Used to be that “self-publishing” stood for: TCTBPBAPP (Too Crap To Be Published By A Proper Publisher). There was a widespread and common perception that if you self-published your book it was because you weren’t “good enough”. Your story wasn’t “good enough”. There was a stigma about it, a “That’s nice, dear” dismissive quality about it. A nudge-your-neighbor-and-roll-your-eyes “Poor deluded thing, she’s had to resort to this to get published” kind of attitude. I should know: I used to feel the same way — like self-publishing was a last resort for desperate wannabe authors.
I guess it’s hardly surprising I felt that way, given that a few years ago I felt exactly the same way about e-publishing. eBooks just weren’t “proper” books. And after becoming epublished, every time one of my friends asked whether they could buy my books in a store and they lost interest when I explained they were eBooks, my heart would sink. I wasn’t “properly” published because after all, eBooks weren’t “real” books.
It took me a long time to get over that and quit making excuses and “own” my career as an epublished author. But the God-honest truth is I only felt truly successful as an author after my first print story (a novella in a print anthology) was released last year, and I could finally hold my book in my own two hands and turn actual pages. Sheesh. How pathetic is that after having five books published and an editor who raved about my stories to me? Pathetic, but that’s the way it was.
But the face of publishing is changing — again.
Consequently, in August last year I finally took the plunge and withdrew a manuscript I had submitted to a publisher I’d love to be published with, with the intention of self-publishing it instead of pursuing a traditional publisher. I felt both sick to the stomach and elated. Sick to the stomach because what if I was doing the wrong thing by opting to self-publish this award-winning story? I was currently pubbed by a small press specializing in erotic romance, and after some success on the contest circuit with young adult stories, I was hoping to branch out into writing paranormal romance, fantasy and YA. What if by self-publishing a story, I’d completely blown my chances of ever being picked up by an agent, or ever being taken seriously by a large publisher? What if I’d done The Wrong Thing? The elation came because finally I was taking control of my career, owning it. Whether I succeeded or failed would be solely down to me, and me alone. If the cover was crap — my fault. If the editing was sub-par — my fault. If it didn’t get reviews — my fault. If the plot and the characters I’d written and rewritten didn’t do it for readers — my fault. If the price was set too high for anyone to take a chance on a little-known author — my fault… you get the picture.
Well, whether I’ve done The Wrong Thing and will regret it for the rest of my writing career remains to be seen. I’m in this for the long haul and it’s too soon to tell. But if the recent reader reviews I’ve received for my self-published books and the readers’ choice award I recently won for one of them are anything to go by, if I fail at this gig it won’t be because the stories are crap.
The other stigma that persists about self-publishing is a plethora of amateur covers and an embarrassing lack of editing.
Now I’ve seen some pretty dire covers on traditionally published books, and read some pretty poorly edited traditionally published books as well — not always the author’s fault I feel compelled to add. Sometimes it’s as though all those hours you spent line editing (to pick up all the weird and wonderful errors that somehow crept into your manuscript once it left your editor’s hands), and painstakingly reporting them line by line, were summarily ignored and never fixed. If you’re lucky, you get to make another pass at the manuscript before it’s published. But if you’re not and time is an issue… well, let’s just say you end up cringing and wishing you’d published under a pseudonym.
I’ve also frequently seen numerous comments insisting the quality of a self-published book can’t possibly compare to a “properly” published book, resulting in many reviewers stating they will not even consider reviewing a self-published book.
Well, to that I say, BOLLOCKS. Self-published books should be taken individually, on their own merit — just like traditionally published books. Some stink. Some are mediocre. Some are incredible. Sometimes it’s a crap shoot.
So far as the incredible ones go — that’s not just wishful pie in the sky thinking. They’re out there. They exist.
And if I wanted to prove my point, I only needed to open the June 2012 RT Book Reviews magazine I received only yesterday. (For those of you who don’t know, RT Book Reviews is the go-to magazine for the romance genre. If you or your publisher submits your book and it gets the nod from an RT reviewer you’re in like Flynn, baby. You’ve got it made.)
So what did I notice in the extensive reviews section of June’s RT Book Reviews?
Only a whole bunch of self-published authors from a self-publishing loop I just happen to belong to, competing with the big names of romance writing and acquitting themselves very well indeed! And you’d better believe that if their covers were crap, their plots lacking, their characters wooden, their editing sub-par, the RT reviewers wouldn’t have hesitated to call them on it.
Here’s a run-down of the self-published stars reviewed in June’s RT Book Reviews. I call them “stars” because they received some pretty darned glowing reviews from some pretty darned picky reviewers who don’t tolerate crap. And BTW those listed below are only books from authors I happen to instantly recognize from the 900-strong indie-publishing loop that I belong to (and am proud to be a member of). There are a number of self-published books I haven’t listed.
Vonda Sinclair — MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER — historical romance
P.T. Michelle — BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS — YA paranormal
Amanda Brice — CODENAME: DANCER — YA mystery
Norah Wilson — GUARDING SUZANNAH — romantic suspense
Kris Pearson — THE WRONG SISTER — contemporary romance
Stephanie Queen — PLAYING THE GAME — contemporary romance
Tori Scott — SUPERSTITION — paranormal romance
Roz Lee — INSIDE HEAT — erotic romance
K.E. Saxon – DIAMONDS AND TOADS — erotic romance
K.E. Saxon — LOVE IS THE DRUG — erotic romance
Oh, and here’s the bunch of gorgeous covers — just click on each one to enlarge.
So there you go.
Convinced yet to give a self-published book a try?
I hope so. Because if you’re not reading self-published books solely because you believe none of them are good enough to be published any other way, then you’re missing out on some great reads.
Mind you, as with anything you buy untried, it’s a good idea to read a few reviews, and try before you buy via the Look Inside function on Amazon or by reading an excerpt. As with traditionally published books, not all self-published books are properly edited or turn out to be compelling, un-put-down-able stories. But a heckuva lot of them are amazing, and will end up on your keeper shelf for sure.