Two posts in one night. My, but I’m in a mood tonight, neh?
If you missed any earlier mentions I’m self publishing my work. Some will applaud this, some will bemoan and decry it. C’est la vie.
I will not presume to tell any their business. If you prefer the traditional publishing route and have the patience for it, and the luck to succeed at it, by all means go for it.
For me, it’s simply not a desirable option.
Simply put I don’t want to put up with the crap for less than 5% royalties. It’s insulting.
The trick is to know what to do yourself and when to ask for help.
Plenty of books put through a major publisher see no real promotion, and no serious editing. Simple fact. Think to any major published work you’ve read lately that came out recently. Typos, grammar goofs, etc. And how did you know about it? NY Times best seller lists don’t count. I mean The Other Stuff.
So. Some things I’m learning.
Editor, have two, kind of. Sweet talk, or marry, a grammar nazi. Or pay, but we’re going to operate on the assumption that authors don’t have money. It’s statistically more likely. Have them proofread your work, but first do it yourself. Have some friend read it too. Someone to give feedback. The friend is kind of like a line editor and a sense checker. Their purpose is not to say, “in the second paragraph here you used the inverse third person conjunctivitis on your pluperfect nominative glass widget in duck sauce” (grammatician I most assuredly am NOT, most of my grasp of English grammar comes from my Latin II class); instead his job is to say “Jaye, great story so far, but just why is it, exactly, that when they went to the mall in Chapter 2 they summoned a daemon to ransack the Starbucks during that zombie uprising?” so that you can scratch your head and go “they were SUPPOSED to just buy shoes and grab some pizza. I’ll take a look at it.”
The important thing, though, is that it’s your story. Generally, take the grammar advice, but if it interferes with the narrative voice and is a subtle thing that doesn’t detract from the clarity, only the technical accuracy, ask yourself if you really want to change it. You can say no. Same goes for the mall scene. Maybe your friend is an idiot, or maybe it CAN be interpreted as a daemonic zombie invasion if you read if certain ways, but you’re fair sure the average reader will see shoes and pizza, then leave it.
Even if you speak perfect lit geek, and grammar is not an esoteric occult thing to you, still have an editor. She doesn’t know what’s supposed to be there. She’ll see what you did not.
Cover art: have it, but don’t go mad. Trends don’t mean much. Pay for a pro to make your cover if you can, by all means. But if you know a friend handy with a pencil, then ask him. Maybe you and a friend are handy with Photoshop. Search Creative Commons’ engine for an image that is befitting and doctor it up. A cover needs to catch the eye. As long as it does that and conveys something meaningful about the story, like genre, then you’re probably okay.
Look at a pro book and try to decide what you do or don’t need, and make sure to have that. Copyright notice pages, dedications, other works by this author list, etc.
Finally, get it out there. I don’t put much stock in single stop services like Smashwords. I just don’t think they provide a sufficient service to warrant the percentage they keep; not considering the nuisance their conversion software is. Others are hardly better. Use them, or not, is always your choice. Personally, though, make your own ePub in Pages or InDesign or similar, and upload them to places like Kobo and Barnes & Noble yourself. Make your own mobi for Amazon. Then a PDF and some patience with a good print on demand service. Lightning Source, if you have some money, or CreateSpace if you’re broke.
You may not get an advance, and you may have to learn to arrange your own book signings, but you get more per sale, so fewer sales to make the same money. No one arranging for you to sign books if you don’t like interacting with people or arranging them somewhere you don’t want to be. Pros and cons, it’s all the same in the end; even the praise vs the loathing. Some will like you better for being self pub others will deride you, the opposite is certainly true.
In the end don’t let anyone tell you what to do. It is and always will be your story. If you don’t agree with the advice an editor or agent is giving you, find another one or put the book out yourself. If you are in no hurry and want the peace of mind of a contract and an agent to do all the heavy lifting for you, then go for it. Just always approach with caution, and always remember they’re asking you for the rights to your work. No matter what they may try to make it sound like they’re not the ones doing you a favour, you’re doing them one – if they don’t have books to sell they don’t make a dime. I’m sure you can extrapolate from there.
Good night all.