self-publishers should embrace the same level of quality in their work.
For ELEVATED, I hired a professional copyeditor, and I farmed out proofreading to betas. There were still mistakes, even after multiple readers. (I will never name a character Honesty again! Different story for a different day.)
Self-publishing is not better or worse than other methods of publishing: I know there's still a stigma out there about it, and I wish it would go away. I have read a lot of books in my life, self-published, small press published, and "Big 5" published. Some of them I absolutely loved. Some I couldn't finish. Some I finished, but I didn't like. Some of the most popular books out there I did not like, because reading is so subjective.
I recently listened to an editor speak, and she said that she doesn't want to read the "self-publishing slush pile" and that traditional publishing allows readers to be able to avoid that slush pile too.
I think she's totally wrong. ALL books go into a reader's slush pile. Most readers don't understand the difference between big or small publishers, or the many imprints at those publishers, or Indie publishers.
They see a book with a cover and back cover copy. ALL books should strive to have the best cover possible, and the most professional cover copy possible. If a book looks good, fits a genre a reader likes, and sounds interesting, a reader doesn't care where it's coming from.
Secret: ALL books are in one giant slush pile, hoping to be noticed above the one sitting on the shelf next to it. At least for readers.
So it's my opinion that self-publishing isn't better or worse than any other form of publishing. For me, I used self-publishing as a way to continue to further my craft, as well as achieve a sense of forward momentum in my career -- a drawback of the traditional market (again, in my opinion).
Self-publishing is not exclusive: Anyone can do it! The real question is whether you're ready or not. I'm of the opinion that everything that a traditional publisher does, a self-publisher should endeavor to replicate. That means hiring professionals to do things by being honest with yourself about your skill set.
After that, I think we should focus on buying, reading, and talking about books we think we'll like, both as authors and readers. Publishing is not as exclusive as it used to be, and I actually think that is a very good thing.
Secret: There are tools for readers to use to gauge whether they'll like a book or not, and the publisher is only one very small piece of that.
What do you think? Am I way off-base? Or somewhat rational?