On Self-Publishing: What NOT To Do

I think self-publishing is a fantastic thing because it allows unknown authors the chance to get their work out there. It’s always existed, but with the emersion of Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s easier (and somewhat cheaper) than ever before.

No doubt, you’ve seen or heard this quote before:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Often attributed to Spider-Man or, according to some, FDR. Whoever said it first, the statement is powerful for a number of reasons because it isn’t just about having great strength to accomplish something and needing to ensure you don’t blow up an entire city trying to do it. There are companies, like Amazon, that empower people to do something using the means they’ve provided. That’s the kind of power we’ll talk about here.

Amazon gives anyone with basic computer skills the ability to publish their own work. They’re making it easier and easier every day, and with that power comes the responsibility to use it… well… responsibly. Do people? God no. I once read an article detailing which Kindle conversion software did it best, and in the comment section, there was a woman who apparently uploaded 15 of her books in one week. 15. One. Five. Ten plus Five. Thirty divided by two. Seven plus eight. That’s a lot, and that might be a big problem.

Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way. There are a number of authors who shit books as if they take a daily dose of laxative before sitting on their printer… er, something like that. They aren’t extraordinary books, and they probably aren’t even great books, but mostly probably good books (since someone out there is still publishing them). The difference is that at least someone is looking at them before putting them up, and I think that’s what separates the traditional publishing platforms from self-publishing platforms.

First of all, NO author can edit their own book and catch all the mistakes. It’s just not going to happen. You can catch some of the mistakes some of the time, but never all of the mistakes all of the time. Even editors require a few passes before it’s even close to 100%. Don’t believe me? I just finished reading Stephen King’s Cell, and in one scene, Clay sits down next to Alice in one paragraph and then miraculously is standing again and sits next to her again two paragraphs down without first getting up. (MAGIC!) I’ll bet King’s books go through several passes before it even comes close to published.

Here’s an excerpt from a book on Amazon self-published by an English teacher:

“This book is a philosophical discourse that the author fathomed discussing and explaining the truth that it was entirely, impossible for his life to have turned out any different than it did, no matter how much he wanted it to or how hard, he tried to change it.”

  • HSBK, “What’s sooner to you is later for me”

That mess is just from the FORWARD, and the very first sentence. Can you imagine what the rest of the book smells like after just a whiff of that? Had an editor even glanced at that, he’d offer to fix it and the rest of the book for probably double his usual fee.

Coming from the same example above, let’s look at the blurb. I’m not trying to pick on him specifically, but he has a lot of good examples of what not to do:

“TO BE standard curriculum for ALL high school and university classrooms; a true literary classic! written with irresistible, poetic prose-a true philosophic discourse

(unique and inspiring) a spiritual fictional/autobiography about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and our place in this modern-day predicament called ‘Life’ 104,000+ words written in the 3rd/1st person omniscient”

The author didn’t even bother to try to be a little bit reasonable with the blurb. He might as well have just told everyone that it was a best-seller and that it can make julienne fries if you buy three copies and hop on one leg while reading them simultaneously.

Anyway, now that you have a good idea of what to not to do, here’s an easy list of things you NEED to do before self-publishing your work:

  1. The story must be good! (Do we really need to say this?)
  2. Edit, reedit, have someone else edit, and edit again! This does not mean your friends and family. Unless they’re either beta readers or know what they’re doing.
  3. Don’t lie in your blurb.
  4. Did I mention editing? ‘Cause you should totally edit.
  5. Take your time to do it right. You do not need to get your book out today or even tomorrow. Eventually, yes, but do it right before you dish it out.

The overall problem is the saturation of crap books that are diluting all the good books available in the Kindle store. Do it well. Do it right. Self-pubbers need to put the trust back into the readers that they aren’t just a bunch of fools vomiting onto paper and then uploading it hoping someone will buy it. You need to love your craft and give the readers something they DESERVE.

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