Self Publishing

Welcome YA author J.F.  Jenkins to the blog! She has a different view but one that needs to be heard. Take it away, J.F.:

 

Confession time: when I receive a book that is self published, I automatically don’t particularly want to read it. I also probably won’t spend my money on a self published work either. Maybe this makes me a book snob, but I’ve been burned too many times in the past by bad apples. I thought they’d be a good fun, cheap, date for the night, and they turned out to be slimey and sleazy. They made me cringe.

 

Don’t get me wrong, not all self published books are bad. For example, I adored Heather Hildenbrand’s “Across the Galaxy”. Here’s the thing that made it so good. Editing. And I can tell it had been through several rounds of it, and that she did not rush to get her work out. Most of the self published books I read lack this one important quality. The desire to rush a book out for publishing makes for a bad read. Plus, editing is expensive to pay for. If you’re getting it for free, it’s hard to find someone reliable who knows what they’re doing. Heck, even paying for it, you don’t know if you’re getting a good opinion.

 

I was asked to write about the importance of the publishing press, and so that’s where I’m going to start: editing. The publishing press will pay for and back up the editing for your novel. Pretty cool huh? In fact, they’ll back up what you do because they believe in you. That gives you a lot more credibility than doing it yourself and telling people you’re a good writer just because you say so.

 

No, I’m not trying to harp on self publishing. I think it’s interesting and cool. In fact, I may even give it a try some day with a project or two. At the same time, I’m nervous about it because of the bad apples. No one wants to be a bad apple, you know? But it’s also sad to see an industry start to struggle because of the lack of gatekeepers and the people who want to abuse the system for a quick buck. It’s creating a ripple effect in the traditional world of publishing as well. The industry has become a lot about how well you can sell yourself instead of how well you create. Truth is, it’s been going down this angle for a while before the creation of self publishing. But the world of digital publishing is making these ripples greater.

 

Which is part of why I urge writers to keep trying to find a publishing house. Do the rejection letters stink? Yeah, but each one will teach you something new about the industry as well as your work. Without the rejection, there’s no gatekeeper, and there’s no telling what could happen if we got rid of the gatekeepers entirely.

 

There’s no way to really stop the changes that are happening in the industry, nor am I sure if we want to. Eventually, something is going to give much like it did in the music world as well as television. All I can say is that if you’re going to take a dip into this pond, make sure you know how to swim. If you’re going to self publish, don’t rush your book just because you’re excited to get it out. This never ends well. Invest in a lot of editing. Read your book until you’re sick of it.

 

And I do strongly urge you to find someone to back up what you’re doing, someone who believes in you.

 

Find J.F. Jenkins at her website:

http://jfjenkinswrites.wordpress.com/

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/jfjenkinstweets

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jfjenkinsauthor

At amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/J.F.-Jenkins/e/B004P3HB6O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_3

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  1. Todd Jeffries

    Thank you! You articulated my own misgivings about pursuing self-publishing and the importance of focused editing to ensure I have the best possible manuscript before I do anything with it, self-published, or traditional. The thought of having a reputable publishing house back my book is affirming. I also tend to think of it the way I do some name brands of food: when I see a particular brand that I know is trustworthy, I can be pretty certain I’m going to enjoy a quality product. Going the traditional route also reminds me of something one of my English professors said about the Internet: It only takes one idiot to publish something in cyberspace, whereas, it takes a whole team of idiots to publish a book through a publishing house. 😉

  2. My own page is hating on me and doesn’t want me to comment. Thanks for blogging, J.F. Some have said the new gatekeepers are readers. I think there is some truth to that. At least, it’s an interesting thought.

  3. I agree on the necessity of editing.

    I think that on the self-publishing side, it isn’t practiced enough (due to inexperience, haste, and lack of resources). But even on the traditional publishing side, it’s very hit-or-miss and has been for decades.

    The consolidation of publishing houses in the 1980s onward – coinciding with consolidation of the retail side into a few mega-bookstores (originally B&N and Borders, and then Amazon, but also Wal-Mart) – really transformed the role and engagement of editors, I think.

    Ideally, an editor should bring out the best from an author without changing the face of the work and losing the author’s distinctive voice. Anne Rice benefited from this kind of collaboration with “Interview With The Vampire” as she notes in this video (see 2:15 mark):

    The entire story expanded beyond what otherwise would have been a limp ending. That’s what a good editor can do. Of course, she also notes in the same video (4:00 mark) that she had to work out the role of the copy editor who had gone beyond his role.

    The impression I’ve had for many years is that while copy editing remains strong – traditional published works are less likely to have many typos or outright grammar issues than self-published works – there isn’t as consistent a focus on editing that works out problems with thin characters, pacing issues, weak plots, etc.

    Editors are stretched a lot more thin since consolidation of the industry and all the upheavals it created as well as the ones happening since. And I recognize that editing is often a very subjective approach – if Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” had been rewritten in a style that appealed to critics of her writing, would it have still appealed to as many fans as she found? There are plenty of bestsellers that critics could cite for mechanics but transcended because of their appeal.

    Even so, I’ve read a lot of traditionally published works – and even more so in recent years – where I’ve wondered whether an engaged editor really could have helped the author improve the story. Thin characters, pacing issues, and weak plots tend to be the most common elements I encounter. But a lot of books are what I would call “stories-on-rails” where the author knows the ending, and spends the middle of the book only filling in word-count. Those kinds of books become a slog to finish, and when a reader can skim and not really miss anything important, that’s an issue.

    I know it isn’t just me – because I’ve read reviews of some bestsellers where reader after reader identifies (in their own words) the exact same problems with the story. Perhaps not all readers will either notice or care. But again, an editor (if they have the time and commitment and rapport with an author) ought to be bringing out the very best while covering any inherent weaknesses. I’m mainly seeing evidence of only light editing in a lot of books these days. And that’s unfortunate.

  4. To the original post, let me say that I think there’s room in publishing for all of the following: the agent-contract-with-Big-Six-Publishers, the direct contract with small digital publishers, and (when the work is well-edited, finished, polished, and READY) the “indie” or self-published works. As has been noted here, that latter category is too often infiltrated with stories which were rushed into ‘release’ long before they were actually ready. And that, as Ms. Jenkins says, tends to paint all of the indie work with that same brush.
    To Matthew’s comment, I would agree with nearly everything … especially the critical difference an ENGAGED editor can make. You can tell when an editor is merely going through the motions. Conversely, you don’t want a line editor — as in Anne Rice’s example — to re-write your ms as though they were doing the primary content editing.

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