Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, January 09, 2009

Self-publishing and fiction

Today I was reading the book The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists by Andrew McAleer. It's a good book and I have enjoyed reading it. But when I got to the section about self-publishing, I paused. I read it, but I was wary.

in this part of the book, McAleer notes that some writers complain that a writer who self-publishes their novel is "taking the easy way out." I would have to disagree that this is "the easy way." Mainly, as far as novels go. Just because someone self-publishes their novel, or even any other book, it's not exactly the "easy way" to get published. You know why? There's a lot of work involved (not to mention a lot of money!). Self-publishing your novel makes YOU responsible for its success -- and failure. YOU have to do ALL of the production and promotion of the book. All of the marketing. Seriously, it's a lot of work involved, and only if you want the book to succeed.

But that's only part of it. There are also roadblocks in getting the book reviewed AND getting it into bookstores. Some reviewers can tell if a book is self-published just by looking at it. Trust me, these people have grown so weary of reading so many God-awful self-published books, they refuse to give any other self-published book another chance. Add to this that a lot of industry professionals look down on self-published books.

But there was something about McAleer's writing that worried me. Something that raised a red flag. The fact that he didn't warn how hard it would be to succeed with a self-published novel. If you have a nonfiction niche book, or a platform at the ready to promote your book, then you've got a really good chance to make your book a success. But with novels, that's where things get a little tricky. Self-published novels are hard to sell. Yes, I know all about The Christmas Box and The Shack. I am aware that these novels sold millions of copies and got picked up by big-name publishers. But it's cases like that which are rare. That just doesn't happen for every single self-published novel.

If, however, a writer is determined to self-publish their novel, then definitely do your homework. Read EVERYTHING you can get your hands on about self-publishing. Seriously, educate yourself on what it takes to self-publish a book. Learn the ropes and network with other self-published writers, so you can learn from them. Don't jump into self-publishing right away. Take the time to get a handle on it first.

Also, two rules to follow:

*Get a crit on your manuscript before you publish it. This will help immensely.

*Have the manuscript PROFESSIONALLY edited. By "professionally," I mean by someone who has worked as an editor. And not just your local English 101 prof.

You want to give your novel every chance you can to be a success. This is your baby we are talking about. Something you labored over and put your soul into for months, maybe years. Don't make the mistake of publishing a poorly-written, unedited story. If you DO publish it.

As far as novels go, I would strongly suggest trying the traditional route first. Like I said, it's hard to find success with a self-published novel. Try the traditional publishers first. The independent presses and small presses. Try to get a literary agent. I know it's hard and I know rejection stings. I know. But it's worth it if the end result is a professional, mind-blowing novel that YOU wrote and didn't have to pay a dime to see in print. As one writer is quoted in this book, "Keep trying for several years before taking the hardest path."



  • At 6:33 AM , Blogger colbymarshall said...

    I agree- do the thing right if you're gonna do it. Also, go check the comments of my blog post from yesterday because I left you something there :-)

  • At 6:27 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Sweet! Thank you. :)

  • At 2:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm no expert on self-publishing fiction, but I DO know how challenging SP'ing "non-fiction how-to" can be, and that genre (as you point out Dawn), is, relatively speaking, the easy one to SP!

    But, whatever your genre, and especially for fiction writers, Dawn is correct: do it right. While authors of any genre can lose their objectivity about "their baby," I suspect fiction writers are probably the worst offenders - getting caught up in how wonderful their book is, and knowing, just KNOWING that the world will be beating a path to their door once the word spreads (which it will start doing from the first sentence read...).

    So, they don't have their book professionally edited (BIG Mistake) and don't stop and realize that success is all about business, not books. I agree, that for fiction, one should probably try to land a publisher conventionally first before going the SP'ing route.

    But, one piece of advice I always give to ANYONE writing a book: Write the absolute best book you possibly can. Yes, sounds UN-profound. I mean, duh, what am I going to do, try to write a bad book?

    But fact is, most people don't write the best book they can because they go "book blind" and don't get that editing, a good cover, good title, quality typesetting, etc., are all crucial.

    They haven't learned to step away from their own creation and dispassionately look at how it stacks up to everything else that's out there (and heck, most of us have a BIG bookstore down the street from us, so we can easily make those comparisons).

    Anyway, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, work overtime to create a quality product and all that follows will be that much easier.

    Peter Bowerman
    The Well-Fed Writer

    The Well-Fed Self-Publisher

  • At 5:41 AM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Thanks so much, Peter! For someone who is not that deep in the fiction writing world, you really hit the nail on the head. Writers of fiction are just "too close" to their stories to be able to judge it all that objectively, and the mistake of many is that they are too quick to SP their novels. Usually this happens when they are still "too close" to it. I have seen many self-published novels that really could've used some beta readers before going into print. I really appreciate your feedback on this.


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